At one point or another everyone must have dreamed to mirror a character in their favorite show or movie. To see themselves in that role, working that job, having those daily lunches with friends, and to envision a life different from theirs that is just as glitzy (even in the hard times) as the characters they grew to love. Just me? Hmm…idk. I do know that I don’t know how I got here.
I had a passion for being involved in law and the military. I knew my Mom wouldn’t be happy with a choice to join the military after high school(later confirmed when I was in the midst of my professional career that required multiple deployments to Afghanistan). My Dad took me to a college fair and encouraged me to explore any path I wanted. I was too scared. I went for Criminal Justice. The safe subject. What would I do with this more generic degree? Law school? Considered. Federal law enforcement? Considered. Then the job shortage and hiring freezes happened so I followed my boyfriend to a small forensics lab outside of Philadelphia.
I honestly don’t even know why I ended up minoring in Computer Forensics. I know my interview answer - it was because it would set me apart from other candidates applying to LE agencies. I didn’t expect launching my whole professional career from there. I am grateful… but I have regrets.
I saw ALL the crime shows - Law and Order, Blue Bloods, CSI, NCIS, tons of documentaries, and more. I thought I could be the next Olivia Benson. I could help the kids that get beaten by their parents…the runaways that get exploited…the women and men who are violated in the worst ways. I could be the next Abby Sciuto and piece together all the evidence to seal the fate of a wrong-doer. I didn’t know it then…but I was deluded.
Don’t get me wrong - that is one of the most noble professions anyone could enter. I just didn’t realize I couldn’t do it long term until less than a year ago…and 12 years in.
Never did I imagine what it would really be like to conduct full forensic examinations on phones or computers containing terabytes of child pornography or other noxic information like torture, executions, or sexual assault. It changes you. Watching the worst of humanity and reporting on it as if it is an everyday occurrence (which in reality it is) altered how I see the world and interact with people.
Know what those TV shows don’t depict? The smell of that brain matter all over the phone you must examine. The nightmares and the self-hatred of having all that horrifying imagery in your head. I lost count of the amount of mornings I have bleary-eyed looked at the alarm clock, knowing I have been up since 0200, and forced myself out of my bed before 0500 to start another day of the compartmentalization Olympics. The exhaustion runs deep in my bones and yet something propels me forward.
Know what those TV shows do depict? Characters working in roles that their real-life doppelgangers get barely any appreciation for doing. Bringing recognition for the hard work that our law enforcement officers do every day…not just every Tuesday night. Most of all though, those shows depict hope. The bad guys can be stopped and people can make a difference. It can be hard to remember this given the current climate and challenges. I have to believe I am doing this for the people…the victims…the falsely accused…to stop those who want to manipulate and terrorize…for everyone…for me.
Truth be told, I can’t say I regret it. I selfishly know that I am proud of what I do…it is impressive and I have accomplished a lot. But I’m tired. Is it wrong that I want someone else to take the wheel a bit? Shoulder some of that responsibility? Relieve me of some of the load I carry. Ironically, as soon as I typed that I realized that no one could take the load off my back. I’m going to carry the things I have seen and experienced the rest of my life.
I hope with all my heart that the general population can grow to be appreciative of their law enforcement officers for taking on that burden. I hope it is not an empty dream.