A bunch of my friends really hated this girl in our school. They all decided it would be fun to drive over to her house late at night and toilet paper everything. Pretty harmless and common in high school. Only, they really hated this girl. It was definitely an act committed out of a lot of anger and jealousy. I was not really one to do things like that. Don’t get me wrong, I was your average rebellious teenager.. but when it came to hurting someone else and possibly even getting in trouble with the law, I usually drew the line. So even when my friends all piled up in the car and drove across town to this girl’s house, I felt really bad about taking part in it all.
We pulled up, turned off the headlights and jumped out of the car. Quietly, slowly.. everyone got across the street and started throwing toilet paper. Trying to hold back giggles and living for the adrenaline rush they were experiencing, no one noticed I was still on the other side of the street, just watching from afar. I knew it was a silly thing, something we even did to our own friends for fun. But for some reason, I just felt that this was a bit worse and I couldn’t build up the courage to step across the street and join in. They started calling me over and eventually, I succumbed to the pressure and began crossing the street. As I did, one of the girls pulled out a can of shaving cream and started spraying it on the driveway. I couldn’t tell what it was at first or even what she was writing, but as I got closer, I could see it. There, in huge letters for the whole neighborhood to see, she’d written the word “BITCH”. And that’s how our silly high school prank turned into an official hate crime.
Little did we know, the mother of this girl was home and had called the cops. She came out of the house to yell at us and tell us she’d done so and we bolted back to the car. We sped away from her house as quickly as possible, but when we got to the end of the street, the cops were there and had blocked us in. We turned around and tried to drive faster the other direction, but they had us blocked in completely. We all got out of the car and sat on the curb while the police asked us questions. My stomach was in knots as they explained the severity of the situation and how we would have to proceed.
A couple of months later, I sat before a judge. I’d finished all of my community service and done everything asked of me, but I still needed to be told whether or not this would officially be taken off my record. It was a hate crime and the courts take that very seriously. I never tried to explain to him that I had only stood there watching, that I had no idea it would turn into this. I didn’t think he’d even believe me. All of the other girls involved had already sat before him and he’d been very harsh. I just sat there awaiting his words.
And then he said something my mother and I were both shocked to here. He told me that he could tell from my demeanor and my energy that I was a good kid. He said he somehow knew that this wasn’t me, someone committing a hate crime and running from the cops. He was pleased with the community service I’d done and I’d had good reviews from those I’d had to report to. And then he said, “I know that I’ll never see you back here. I expect you to do good things with your life and I can see that if this is not on your record, you will. I want you to take that with you and learn from this.” I was shocked beyond belief. I knew in my heart that I believed these things about myself, but I never thought anyone could just see them from looking at me. It was like he could see me sitting there shaking and he knew this was enough to turn me around. My mom and I both met with the public defender afterwards and he said that was it, I was free to go and my slate was wiped clean.
This past month, I’ve been working on a dream I’ve had for a long time. I’m opening my first business and things are just generally going really well for me. And I’ve thought about that judge’s comments a lot. Every time I make a step forward in my life, I hear his words. I hear the optimism he had that I would make something of myself. I think that makes this all so much sweeter than it would be otherwise.
That I come from a broken home. That I’m the daughter of two broken people who got married for the wrong reasons and tried to build a family on what they’d known: chaos and dysfunction. That there were times I struggled with my own demons and wasn’t sure I’d make it out. That if you read the psychology books, I should be a total mess. That every single day I decide to live a normal life, I’m beating the odds. And he saw that in me, he knew I would beat the odds if he gave me the chance.
So, tomorrow I launch my website, my business and a dream I’ve had for the past three years. I’m doing it for every woman that needs inspiration to see themselves as beautiful. For my Dad, who never gave up on me. For my boyfriend, who’s supported me so fully in this dream that it wouldn’t be happening without him. For every girl who comes from a home like I did, who dreams of so much bigger and better than what they were born into. And for that judge, who with just a few simple words, gave me a reason to do good in this world.