This whole adventure is about moving forward, so I need to limit how much time I spend thinking about what I’m leaving behind. This will be my last depressing post about leaving work.
As the title suggests, yesterday really sucked. It was great to say goodbye to everyone, but I had a hard time turning in my equipment and leaving the PD for the first time. I spent the whole day trying to figure out what, exactly, was so difficult about it. I’m not a gun fanatic, like many cops, so giving up my gun wasn’t a big deal for me. Turning in the badge was a non-issue because I purchased my CID badge as a keepsake. Saying goodbye to all of my colleagues (friends) wasn’t too bad, because I know that I’ll see most of them at least one more time before I leave. So what the heck was so difficult?
When I got home, I spent a few hours cleaning before bed. When I got ready for bed, I realized that my phone was nearly dead and I still don’t have a wall charger for it. I panicked. I could get written up if my phone dies and the PD needs me. What if the on-call detective needs help with a search warrant? What if we catch a body? It took a solid five minutes of sweating bullets before I realized that it doesn’t matter if my phone dies. That’s when it hit me. I’m not a cop anymore. That’s what was so difficult.
Law enforcement is a lot like the military in that it is much more than a job. Police work is an identity and a way of life. When I left the PD last night, I turned in much more than my badge, gun and ID. I forfeited my membership in a community that I have come to love. The people, the lifestyle, the service, and even the mind-numbing stress are all things that I have grown to appreciate and enjoy.
Though I will still be a police officer on paper (a local agency was kind enough to maintain my certification), my identity is about to change. I will return to a relatively normal life, even if that life is happening 7,000 miles away. When I leave work, I can turn my phone off. I may never again be trusted by my community to make countless decisions that affect the lives of others in significant ways.
But that’s the price of progress. You can’t move forward without leaving something behind, even if it is your very identity.
Until next time.