The Art of Being Lost
What my wrongful murder conviction showed me about how to get through 2020
This year— with its seemingly never-ending pandemic and economic recession and with the president and his enablers threatening our democracy — isn’t just disorienting and sickening. It’s also deeply familiar.
It’s been five years since I was definitively acquitted for a murder I didn’t commit, and I’m still unsure what my best path forward is. I don’t know if I can ever restore my reputation or achieve anything that will impact my life as much as this external trauma has.
I feel perpetually lost.
This year, the rest of the country has joined me. All at once, so many of us are having to figure out how to make the best of a shitty situation that none of us foresaw. We are an entire nation adrift. We are lost en masse.
Even if we emerge from the Trump presidency intact as a nation, the challenges ahead are rushing at us: rampant vitriol on social media, growing wealth inequality, mass population displacements due to climate change, the looming automation crisis that will eradicate tens of millions of jobs within the next few decades.
We can’t wish for a world where everything makes sense. That world is gone. The best we can do is learn to be productively lost, to thrive in the wandering, to make the lack of a road map an asset.
And I can tell you from experience, it can be an asset. Life is a never-ending series of problems, but problems are opportunities.
For example, before I was acquitted, my lack of Italian meant I was confused and vulnerable in prison and in court. So I spent hours every day studying. And soon, my fluency became my greatest asset. It didn’t just allow me to defend myself in the courtroom; it also helped me to find safety and stability in my prison community when I realized I could provide a useful service: writing and translating court documents, love letters, and medical complaints for the many illiterate women around me.
In freedom, my undeserved notoriety was a problem. I couldn’t go to school without being followed by paparazzi. I couldn’t get a job. What business would want my baggage? Making new friends or finding romance outside of the…