[written April 16, 2002]
I stand on the brink of going to basic training in the U.S. Army. I have, at the time this was written, three weeks left.
At long last, I'll be moving away from my parents for good and all that good stuff that Americans and Brits love to do. I went to college for four years, but I was only in Austin and afterwards I moved back home to learn about trading stocks. I was living elsewhere, but I still felt connected to home.
The weird thing is, it's not really a big deal to me. I don't know why I even bring it up. For most people I know, moving away is a HUGE FUCKING COLLOSSALTABULOUS deal. OHMIGOD I'M AN INDEPENDENT PERSON AND I TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING ON MY OWN. Hyperventilating added. Meanwhile many are still children in grownups' clothing.
And then there's all the stuff people tell me about joining the Army. Honor, duty, patriotism, blah blah. Or how evil the U.S. is, or how the military rapes the common people, or some such.
Am I the only one who doesn't care about these things in such conventional terms? I look at my whole decision from the perspective of someone who realizes he has a lot to learn, and may turn 35 before unlocking the mechanisms for putting my creative talent into action and career. I want to study a lot of wildly different things and get a feel for what areas I'm interested in. And not just to be different from other people, which is what some people do, being different for the sake of being different. At many points earlier in my life, I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted to do and what it would take for me to get there. But I don't feel that way anymore. I know so little. I feel so immature even though I'm legally an adult.
I feel like my intellectual baseline is still not high enough for me to be able to take on the most important issues in life. That is, I've felt like I need to keep studying the basics, the classics, the groundbreaking new branchings-off of thought, just to catch up to where the most influential and intelligent thinkers are when they're formulating their newest theories. I mean, how can you think deeply about the most controversial philosophical issues if you haven't followed the progress of all those who came before you first?
And shit, what do I know about what motivates people to do the things they do? I don't know anything about honor or respect or patriotism or courage. I've read about them and I hear about them, but I don't know them. I haven't experienced those in my life yet. Thus they aren't really important to me yet. And yet I'm supposed to be an adult? Why do people speak about such qualities all the time when they probably know nothing of them either?
I imagine it will be good for me to go and learn these things in the Army. I'm not a military brat and almost everyone I know objects to joining the military for some reason or another. No one close to me has first-hand experience in the area. It's just not a popular thing to do for people like those around me, I guess. Which might be why I'm doing it, perhaps. It had never been given as an option to me before. Maybe I'm drawn to what's foreign to me, what I haven't been able to learn elsewhere.
So I'll totally be a fish out of water. I'll have to start from scratch, really, even though I'll be older than most of my peers for a while. But this is a good thing.
I'll be moving away from my parents and I won't see them as much, but that's okay too. I'm not super close with my family like some people are, and going off to the Army is something I wholly chose on my own, so it's something I want to try, and therefore my parents shouldn't take it badly or miss me or any of that. They want and know that I need to make a name for myself.
I've had a huge problem finding peers that I can identify with. Most recently I've been trying to figure out why I don't identify with people online much anymore. I mean, I'm a computer geek, and for a while I thought I got along with other geeks, but as it turns out the people I get along with online are just fun-loving people who like to have a good time and are generally intelligent enough to realize that that's what they're doing. They're goofy college kids, my age. The hardcore geeks themselves, with the whole politicking of anti-Microsoft (their arguments at odds with reality), anti-government (from kids IRCing from their upper middle class parents' suburban houses), and anti-mainstream (their belief that the majority is stupid and needs to be shown what's best for them), are just too predictable and not stimulating enough. Not that they don't have valid arguments in many cases, but those arguments come at the expense of not knowing other viewpoints or studying any of it beyond the propaganda that informed them of the issues in the first place. And why expend so much energy proclaiming that you are intelligent and independent by not falling prey to group mentality, when in reality you're just part of another narrow-minded group, the computer geek?
Not that I expect to find people I identify with in the Army either. But like in previous communities I've been a part in, like the stock market community, I have already met some people I respect very much. It is nice to meet people whose lives have been so interesting that you hope yours awaits equally amazing achievements and challenges. The problem with young people of course is that yes they have fun, but they haven't experienced much either and so it's hard to learn from them in many ways, except to share their growing process with them. And then the problem with old people is that they come from another generation where things were different and were at odds with what is normal to me nowadays. Okay, so these are wild generalizations about large groups of people, but it seems to be true. =P My point is that the people who mean so much to us are few and far between and we have to do a lot of searching in different areas to find them, because they don't all congregate in one place, sadly. And at the same time you're also exploring who you are and you end up learning plenty for yourself, which makes you more interesting to others. And in the end, even the highly specialized groups of people are extremely important as well because knowing them will let you know what's abreast in their field before hearing the news months later. It's a whole network thing. =P
The funny thing is that I'm already taking more pride in the things I do, being more competitive, wishing for more responsibility, holding myself and others more accountable, and so on, because of enlisting. It's nice to know that your work at the very least will serve your country. Some balk at patriotism, but I think the U.S. is a fine thing to defend. The finest. At the very least, even the most rabid anti-American would have to concede that, as Hernando de Soto discussed in "The Mystery of Capital", the U.S. identified the abstract concept of capital so that its citizens would be able to enrich their own lives and those around them, while at the same time contributing to the well-being of the country. Don't we want everybody to win, as long as we do as well?
I know that a lot of people I'm close to think I need to grow up a lot and experience a lot. And I admit that they're right. But, some of these people, do they have a right to say such things? It's been weird hearing some peoples' opinions bearing in mind what they've done, themselves... And at what point will they stop thinking that? Will I become someone that eventually they will admire and trust and feel safe with?
This seems to be exactly what I need to do and what I want to do, joining the Army. Along the way I'll be learning a language as well, and I just can't pass up that opportunity. I feel it's so vital to me to learn more languages, now. I only wish I realized this earlier in my life so I could've studied abroad or something. If I ever have kids, I'd expose them to multiple languages very early and try to get them semi-fluent in one or two at least before they were old enough to rebel against me. =P Maybe all parents think this, going in...I don't know. But the usefulness of knowing languages (and how to learn more of them) is staggering.
With regards to this site, which I care very much about maintaining as long as I possibly can, because I think somewhere down the line the effort will pay off more than I could've imagined, I think there are some unknowns in the mix now.
For one, I don't know if I'll be able to write just anything I want in the future, here. I don't know how military intelligence works. I would imagine, though, that talking about most stuff on one's site would be bad security in the MI community... =P
But, I mean, I couldn't write about just anything before, either. I can't just post shit that my parents and brother tell me, or how I totally feel about my close friends, or what they've told me. I've excised some stuff in the past as per request from the affected persons, and it wasn't fair to them for me to have posted what I did without their permission. It's hard to be completely honest about things when your life involves other people, which would be basically everyone. =P Then again, it's also hard to write about what's going on in your life without bringing up your relationships with others.
So, I'll have absolutely no Internet access for at least nine weeks, so I'll be 9-11 weeks behind on the Soapboxes.
So here's what I propose. I'm going to try to get nine or so Soapboxes out of people I'm close to and then publish them when I get back. I don't know if it'll be done anonymously or what they should write about quite yet -- I'd rather they write on anything that they want to, if they'll even agree to help! -- but it sounds like a cool thing to do to make up for time lost. Those close to me will have to cover for me while I'm gone. =P I'm sure some good stuff will come out of it, too.
So goodbye for a while. I have a long way to go before I'm even done with training, assuming I complete everything satisfactorily in the Army's eyes. Hopefully it will all go smoothly and I'll have plenty of great stories and perspectives to share when I return.