Life as a virus: three things I’ve learned about 15 minutes of fame

I’ve become a virus. Like herpes. Or maybe the man-bear-pig flu.

You might be wondering: ‘Wuuuuuuuut is this guy talking about?’

Well, you see, back in March I wrote this blog-article-thingy that detailed, in somewhat dramatic but very well articulated fashion, the reasons why I quit my job as a police officer. 

It went viral. Which, just in case you’ve been living under a rock, means that a lot of people read it on the internet. Here are 3 things I’ve learned about being an internet mind-virus:

ONE: Each of us interprets what we read through the lens of our own experience. In other words, we are all the main characters in the grand drama of life. I wrote the article from my perspective. Of course, right? But when you read the article, you took the words and compared them to your life. You didn’t picture me in the story as you read it. You probably don’t even know what I look like. No-sir-ree, you pictured you. Or maybe some imaginary version of me that was really a part of you. That’s some deep psychology shit right there. Anyways…

That is why that article resonated with so many. Not because I am special or especially interesting but because I put into words what so many people thought and felt. In fact, a good chunk of the emails I received specifically stated that I wrote their thoughts (or that they could’ve written the article or some variation on that theme). What we read resonates when it is in tune with what we feel. And apparently a LOT of people felt the way I did. 

On the other hand… there were also quite a few people who read what I wrote and hated it. They read it and became insulted. Largely (and I am really spitting in the dark with some amateur psychology here) because they felt that my choice to leave Law Enforcement was an indictment of their choice to remain. 

NOT THE CASE, GUYS. Hell, I tried to make that clear in the article. But still…

These people now hate me as a human. They think I am a big, stupid, dummy-head. And they wrote as much. This, of course, hurt my sensitive feelings. Until I thought really hard about it. All of you cops out there know that when you arrest someone they sometimes become really, really mad at you. Then they say nasty shit about you and your family on the ride down to jail. Personal examples from memory, 

“When I get out this bitch I’m gonna fuck yo girl (sic).” 

“I’m a Zeta bitch, we gonna cut yo fuckin’ head off and kill your kids (also sic).” 

Interesting note on that last one: he cracked his forehead open by banging it against the plastic partition in the car on the way down to the jail. So we went to the hospital instead. Then he spit warm, gooey, bloody spit in my face as I was trying to encourage him to get out of the car for medical treatment. He was a real peach. Later, he wrote me an apology note from jail. At the behest of the court, no doubt. Still, he hasn’t cut off my head yet so I guess it’s all water under the bridge.

The point is, when someone is insulted they will come at you with words. Because words, even nasty, hurtful ones, are legal and often times the only recourse a person has to assuage their own hurt feelings. 

I just described Twitter (don’t @ me, bro), and the end of most relationships. 

Anyways, I decided I can’t take all that shit too seriously because, in the end, it is all so much digital hot air.

TWO: People read my article and then came to the conclusion that because I am slightly gifted with the English language, I must have some special universal knowledge. Spoiler alert: I don’t. And then these sadly mistaken people asked me for advice. WHOA, people! I’m sad to say that I’m flailing around in this life just as much as anyone else. I ain’t Yoda, and I sure as hell ain’t the Dalai Llama. 

Yet these supplicants came to me with open hearts, and I felt compelled to try and help them in my own inadequate way. Mostly my advice comes out as: Dude, I don’t know anything about you. But you have all the power of choice in your life. Figure out what you want and do it. 

It sounds cheesy in my head, but I think it’s also very true. 

THREE: Sometimes people write to you and slam you with a load of emotion that you just aren’t prepared for. 

Recent email: Thank you for posting this. Our family needed to read it. We lost our grandson, a cop, to suicide last week. I wish he had seen it. Maybe…

That was the entirety of the email. I sat and stared at it. For a long time. My brain lost function. I tried to create words to send a reply. But what do you say to that? I only said that I was sorry and would pray for their family. Which I did. Still… damn. 

So that has been my experience thus far with a viral blog-post-article-thingy. It’s been an interesting mirror into which I peered at myself and all of my insecurities. It’s also been an interesting way to interact with my fellow humans. 

And I think I will try and do it again. You know, infect your mind. Because it is a challenge. And it was fun. And that’s just what viruses do. 

Thanks for reading, 

Dustin