When I started my freshman year of high school, I began to surround myself with the wrong crowd. It was not until I had a brush with law enforcement that I really learned my lesson and the consequences that came with hanging out with the wrong people. I was not like the majority of the crowd I hung out with because most of my friends saw me as a “nerd” and made it seem as if it was a bad thing. Some of them would even poke fun at the fact that I was doing my work in class. None of this ever convinced me to give up being a “nerd,” but I did allow them to change me in some ways.
I remember thinking that I was having more fun with the girls that always got into trouble and I was not missing out. The fact of the matter is though, that I was. In high school, students that were late to class were directed to the attendance office to receive a detention card for that day. I would often times find myself with these friends of mine in detention because we would go out to eat for lunch, they did not share my urgency to get to class on time, so we would be tardy to class. I wasted my time in detention. I missed getting involved in clubs and extracurricular activities during most of high school, and it is something that I really regret.
A girl I started hanging out with would always talk about stealing clothes from the mall, and one day she took me along with her. I was so nervous. I knew that what she was doing was not right. I gave into peer pressure eventually and ended up shoplifting as well. I think that a part of me did this because I wanted to be “cool” and maybe lose the label of “nerd.” I kept shoplifting until one day a couple of my best friends and I had decided to take a trip to the mall. We made a promise to each other that we were going to stop shoplifting once and for all. We decided it was going to be the last time we would shoplift. It definitely was the last time, but the day did not go as planned because we were caught.
There was an undercover cop inside the store that caught us and escorted us into a store office. In the office, we met a man who began to ask us questions as he emptied out our bags of stolen merchandise. The store managers came into the room my friends and I were in and expressed their anger with us for trying to steal. This man then told us that what we tried to steal was worth more than $100. Therefore, we could not just walk away with a simple fine, but they would have to call the cops on us. As soon as I heard this news, my heart immediately started beating very rapidly because I was so scared.
I quickly began to regret ever befriending the girl that had gotten me into shoplifting. More importantly, I was very angry with myself for falling for peer pressure. I also began to think that nerd is not even a bad word because it just shows you care about your work. I would rather be called a nerd than a criminal any day. Policemen then escorted my friends and I outside the mall in handcuffs at fourteen years old. It was the most embarrassing moment of my entire life, and it made me regret ever even thinking about shoplifting. We then had to spend the night in juvenile hall, and I will never forget that.
I remember sitting in a cell with my friends, and all of us felt as if the world was ending. We all could only imagine the kind of trouble we were in, but we would have rather been getting lectured by our parents then in this very cold cell with no sweater. I felt claustrophobic because the small cell we were in had a glass wall that made it look like no air was coming in. I kept looking at the clock and watching the hours pass very slowly until it was around one o’clock in the morning, and a guard let us know that we would have to spend the night. My heart sank. She then went on to tell us that we were all going to shower one after the other and change into the uniform. While showering and using the restroom, it is standard that a woman guard watch over you as you do this and she search you at this vulnerable state to make sure that you are not entering the facility with any items. I remember her telling me, “You do not belong here, let this be the last time I see you in here.” I could not imagine having someone watch over me while I showered or used the restroom. I definitely did not ever want to see her again either. After showering, we were then escorted to our personal stalls that had a bed like bench with a thin padding, no pillow, and a thin blanket. I was unable to sleep at all that night. It was very uncomfortable, and the light was on the entire time. I remember thinking, “Wow, what am I doing here. I don’t belong here.”
The next morning we had to eat breakfast at tables with the other girls in the ward. I was unable to bring myself to eat the food, so I just listened in to what the other girls at the tables were talking about. It seemed that a lot of the girls had been there before and were in for much more serious crimes. All of the girls seemed to be confiding in the guard and at one point they all began to bash on their parents. This is something that none of my friends, or I could ever bring ourselves to do. All of us were raised by single mothers who had always treated us right and were very kind.I just wanted to get out of there, and shortly after I did. This moment in my life made me want to change how I made friends. From then on, I have believed in the saying, “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres.” The saying translates into tell me who you are with and I will tell you who you are. This is a great reminder to pick your friends wisely.