September 6, 2011
By , New York, NY
When I was a freshman in high school, I got arrested. I attend a good school, come from a good family, and hang out with a good group of friends, so getting arrested was one of the things that I never imagined happening to me. But it did. I began shoplifting in the second semester of freshman year. I remember it started with nicking a small handheld mirror from Target. I don't know why I did it. I just knew that it was easy and then, the mirror was mine. I swore to myself that it would be the first and last time. And for a good three months, it seemed like I was staying true to my word. Then three months later, I was dared into taking a pair of Skullcandy headphones. Eager to prove that I could do it again, I dutifully stole them from the Target a couple blocks away from my school. My success was shared with my close friend who accompanied me in my crime. Before long, by the next week, we were shoplifting regularly from Target, DSW, Sephora and countless other stores in our area.

I remember knowing in the back of my head, that what we were doing was illegal, that we'll get in lots of trouble, that we were disappointing our parents, and ruining our lives. I remember sending a nice, long text to my friend listing all the reasons why we should stop. We knew we were wrong and we tried to end it. But the thrill of breaking the law, getting away with it, and acquiring new things was too difficult to overcome. So we continued.

The only other person to know of our little adventures was my sister. She was quite amused at first, and then became increasingly worried as my friend and I couldn't resist taking more. Even if we didn't need anything, we wanted it. She tried to stop us, but of course, we were unstoppable.

Every time we shoplifted, the feeling was the same. There was the same pattering of my heart, the same jitter in my step, the same nervousness of my fake smile. And every time we succeeded in leaving the store, bags loaded with jewelry and makeup, I felt the same rush and the same thrill. Invincible was an understatement to the way I was feeling every time I left a store with my "purchases."

No one would have ever suspected me of shoplifting. I, myself, couldn't believe in what I was actually doing. Even though I was committing crimes, I never felt like I was losing myself, or becoming a different person. I felt like myself, only with a little secret. And that secret was simply delicious. I don't know how long I continued shoplifting. It felt like I was at it forever. But it must have only been about a couple of months when I finally got caught.

It was toward the end of May, one of those brilliant, blue, spring days. My friend and I left the school, already with a plan. We were going to head to the Sephora on 34th street and "browse around." We carried out our routine as we normally did, roaming the aisles and picking up items we fancied. After we were done, we made our way out the large revolving doors, ready to burst outside...when the burly security guard stopped us with a smooth sweep of his hand. My heart dropped, in a way I never experienced in my entire life. I don't remember what happened next. My friend and I were banished into a room at the back of the store. There were a lot of tears, begging, apologies, and lots of hopelessness. I called my sister, who called my cousin, who called my dad. They watched as I was taken away into the police car, hands behind my back, a disgrace to my family, a disgrace to myself.

It's been a good three years since the day I got arrested. Now, my family likes to joke about it. They say that I have "street credit" and that I am a total "thug." I laugh along because it does seem so distant and funny now.
Getting arrested never changed or impacted my life in any significant way. But from the experience, I have come to realize just how shaky that divide between humans and animals is. The only thing that separates humans from animals is having morals. Human beings know the difference between right and wrong. They know what mistakes can be forgiven and what mistakes are taboos in this society. In the back of our heads, we knew that shoplifting was a crime. It was illegal, a taboo. But within a flash, we threw away our morals, in exchange for that rush of adrenaline, thrill, and power. How animalistic we became, and how easy, I realized, it was to throw away the very human morals that set us apart from being savages.
I don’t blame my behavior on my innate animalistic roots. But the experience has taught me a little something about the perverseness of the human brain. No matter how hard we try to control, nurture, and culture the darkness, it comes back. We’ll always find ourselves hovering on the edge of the shaky line that society defines between wrong and right. And it is up to us, ourselves, to figure out, which direction we want to glide, so easily, over

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kaylarocks said...
Sept. 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm
wow great article is this nonfiction
sunshine7223 replied...
Nov. 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm
I can so totally relate to this. I myself, was a big shoplifter at one point. I honestly can't even remember the first thing I stole. All I know is, my shoplifting also got out of control. I literally could NOT go into a store without stealing something. It didn't matter if it was CVS, Walgreens, or a thrift store. Any store I walked into, I just had the uncontrollable urge to steal. And so I did. All of the merchandise I have stolen in the past would easily add up to thousands of dollars. Rangi... (more »)
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