None of us are the same person today that we were yesterday, or that we will be tomorrow; so why not take a direct hand in shaping how time changes us to make sure it is for the better?

I find a lot of solace in music. While blues, zydeco, bluegrass and hiphop also make the rotation, most of my listening hours are spent jamming out to metal. And though a portion of metal bands seem involved in a competition to outdo each other with more violent or macabre lyrics, a sizable percentage discuss things we each face — overcoming hurdles, questioning the nature of reality, and finding ourselves. Also, whether explicit or implicit, many metal bands put-forth a positive message of self-ownership; encouraging a person to be true to themselves while doing no harm and helping others in need.

Recently while listening to The Browning, a Kansas City-based band with a sound described by Wikipedia as electronicore/metalcore, I discerned one of those positive messages in the song Dominator, which includes the lyrics:

You are not who you used to be

One choice is all it takes
To change a life
To make a difference

I thought of those lyrics as they applied to my own journey. For example, I used to be jokingly referred to by some friends in high school as “White Power Pete.” When I turned 18 my first tattoo was an American flag flanked by the words “Love It or Leave It.” It’s fair to say that at the time, I had bought into the patriot/nationalistic fervor pushed in schools and the legacy media. Far from questioning the status quo I identified with it.

But those ideas, based on hate, never really had full purchase. They never felt consistent with my internal self-narrative. Once out of the artificial confines of school I had new kinds of life experiences and was exposed to a greater variety of perspectives. I found that I liked to pursue my own research, to delve deep, and to seek strikingly different views. Broadly, this was in areas of human action, economics and concepts like personal agency.

The “White Pride World Wide” t-shirt that I threw in the trash when I was 18 or 19 years old was just a visible manifestation of the changes I underwent. My opting away from dogmatism and toward open-mindedness was pivotal. I realized that many of the wrongs that I saw in the world were only possible when one buys into the toxic paradigm of Us vs. Them. Being receptive to new ideas — far from making me weak or pliable or apt to follow the latest self-described “leader”— was the catalyst needed for me to shed the divisive ideas I had held. What replaced them? Ideas that I deem better — those that enabled me to look internally and find peace and to respect the dignity of others and their choices.

So while my name is the same today as it was a couple decades ago when I held the views touched on above, I am not the same person. I am betting that you can also identify some aspects of your persona that have changed with time and thought. And that’s the point of this post — whether you arrived via a link on a police forum, from a friend’s profile on Twitter, or a random search, I ask you, not confrontationally, but genuinely, why did you go into policing? What have you seen a colleague do that has never sat right with you? What have you done that, in retrospect, you wished you would have handled another way? What kind of person are you now?

As you look in the mirror when you brush your teeth, or as you lay down to sleep, think deeply about who you are. Or, if there’s a place that helps you find tranquility — such as being alone in nature — use that peaceful solitude as a platform for self-reflection. Are you helpful to those around you? Are you advancing the ideals you set out to represent? Be honest with yourself.

Don’t be afraid to make a change. Change is, after all, the only constant. And as we each incrementally change as individuals we can work together create a better shared reality.

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