You're born, you live, and you die. Pretty much sums up life doesn't it ("to dust you shall return"... and all that)? And yet it is the time between birth and death that we must fill "...the unforgiving minute... With sixty seconds' worth of distance run" - as Kipling so eloquently wrote in his poem If and fill well. We must integrate this lawman's journey into our greater life story, surviving and prospering while in it and hopefully emerging on the other side better off for the experience. But it is not an easy task.
Law enforcement career tragedies, divorce rates, alcoholism and suicide are sadly forgotten or not talked about until it happens close to you or on your agency. What good is this lawman's journey if you leave detritus and debris in your wake? Is there a way to proceed along and improve or build upon your life instead of tearing down and creating casualty?
Recently I've come across the writings and thoughts of Joseph Campbell who wrote a book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces dealing with his study and work on the hero's journey. Campbell's research into mythology and the hero as depicted throughout history has been used by authors and screenwriters for years. George Lucas writer of the move Star Wars and its sequels credits Campbell's book and research with helping him develop his story lines and the trials and tribulations that his character Luke Skywalker goes through.
Paraphrasing Campbell's research, the Hero's Journey follows this path:
- Normal Life
- Call to Adventure
Although based on mythology, this progress or journey mirrors the law enforcement officer's career as well.
Normal Life / Call to Adventure
There you were going about your average mundane life flipping burgers, mowing lawns or attending university when, for whatever reason, you heeded the call to the adventure of law enforcement. Whether it was out of a quest for excitement or to fulfill a life's ambition such as I always wanted to be a cop like my Dad, (as long as it wasn't with the thought of getting rich...) you signed up, took the test and got hired. Although the adventure turned out to be 90% boredom and 10% panic, even old Luke Skywalker had some downtime. The problem with law enforcement is you never know on what call you might encounter the evil dragons that need slaying.
Whether it's a little green Jedi Knight like Yoda ("Do or do not; there is no try...") mentors show the hero the secrets of the trade. Whether it's how to swing that sword or some Ninja death touch, the hero usually has to sweat and toil under the master's tutelage to learn the skills necessary to complete his task. Pay attention to this, there are good solid mentors in law enforcement for whatever area you are studying. Select your mentor carefully (too many frauds and nincompoops out there) and train like your life depends on it... because it does! Skills decline but some heroes only face adversity and fulfill their destiny later in their careers, the swordsman cannot let his skills or his edge grow dull.
Helpers and Partners
Luke had Han Solo and others; Captain Kirk had Spock. It seems like every hero in myth and the movies has a sidekick, helper or friend that helps fulfill the quest, provides comic relief and oftentimes pulls the hero's butt out of the fire. I've been lucky enough to have some of the greatest coppers around as partners, shift mates and fellow SWAT operators. They've been there for me during my journey thus far, have eased the burden and often saved me from myself. Cultivation of friends and partners during your law enforcement quest is as solid an idea as any myth or legend. Back-up is a life saver.