To whom it may concern,
My name is Melissa Presser. I have been an attorney for fifteen years, have three children and am married. I’ve mostly worked in the criminal realm, but have done short stints in the world of family law that made me run back to the crazy and deranged world that is criminal justice. My life started over at thirty-five when I became a Christian and I am now blocked by most of the world’s opinions for my love for the Catholic church and all things that stand for life.
But that’s not my whole story. I wanted to be a writer. That plan was foiled when Columbia University in New York cost way too much for my parents. Instead, I flushed my seventeen years of near perfect academics into the toilet to leave my dream behind for safer grounds. I went to school for free on full scholarship thanks to the state of Florida and declared my major in Criminal Justice. I had no prior experience with the system but figured I would find a field that was the farthest thing from my dream of becoming a hippy writer on the upper east side.
I spent a lot of time in jails and detention centers. People’s stories were fascinating to me. I interviewed a prostitute my sophomore year in college as part of a research project until I realized it wasn’t a project, it was real life. She was sexually abused. So was I. The only difference between us two was she was in and I was out.
I taught in a jail in downtown Miami. Mom and dad thought that was scary. The scarier the better I thought. I challenged my own way of thinking. They were human to me, animals to others. I saw little kids in adult jumpers. They were really big kids who had committed adult crimes. They had a lot of pain, so did I. The only difference between us was that they were on the inside and I was out.
They probably would have made for amazing stories, all of them, but I never once thought about writing about any of them. Some stories were just too personal, some too painful. It felt exploitative to even consider telling their stories. But after a time, their stories weighed on me, which made me go back inside myself, which led to me writing about mine.
I don’t know why some of us end up on the inside instead of out. That still pains me. But what pains me even more is knowing that there are more of them, and fewer people wanting to do anything about it.
I have made a lot of mistakes. I hate cooking. I bring store-bought baked goods for school functions and I think whoever created Pinterest is responsible for the mass depression of mothers with young children. I don’t quite function like the rest of the world. I am happier working than sitting in a hot park while my children try to kill each other. The best moments are when my daughter tells me my breath stinks but wants to kiss my face anyway, when my son speaks to me in minion and I answer back in the same, when my husband and I talk about flakka, prison score sheets and death threats as if that’s normal.
I have never quite fit in. I may never be ok with that. There is something very freeing about being ok with not being ok. And for me that is usually at least seven days out of every month.
I’d meet you in the worst part of any neighborhood if it meant I could help you. I still cry when I see homeless people and ASPCA commercials. My husband still makes fun of me. I cry because you’re cruel and unloving and just don’t want to understand, but I’ll fight to the death in a court of law for the love of justice.
It’s all beautiful really. Being misunderstood. Love, hate. Friends that have left and unexpected friends. Being Jewish, becoming Catholic. Still not completely understanding it all. I realize, it’s ok to be me.
How about you?