[written January 15, 2002]
So every year of Soapboxes has a different overall theme, as you might have noticed. The year 2001 was entitled "Inflection", supposedly signifying my transition period from college to being a full-fledged adult. I've traveled a bit, learned quite a bit, daytraded for income, done some other things, but really for the most part little has changed. Duh! I knew that! Becoming an adult is a long process and doesn't just end because maybe you've received a diploma!
But at some point I decided I wanted to join the Army and work in either intelligence or counter-intelligence. I haven't signed a contract yet so I'm not 100% sure that everything will work out the way I want it to, but we'll see soon. I'm assuming I'll get what I want, or something very close to it.
Sometime early this year, I'll leave for basic training, probably in a couple months or so. In terms of the Soapboxes, I'll fall quite far behind, having virtually no access to the outside world for whatever it is, 12 weeks? That's a lot of catching up to do. Maybe I'll be able to write in what little free time they give you. During those few months, the drill instructors are supposed to show me how to develop excellent habits and work ethic, as well as develop my character, strength, and self-confidence, among other things. I'll become a soldier.
And then I'll apply to join Officer Candidate School, where I could become an officer in some area of military intel or counter-intel. I'll be trained and taught, and then eventually sent to my first post.
I think those around me aren't as sour to the idea of me going into the Army as they were at first. But I know for the most part, their thoughts regarding why I decided to join are a little off.
And I could go on a whole rant about why I wanted to join, and in fact I already talked about my reasons for interest (heh), but I'm not going to now. One thing I've learned as I've talked to people about why they're working in the area in they are now, or why they're at this point in their life, is that it really is all a bunch of shit. I mean, sometimes you'll get that one person who really did know what they wanted to do because they knew they loved to do it, and every hope they could have imagined was fulfilled for them in their current occupation. Those are very fortunate people.
But most people have a tendency to acclimate themselves to their current situation, no matter how shitty. They will list off reasons until the sun goes down about why they "chose" to do this or that. "I chose to work at a business that doesn't appreciate me, makes me do humiliating work, only to fire me while I'm on my lunch break and lock me out of the building." Right. Really you can tell within five minutes whether people were forced into a job or they really wanted to do it. A lot of people slip into doing things that they don't really like doing, because they hope that somewhere along the line, it gets better. Somewhere along the line, as in, not right now, that point in which they are currently living.
For me, it's not about money. It's not really about having a career, either, although with a background in intel, it sets me up for quite nice possibilities in civilian or military agencies down the line. (that's something I'd actually enjoy making a career out of, along with trading stocks in my spare time) It's not about proving myself to other people. The only thing I even remotely care about in that regard is making my parents proud of me. It's not really about proving anything to myself, either. I'm not one of those kids who cries when they fail at something, seeing it as some cataclysmic failure to mankind if they couldn't do something. I'm not one of those people who feel they have to step up to any challenge just to prove to people that they're not quitters. The fact that they get so defensive about it just shows that they ARE quitters at heart.
So what IS it about? Well, honestly, while it IS a little about the above things, the main motivation is by far my personal education. I want to have the skills to be a soldier. The basic things that many countries all over the world still require their citizens to learn. I want to know more about the military, which is largely closed off from public view both because of its own tightly-knit people and also because the public has largely shunned it. After all, this is a presence that exists all over the world, and is tightly knit with governments, politics, international law, etc. etc. It's in the business of dealing with the entire world. With training in intel, I'd hope to be privy to the info that doesn't make it public. I want to know more about what's going on. I don't like knowing that I'm in the dark when things happen. Back to my whole information fetish.
That's it. Don't read any more into it. I know full well that I have to devote key years of my life to this. But I consider the idea of serving active duty worthwhile. You might retort that that's how "they" want you to think. And then they can you in some worthless jobs for a few years and you have no control over it. You could end up some desk jockey doing menial tasks, or even worse, digging ditches, blah blah blah.
I've heard it already. I know to expect that I might get shitted on. I know it might not be peaches and cream. I might even hate it. But I think at the very least I'll gain some very valuable life experience from it. I won't be as ignorant of a large facet of history and present-day afterwards. I'll have served my country, which a lot of people who are all talk will never do. I'm a believer in people doing and putting the time into what they preach.
I know many disagree with US policy, and/or with the military in general. I have no problem with that. I understand where they're coming from. I can't say I agree with everything my country has done and will do. But I do believe that people should try to make things better instead of just talking. I believe that in order to make the world better, you have to put yourself out in the open and take risks. I believe that being a truly free individual involves putting yourself as close to the sword's tip against oppression, whatever form it takes (personal or societal), as possible.
War and the prevention and necessity of it exist all throughout the course of mankind. The way that people nowadays shun war is understandable, but the way many more people condemn the study of war and the history of war is insidious because, first of all, it fucking happened and two, understanding war helps us become more peaceful in the future. I mention this partly to respond to pacifist doubts I might have, and partly because serving in the military will help me better understand the role it plays in society. War has long been entwined with mankind. No, it is not an ultimate goal, but it is an aspect of our history that should be studied.
And now I'm running on, I'm sure. I know I'll be in my late twenties at least when my term of service expires, so this is a big step. It will change me a lot and expose me to a lot of people I really won't like, I'm sure. But it's a nice step on the path of life, I think. And you know, I think it's for the better. I have it nice where I am now, but I don't know if I'm really living life to the fullest here in Dallas. I'm extremely comfortable right now, and that's not really a good thing at this point in my life.
A final note: one thing I've sort of come to realize from talking to older people, and talking to Anna (who seems supernaturally wise beyond her years, somehow), is that we have a lot of time to fill in life. I know there's the whole thing about every day being your last, but really a lot of people live until they're 75 or so, and ever since we could think, we were rushing to be older and more successful and so on and so on. Many of us rush through life hoping to get to some point that we haven't really thought that hard about. I mean, maybe you burn out at 35 or 40, but then you have the rest of your life to fill. All that time you spent excelling at your specialization, and now you're bored out of your mind? You don't know how to do anything else at that point, and you're too old to be retrained! And what you're left with is no appreciation of living! Or maybe it's even sadder: maybe things in your life will never improve? Maybe you'll work some stupid job your whole life and nothing special will happen. You'll just watch TV, eat, go to work, and die.
No, I don't believe in living every day like it's your last. Statistically, we'll drop dead until well after our hair begins to fall out or grow grey. So why should life be a nervously paced rush? More accurately, I think, one should just try to enjoy each day and do something worthwhile, no matter how small. Not that I'm a model of this yet, but I hope to be. Joining the Army I think is a positive step in that direction. I'm not a rusher. I plan on having a lot of time to learn a lot of different things. Maybe I might die earlier than the average person. Would I regret it? Probably not; it was my time to go. Life should be enjoyed and embraced, not treated like a stepping stone to something else that you have no proof exists. I think when I'm much older, I'll have appreciated the military experience even if I'd be doing something completely different at that point...
And while running on was worse, getting all metaphysical and shit is even more disgusting. So I'm gonna stop.
I'm joining the Army. I think my writing will benefit greatly from the stories and experiences it will provide. That makes me smile. And how rarely I do that!