It all began with a simple call. I was sitting at my desk on the third floor of the bank building in downtown Raleigh, NC. I worked as a trust advisor in the bank’s trust department. I had been there for a few years. I was good at my job and liked it. The phone rang and I answered it with my typical, professional bank greeting. I am glad I was sitting down.
Mr. Williams announced his name and identified himself as a federal prosecutor. He continued the conversation by stating that I was the target of a federal investigation related to an administrative position I had with a venture capital fund I had been employed with many years prior. Mr. Williams suggested that it may be advisable to seek legal counsel.
After I spoke my name when I answered the phone, I uttered nothing else. I can’t recall if I couldn’t speak, didn’t want to, too afraid or all of the above. I was so shocked that I had a hard time actually understanding what had just happened. When I hung up the phone, I gasped and ran down 3 flights of stairs. I leaned up against the tall building knowing that I could not have stood up without support. It was a call that changed my life forever.
The day I received the call from the prosecutor was the day my old life died. I can say it now because I have had time to reflect. I didn’t really know it on that day because I was much too numb. It is difficult to describe the complete loss of control and skewed perspective that pulled the rug out from under my life on that day.
I was looking out into the landscape for the pieces of my life that had taken a lifetime to nurture and amass. My years of education, work experience, personal and professional relationships, financial well being and physical condition were all at risk. Nothing was unscathed.
The story we all tell ourselves was derailed for me. It is that unconscious tale of your life…who you are or hope to be in all the roles of your life. The story runs your life for better or worse because it is the automaticity and self talk that keeps your daily life in “your lane”.
The only good news was that it’s hard to fall off the floor.
For the purpose of my transformation, we will call this “Day 1”.
Justice became very personal, very fast after the prosecutor’s call. I understood almost nothing about the US criminal justice system. The beliefs and value that I had subconsciously imagined regarding the US criminal justice system were simply that the system would be fair and truth seeking. In my cloud of naivety I had every reason to think that when I provided evidence of the truth to the people that were targeting me for a crime I did not commit, this impending disaster would dissolve. Still, I felt rather alone.
I knew virtually no one in the justice community except attorneys that I had worked with professionally over the years for business. The sooner I stepped up and took some action rather than let anything more unravel, probably the better. While I felt numb, I had no other option but to ask for help. I had to build a community.
Who is your community and how would they show up in your life if you were accused of something significant that you didn’t do?