The Shadow Killer and Light Protector
By Ellen McLeod
As a young kid I dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, then an architect, then a graphic designer, and then a public school teacher. But I never dreamed of becoming a New York State correction officer–the job I ended up doing at the time of this writing–for as long as I’ve been alive. For a profession that has suffered a bad rap for as long as its history–being one of the toughest, most stressful, and most underappreciated jobs in the world, I had good reason to be skeptical about spending the next 25 years of my adulthood working in a prison. A place where organized chaos reigns supreme and my role in helping to safeguard the evil from the good in society is mostly forgotten in the mission of criminal justice. The fact that this job only requires a high school education is certainly one thing that made me rather regretful of having spent six years of my youth in college–only to end up earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology I otherwise wouldn’t have needed. As difficult as it may be to work as a correction officer, I learned that it’s still a very important occupation nonetheless–because without correction officers, there would be no set boundary between good and evil, and consequently, society as a whole would cease to function. A dysfunctional society can never coexist with criminal justice.
It all started one night before Valentine’s Day when I went to sleep in my bedroom–and woke up the very next morning at 4:00 A. M. to the screams of a drill instructor in a faraway boot camp with strangers I never met before, in a faraway town I never heard of before. I was shipped away from my family overnight with hardly any idea what I got myself into, like a rancid dream come to life. The next two months would come down very hard on me, and I remembered taking a good look in the mirror of my dorm room to find myself dressed in a blue police-type uniform and piano black boots. Every day I’d wake up early in the morning and do super intensive physical training with my drill instructor and classmates, trying to swallow my tears and aches of pain. At one point I felt like quitting, but couldn’t. I had nowhere else to go but my classmates, who could only tell me to keep going and finish what I started. When graduation day finally came, I never felt any prouder of myself realizing how far I’ve gone to start a better future, though this is just the beginning. A long, hard journey would still remain ahead of me in the pursuit of enlightenment.
When you’re not reading books, read our newsletter.
Join the conversation