I have a felony.
Yes, You read that right. back in 2002, Life sucked pretty bad, and prescription drugs, took the edge off. During that time, i was a little careless, i almost got myself killed, twice.
It was the second time, that was the scariest. I took so many drugs, I couldn’t even tell you what the combination was. I can tell you that it wasn’t a good combination. My mind shut off, but my body, kept going. Thank God, someone was around to call 911. I ended up in the hospital.
It was about 6 months after that event, that I discovered, that the officers who found me that night, found the drugs I was taking, and charged me with possession of a controlled substance. They sent my court summons to the address where they found me, I never new. So I went to jail, and started the process of going through the court system.
I remember the day I read the entire J&S document, there was a phrase that still to this day sends shivers down my spine, written in all caps it said, “JOSHUA VANDERHOOF IS A DANGER TO SOCIETY.”
I remember riding in the car as I read this statement, I had never heard this before, nor did i think this phrase fit. But now, here was a legal document, one that would go on record, and would be searchable for the rest of history. This is what was attached to my name.
The anxiety started to build up. I started imagining my future court date, and the impact it would have on my life. Every scenario ended the same. My life, my dreams, my hopes, all of them were over. People would never allow me to do what I want, because, i was labeled a “danger to society.”
It was on that day in 2003, that i abandoned my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. I got depressed. Thank God I was now on probation or I probably would have sank deeper into drugs, as all of the people around me were now turning to them as well. I knew that I could never get a job working the public schools, and definitely they wouldn’t let someone who is so dangerous near those we hold so precious.
So, why am I sharing this. Because, on my application to grad school, the application to the very program that will give me my job as a Kindergarten teacher I got asked again, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?’
The answer is and will always be, “Yes.”
But the question doesn’t scare me any more. You see for years since that day in 2003 I have been finding ways to do what I love. I have been a sudnay school teacher, a youth pastor, I created a recovery group for children in treatment foster care. I have started a half-way house for addicts that was recognized by the same court that sentenced me, as a preferred place to send people with addiction. I have received a clear background check from CYFD, allowing me to work with children here in New Mexico, needing to learn behavior modification techniques. I’ve been and ABA specialist, volunteer at multiple youth camps, travelled across the world to work with young monks and children in refugee camps, and the only time I lost a job because of that felony was when i worked for FEDEX, and the US Postal service had them lay me off because of it (even though I had the job for over a year, and my boss new of the conviction, he even tried for a year to get me back, working against the system).
Why do I say all of this? Because for years, I let that one moment, when i believed one sentence, rule my life. I gave up on my childhood dream of being a teacher, because someone who didn’t know me, or know what i was capable of, said something about me.
I have a felony, I can own that. And I have so much more.
While that felony may cause some problems along the way. It may even throw some obstacles for me to manuever myself around and through as i make my way toward my goal. But that felony will not be the wall that keeps me from pursuing my dream and my passion.
I have a Freaking Awesome life, and most of it has just been my “Plan B.”
As soon as this application clears, I’m going to step into my Plan A, life. The life of a teacher. The Life I always wanted, and thought I couldn’t have. I have a felony, but that doesn’t mean anything about me.