Sometimes I think about what I would have chosen to do if I rewound my life all the way up to the beginning of college. From the moment I finished high school I knew that I wanted to write for a living. I didn’t necessarily care what kind of writing I did, and I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted to make this writing dream come true until I reviewed my undergrad’s class schedule. Naturally, I fell into journalism hard and fast. The program my school offered was challenging and rewarding. I learned how to confront my fears and to be aggressive when I needed to be. I stuck to journalism my entire undergraduate career; never wavering or wishing I was somewhere else.
But even before I realized my undying love for writing, I’ve also always thought that being a crime scene investigator or crime scene forensic technician (CSI) would be the coolest job in the world; that is, if I could learn to remove myself emotionally from whatever scene I was on, but more on that in a bit. It takes a special kind of person to be able to take on roles such as medical examiner, funeral director, police officer and crime scene investigator/forensic technician. The kinds of things these people see can range from the tame to the absolutely horrific. But, I bet each one of them would say that they are intrigued by causes of death in some way. I think the thing that intrigues me the most about CSI work is the fact that they play a significant role in putting the criminal behind bars and bringing justice to the victim(s). That kind of pressure is probably extreme at times, and I know from studying law that in many cases there is no physical evidence left at crime scenes, or perhaps the defense attorney successfully argued that the evidence found was in violation of the defendant’s fourth amendment rights and must be thrown out. The thing with criminal trials is that defendants cannot be convicted unless the jury believes the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Circumstantial evidence can most certainly win a case, but you can’t get much better than hard, physical evidence connecting the defendant directly to the victim at the same time and place.
Crime scenes say a lot about the criminal mind behind it, too, which I also find incredibly fascinating. I guess I am picking up on an interest in criminal psychology, too — what made this individual commit this crime. From law school, I know there are homicides committed in rage (“heat of passion”), intentional homicides (deliberate, planned out murder), reckless homicides (death that results from DUI drivers), and involuntary, accidental homicides. I will never forget learning that the “heat of passion” mind set was essentially created to account for human fragility. “Heat of passion” recognizes that human beings can lose self control in emotionally intense situations. Isn’t that crazy? Researching and processing crime scenes would never be dull, and I think that it would always be challenging and interesting.
There are huge downsides to the job, however, and the biggest reason why I never pursued a career in forensics is because I don’t think I could emotionally separate my work life from my personal life. I think eventually the horrific scenes I’d have to process and secure would eventually wear me down until I’d just collapse into an emotional break down. Then there would be potential victims involved in these crime scenes; particularly young children and babies. I just don’t think I could keep myself together.
When I was researching the work life of CSIs, I came across this fabulous description of the other two downsides to the job: odor and bugs written by a police officer and collaterally assigned CSI:
One of the aspects of the job that doesn’t come through the TV is the odor. There is something atavistic about the odor of a decomposing body. Even if you have never smelled it before, you will immediately know what it is, and it will cause you to want to run out of the room. A body that has been decomposing for several days or more in warm un-ventilated conditions produces an odor that makes most people physically ill. The odor also gets into your clothing, so you definitely want to shower and change clothes before going home.
I could take the odor. The most difficult part of the job for me was the bugs. Flies will find a decomposing body through the most resistant of barriers, and within a day or two, the body will be covered in maggots. I have seen bodies so thoroughly maggot-ridden that they appeared at a distance to have a shiny white sheath. Up close, you could see that the sheath was moving under its own power. You have to be ready to get up close and personal with stuff like this, not to mention every fluid and excreta a human (or non-human) body can produce.
In the end, I’m glad God brought me here. He has a plan for me, and I take comfort in knowing that my life doesn’t just simply end when I leave this Earth. I’m glad that I followed through with journalism and law school, and I’m happy with where I am right now.
Oh, and do you know the other reason why I never pursued a career as a CSI? I HATE MATH :) I’ll leave the math to my husband.