I was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised alongside my older brother in an Italian family where everyone lived and breathed food. There was always either a lasagna in the oven or Sunday sauce and meatballs simmering on the stove. With that and the addition of our family restaurant being located directly beneath our apartment meant that the smell of food was inescapable and embedded into everything we owned.
I have nothing but fond memories of my childhood. Sure, my parents fought more than most couples, and they may not have had a perfect relationship, but they never let their marital problems come in the way of their roles as caretakers. Their unconditional love, affection, and support for me and my brother were always priority number one to them.
During my first visit with the court-appointed therapist, I got choked up unexpectedly when talking about my family. They are the most important people in my life, and my greatest fear is that they might blame themselves for my mistakes. I’d never want them to doubt for a second that they didn’t do their very best in raising me. It literally makes my chest hurt when I think about the pain and disappointment that I’ve caused them. But despite their grief, their support and encouragement throughout this ordeal has never waivered. I only hope they realize how much I appreciate them.
Academically, reading and writing were always my strengths, but I managed to perform reasonably well in the other subjects, too, enough so that I’d occasionally make the honors roll. I never once received a detention or any other disciplinary action. I was a model student. Teachers loved me; students ignored me for the most part. I had a small but comfortable click in high school. I was never involved in any sports, and the students in gym class teased me mercilessly for my lack of athletic-ness, but not necessarily more than they did any other nerdy kid.
I came out to my parents when I was a sophomore in high school. It was a rough year, not from my own coping but rather my parents’ coping with my sexuality. Luckily, their hesitations weren’t due to silly religious ideals. They were simply and understandably concerned with my well-being and other people’s acceptance of who I was.
My grades in high school paid off, and I received a grant that covered most of my college tuition. I enjoyed the self-paced nature of college compared to the monotony of high school. It was during college that I experienced my first long-term relationship and full-time job, both huge learning experiences.
After graduation, I landed the job of my dreams as a web developer for a major global company. I was making great money, moved into my first apartment, and began a new relationship.
I also made some bad decisions that would land me where I am today: A 24-year-old man charged and convicted of transportation of child pornography and awaiting a sentencing anywhere between five to 20 years.
Contrary to what most people may think a sex offender to be, I don’t exactly fit the widely assumed interpretations. I’m well-educated and have no criminal background or history of drug or alcohol abuse. I was raised in a middle class family with two loving and nurturing parents, and I’ve never been sexually abused. I’ve always tried to make the right decisions and live by the values my parents instilled in me.
But one mistake is all it takes, and nothing which came before it really matters. I’m a sex offender now, and even after I pay my debt to society, I will still be a sex offender. It’s a label I may never escape.