On the morning of December 8th, 2015, I drove from my partner’s house to a local community college to present a workshop to a group of sign language interpreters. I had finished my master’s degree earlier in the year and was presenting on the research of my thesis – gender identity and its impact on interpreters. Little did I know at the time that my house had been broken into in the early hours of that very same morning.
After the workshop was over, I got to my car and noticed a voicemail from an unknown number. It was from a police officer. He informed me that he and another officer were at my house, that it had been broken into and, at the time, it looked like my TV was gone. In that moment, I cared less about the TV and freaked out much more about wanting to know if my cats had gotten out. I quickly called the officer back and rushed home.
To make a long story short, two officers happened to be parked in the alley behind my duplex observing a car a couple of houses down that they believed was stolen. As they were doing so, a man came walking into the alley carrying a flat screen TV and this piqued their interest. I’m not entirely sure what happened between them spotting this man and them calling me, but it ended up that the TV belonged to my neighbor in the other half of the duplex. Whoever had broken in (it ended up not being the same person who had been carrying the TV), had been going back and forth through both of our homes for some time.
In the end I lost quite a bit: the TV I mentioned, a Blu-ray player, all of my DVDs, a gaming laptop, an iPad, a couple of Harry Potter collectibles I had recently purchased, a Wii, a guitar my parents bought for me in high school, …there are probably a few items that I’m forgetting at this point, but you get the gist. Anything with obvious potential monetary value was gone.
What I cared most about, my precious kitties, were fine. Thank the high heavens. The oldest one had hidden in a closet and the other two, by some miracle, had chosen to stay inside the house instead of running out the open front door. Part of me likes to think that the person/people who decided to relieve me of my belongings had a soft spot for animals and made sure they stayed inside. This is unlikely but I like to hang on to that bit of positivity.
Needless to say, the experience absolutely shook me. I felt violated. Sick to my stomach. Unable to breathe at times. The space that is supposed to be safe, provide me with comfort, be a haven of happy memories… was forever changed. Damaged. I’ll be the first to admit that where I lived at the time was not the greatest of neighborhoods, so my sense of safety was always on higher alert, but that doesn’t excuse or justify what happened. I couldn’t sleep there anymore but being away from my animals made me constantly worry for them and worry that someone might come back to take even more. Eventually a friend agreed to take care of my animals until I could have them live with me again. I will forever be extremely grateful to her.
As a matter of pure luck, I had signed up for renter’s insurance very shortly before this incident happened. While the insurance agent was great in helping me determine the value of my belongings and provided some financial help to re-purchase what I had lost, it didn’t provide me with any real sense of peace. With the help of my loving dad, I forked over the hefty fee to break my lease and moved out of the duplex soon afterward. All of my worldly possessions lived in a storage unit until my partner and I moved in together that summer.
I would like to say that this experience taught me not to care about physical possessions. That they’re not worth investing energy into. That only immaterial things are what are important in life. You can’t take it with you, after all. Those are valid points with their own truths, but that is not my takeaway message here. Many of the things in our homes link to precious memories – time spent with family, travel, childhood experiences, other things that make our home feel like a home and not just a house. Right or wrong, good or bad, there is emotion invested in them. But that is where the real value lies – in the memories.
What this did teach me, however, is just how amazing people are. The officers, investigators, etc. who helped me through this were fantastic – supportive, informative, and helped me get exactly what I needed. While my belongings were never recovered, I know they did their best. A few of my friends were phenomenal during this ordeal – being with me at my place as I dealt with everything that day, taking care of my animals, helping me pack boxes and move, etc. You know who loves you when a crisis happens. Most importantly my partner. I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through any of this without her. She was able to be strong when I couldn’t be and help me make decisions when I had too many worries floating through my head.
At almost two years later, I sometimes forget this even happened. There are moments, like when I’m sick and want to watch a certain ‘comfort movie’ only to realize that I no longer own it. Or evenings when my partner is out of town and I am home alone when I notice my anxiety a little more heightened. But mostly those moments are few and far between. I am grateful that I wasn’t home when the theft happened, that I have been able to heal from feelings of being violated, and there are always people out there who are willing and able to help in times of need. That beats being able to watch my favorite movies any day.