I sit and look upon the wall next to our bed. The desk lamp illuminates the darkness, only to cast shadows. I have lived most of my life in these shadows. I hid from the light as a child. I attempted to slither out of sight. I spent the sleeping hours of the night wide awake. My brain was left to its own devices. I hid the pain and suffering in the shadows, the very place it was administered.
I spent many years in the figurative and literal shadows. I hid in the darkness, doing the work so few know exist. Behind the flag is a long and dark shadow. It is a shadow few will ever know or understand. The very flag on my wall casts a long shadow, symbolic of all that is done in the name of “freedom.”
My degrees cast but a short shadow. Symbolic of my time spent in plain view casting light upon my own shadows–examining them through psychology.
Next lies my stand. It stands in direct light, yet it obscures the light in a complex pattern. To the naked eye my name, badge, and duty belt are visible. They are brightly lit in direct light, yet they cast long shadows. Like an iceberg, only a small portion is visible to the onlooker, what lies beneath it is unknown. It is symbolic of the ostensibly visible life I now live. On the surface, it is bright and vibrant, but the unseen shadow is staggering. What it hides is only the complexity of balance. It is the intersection of civil liberties and social safety. It is not dark and subdued like my days among the giants, but instead illuminated and bright.
The world assumes that what lies within the shadows is sinister, but what it really is–is complexity. It is humanity, at its best and worst.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.