The night began innocently enough, as most memorable nights do.
I had gone over to see one of my best friends at his apartment in the city to talk over a number of future writing projects but that was all rather typical. The real excitement began whenever I got home and realized that my apartment had been invaded.
I knew something was off as soon as I walked in the door. I am an organized and regimented person. Every item in my apartment has a home, and it’s a rarity for any of them to be out of place.
So when I walked into my bedroom, the first thing I noticed was the broken pieces of my bedside blinds laying on top of my comforter. I thought it was odd, but I wasn’t too concerned just yet. Then, upon closer inspection, I realized that the window had been pried open, and it became pretty obvious that someone had broken my blinds climbing in through the window.
This was when I started to lose my sh*t.
I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck and arms standing up as the realization started crashing over me in waves, all the while the adrenaline building in my chest spread over my entire body.
“Someone broke into my place!”
“What did they want?!”
“What did they take?!”
“Oh f*ck…are they still in here?!”
That last thought hit like a punch in the gut. All of the air was expelled from my lungs as my body grew increasingly rigid, allowing for my ears to scan the quiet apartment for any sound out of place.
My eyes began searching my room for any kind of weapon should the need arise. I settled on a pocket knife that I knew I had sitting on my dresser, and luckily, the intruder had not wanted or noticed it during the break-in.
Gripping my small pocket knife in my right hand, I started going through each room, turning on the lights then moving over to each closet, grasping the handle with my profusely sweating left palm, taking a moment to steady my nerves, and ripping the doors open fast enough to nearly knocking myself over in the process.
Luckily, my place is pretty small, so this entire room-clearing process was done and over with quickly. Otherwise, I felt like I might give myself a heart attack from all of the self-induced spikes in stress. After I was confident that I was alone, I did the first thing that came to mind; I called my best friend who I had been with during the break-in.
You are probably wondering why I didn’t call the cops first.
The simple answer is because I needed to be grounded before I could do much of anything other than shake with rage. Talking to him and getting my head screwed back on straight before moving forward with the police seemed like the best idea at the time, and in retrospect, it was.
After he answered, I got him up to speed, then he asked: “Was anything stolen?”
Oh, yeah, I should probably start figuring that out, huh?
I felt bad for him because he had to be on the phone with me as the shock dissipated and left me with raw anger. I was becoming increasingly livid as I compiled a list of things stolen:
Expensive Bluetooth headphones: gone.
Automotive code reader: cya later.
Antique camera lens: bye-bye.
Early 20th-century foreign currency that was given to me from my grandfather’s estate: nevermore.
Even my f*cking cigarettes? You dirty bastard.
I think I let out a few window-rattling screams of frustration into my poor friend’s ear (thanks for not yelling back, bud) as the list grew longer.
After about three minutes, I had a list of 10 or so of my belongings that the invader had stolen, and this is when it really began to hit me hard. None of these items were the most valuable in terms of dollar amount, but they had high sentimental value.
By the end of our roughly 10-minute phone call, I collapsed into my computer chair, placed my head in my hands, and could feel my body literally vibrating with rage. After what felt like hours trapped in an uncomfortably intense bout of pure fury (but in reality was only a minute or two), I pulled out my phone and called the cops.
I’m not going to bore you with how all of that went down because it’s basically what you would expect. The cops show up, poke around, ask some questions and give you a wholly unconvincing:
“You will hear back from us soon.”
Before leaving just as quickly as they came, I called my friend back, gave him the rundown, and received some kind and (at least attempted) calming words to try and quell my outrage and anger. I mumbled out some kind of thanks and told him I was going to try to get some sleep.
It was nearly 2 a.m. by this point, and I really just wanted to go to sleep and forget about this mess for a while. But as I got in bed, I really thought about the logistics of this crime for a moment and came to the realization that this person had to literally walk across my bed to get into my home, and now I have to lay down in the same spot to sleep.
It is hard to properly express just how agonizing this was. I had never known such feelings of frustration, fury, and futility. It was maddening. The only reason why I was able to sleep at all that night is that those feelings are equally as exhausting, and I eventually fell into a restless slumber.
Now that you are up to speed, you get to learn my dark secret and why this piece is titled the way that it is.
The reason why I knew everything that had been stolen within three minutes was not only because I’m organized—that helped—but the real reason I put it together so quickly is because I used to do the same thing.
When I was at the height of my addiction, I broke into homes to steal things too. This is not something that I’m proud of, but it is a part of who I used to be. I was able to rattle off all of the items that were missing so quickly because this person took almost exactly the same things that I would have taken.
This had crime of desperation written all over it if you knew the signs to look for.
The sloppy and rushed execution, how the items that were stolen were all small enough to fit into a single backpack, and my so-called big-ticket items were left untouched (desktop, laptop, and TV). The thief mainly took items that he knew could easily be sold to the local pawn shops.
Also, my medicine cabinet had been torn through. All of that tells me that this person was probably dope sick and in desperate need of some quick cash and/or some kind of controlled substance to take the edge off.
I know all of these things because that is exactly how I functioned. The fact that I shared so much of the same mindset on these actions with the person who I hated most at that moment was sobering, indeed.
And because I had been guilty of pretty much the exact same behavior in my own past, there was part of me that really believed I deserved this.
I was thinking that this was all of that bad karma from my past finally coming back around to me. That I deserved to personally feel how I had made other people feel for my past actions. I still believe that on some level. Any self-aware person would probably feel the same way to a degree—it’s inevitable.
Seeing and experiencing how our behaviors affect others from the opposite perspective is both humbling and valuable.
I look back onto all of those intensely negative feelings that came over me for the minutes, hours, and days after being robbed, and I realize that is how I made other people feel. Knowing that I caused others that same level of anger, frustration, fear, and the overarching sense of being violated is a pretty horrible feeling. But that is the price I must pay for my past.
One silver lining to come of this is that it really feels as though my last remaining debts have been paid. Falling victim to the same behavior I was once guilty of has brought that chapter of my life full circle and to a definitive end.
Now I have experienced it from both sides, which has given me a deeper understanding of not just my past but of who I want to be. I will take that lesson any day of the week.
Do not think of me as to be so enlightened that those personal revelations came quickly. Quite to the contrary, the first day after, I was in danger of falling into my own little pity party, in between quelling the bouts of murderous rage that would occasionally fight their way to the surface.
In my mind, I was thinking, this is the worst possible time for this to happen. Right when I’m at my best. But my best friend was the voice of reason on this portion of the whole ordeal:
“Wrong. This is the best time that this could happen. Because you are in a position where it will not break you.”
You know what? He was absolutely right. I think back to my past self and realize that this would have completely broken me. I would have either gone way off the deep end or used it to justify some sh*tty behaviors I wanted to keep around, or something similarly negative. I know myself enough to say that for certain.
But not this time. This time, I just accepted it for what it was, dealt with whatever fallout came with it, and moved on. Seeing personal growth come into practice is always an exciting thing.
As for how it ended up? The cops actually took the time to send out a crime scene unit to take some fingerprints, which was more than I expected. I have yet to get any word back from the crime lab, but both I and the police are hopeful in catching the suspect, so that’s something.
Also, I got to find out how unsettling seeing the CSI unit truck in front of your neighbor’s house can be. In that, I got several visits from my neighbors coming to see if I was still alive or not. The look of surprise on their faces when a decidedly not-dead Jake answered the door was actually pretty funny, enough so to almost make it all worth it. Almost.
Believe it or not, at this point, I’m actually glad this happened to me.
I was robbed and lost some of my most prized possessions, yes. But did I lose anything that ruined my life? Did anyone get hurt or, even worse, killed? Did I do what I normally do whenever I face a jarring hardship and jump headfirst off the deep end?
Today the answer to those questions is a resounding no, and that’s something to hold onto.
Also, I learned so many valuable things about dealing with my own past and forgiving those who wrong me in the future. And most importantly, I realized that life would do its damnedest to teach us the hard lessons, but it is up to us to actually learn them.