Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fight, Flight, and having a Dream

This is gonna ramble a bit, so bear with me, we'll get to a point, eventually...

When I was growing up, my biggest most ridiculous, never say it out loud because no one would ever believe me dream was to be a fighter pilot. I still don't ever say that out loud. I think I sort of knew that was a pipe dream. I was crappy at math (and it's a SHIT TON of math to do that job), I completely lack self discipline, I am female, I didn't go to the Naval Academy. On and on and on and on. I guess I just figured that if I ever said it out loud I'd be laughed at. So I sort of shoved it away and went about my life. I also thought I was perhaps a little too influenced by being a child of the 80s and watching Top Gun over and over. But I watched Rudy and didn't want to go to Notre Dame so maybe it wasn't an exact correlation...

But it was always there. The military, even if not as a fighter pilot. Having something bigger and better to do with my life, a higher purpose. I almost joined out of high school but realized I needed a life and college and not swabbing the deck as a scrub. I almost joined again out of college, I really wanted to, but let my mother talk me out of it because my brother was active duty (sitting on a freaking dock in San Diego) in the Marine Corp at the time, and I gave deference to the relationship I was in. The timing was never really right. I think the timing is finally right.

Anyone who has been following along at home knows I've been pondering this for awhile, hesitatingly though. I will not make bold statement that I can be called on the mat about later. I've thought and weighed my options and then backed off again and again.

But a couple things have happened recently that are definitely tipping the scales and I think the time for hesitation may be through (I'm still gonna hedge. I'm still gonna reserve the right to change my mind). So hear me out because I want a record of this.

1. My dad. Sigh. My dad gets away with a LOT of shit. He gets forgiven a lot more easily than my mother. But recently he quit a training program, got called out on this by my brother and then me, gave his regular litany of well thought out rationalizations, and did whatever the hell he wanted to anyway. One of my dad's argument, and shock at our disappointment in him, was that he's never been disappointed in us because we are exactly the people we are supposed to be. My counter to this in being against him quitting was that I wish someone had pushed me harder, told me to suck it up a few times, not been so accepting of me as I am. Look, this is my issue to work out, my parents were the parents that they were and they did the best they could. I get that. I still wish someone had made sure I was doing my homework and pushed me so I could have gone to Harvard Law and not GGU Law (I'm not sure I would trade my LSU experience for anything...but that's a whole 'nother issue).

In his three hour soliloquy (not an exaggeration) to me the night of the Giants parade where I just listened calmly and saved my anger, and now disappointment, for two days later, he mentioned me and the Navy and JAG and not doing that. He said it sort of offhandedly. He doesn't know I've been rolling it around in my brain for the better part of six months, and every time I've thought, "I want to say this out loud to him to make it REAL", I subsequently chicken out. Listening to him rationalize why he was quitting made me realize I want to NOT quit something. I want to do something hard, be proud of myself and get through it.

2. Life as a straight line. My horoscope for this week reads as follows:
CANCER (June 21-July 22): My friend Ariel's six-year-old daughter Juno
doesn't understand why anyone would build streets that run in a straight
line. Isn't it more fun if the highways and byways are crooked and curvy?
Shouldn't people want to get to where they're going by veering this way
and that, relishing the playful twists and turns? That's where the best
action is, says Juno, and I agree: in the tweak, in the twirl, in the winding
way -- not in the beeline route that leaves no room for improvisation.
That's especially true for you right now, my fellow Cancerian.
I read it and thought, "Well duh. Tell me something I don't know." I have never taken my life as a straight line. It is a series of random events that, despite the above comment about being pushed, have put me exactly where I think I am supposed to be...for the most part. I think a little more effort and I could have been in a better position, we have to sort of create our own destiny as well, if those two ideas aren't in direct opposition to each other.

I am definitely not one of those people with a life plan. I start to think about some things I want, like retiring to a nice piece of property in Louisiana someday, but I don't have any path or plan to get there. The question "What kind of law do you want to practice?" infuriates me because I have no idea. I didn't go into law school with any clear idea of what I wanted to practice. I didn't even go to law school thinking I wanted to practice law, necessarily. And I've said to more than one person that the thought of sitting in an office for the next 30 years drafting memos makes me want to slit my wrists. This is not an exaggeration.

But I think I needed a reminder that it's not a straight line and that's okay. I've been hesitating to take the next step because it's SCARY. What if I'm wrong? What if I hate it? This bury my head in the sand thing is working just fine, thanks. Then I thought about the girl that went to Louisiana for college not knowing a single person there, or a single thing about the school really, and I thought, "She totally survived." And I thought about the girl that took a backpack, had zero sense of a plan, and traveled around Europe for a month having amazing experiences that led her as far away as Budapest and how awesome all of that was. And I wasn't so scared anymore. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes, trust your instincts, and leap. I also think about how I'll feel if I don't do this and do wake up in an office ten years from now.

3. I've been wanting a new tattoo for awhile. I know where I want it (top of my right foot), I know that I want it as a reminder to wake up every morning and give the day the best I've got. I thought of getting a fleur-de-lis. My mom has one on her left wrist. I thought of getting the Tiger's eye. I thought of a dagger/sword of some sort. But then three days ago I thought, "I'm just gonna get the script word 'Fight'." I have one of those Lance Armstrong rubber bracelets, but I had mine custom made and it says "Fight for it" on it. Because we should all know by this point I have a tendency towards complacency. I don't always tough things out. I'm lazy. These are traits I don't like about myself, and why I got so pissed when I saw them in my father.

Then my dad sent me a link to the movie Speed and Angels. Holy crap! I spent an hour and a half on the edge of my seat. I have watched a ton of military documentaries and movies in my time. I spent most of high school coming home and watching Discovery Channel Wings. I own all 9 episodes of Carrier. I have never been a) as educated about the training as this, which led to the realization I really couldn't have done this as a career and b) as terrified watching them train. Usually I just think it's super bad ass. This time I thought, "OMG they're gonna die!" Yeah, so, not aviator was a good career choice.

However, at one point in movie, Jay talks about fighting for your dreams. And it solidified that that's what I need to be doing, even if I'm not entirely sure what those dreams are. It scares me that I don't really have a dream. I really don't know... I want to do something I am proud of. I want to be a better version of who I am, but I don't know what that means. And it's scary to not have a dream. To not have even allowed myself to dream, really.

I do know that I need to stop writing them off before I start. Not good enough to be a writer, don't speak a foreign language to join the CIA, not athletic enough for firefighting, not clever enough to be a sports agent, didn't go to Harvard so can't be a judge, not pretty enough... And to make this circular, maybe if someone had pushed me along the way and not allowed me to settle into "good enough", I might be less willing to write such desires off. But I'm gonna put the onus of that back on me. That I have to figure out how to get past my hang-ups and fears. So don't be shocked if somewhere the main idea of "fight for it" is inked somewhere in my body in the near future (probably after my vacations as you can't swim when you get a tattoo for about a week).

As an aside, despite the perceived failings of my parents I have mentioned, they are also the ones that make me think this is an okay path and why my mother's lack of support after college was sort of shocking. The woman carries a gun for a living, for christ sake! My desire to do something bigger than me, better for all, comes from them. I know my mom just thinks her job is a job, but I spent part of high school volunteering at a place for drug addicted mothers getting clean and I had women come up to me telling me the reason they were there was because my mom supported them doing that instead of jail. Everyone in my family, whether they think of it that way or not, puts on a uniform and does something to better our society. I want to be able to be proud of my job in that way. (I also want the security that that offers and the benefits, as they've also pounded that into my head with their careers.)

I'm not saying this is a perfect idea. A lot about it frightens me. But I'd rather know than not know. I'd rather go outside my comfort zone, see what kind of life I can make out of this, have some amazing, and probably some not so amazing, experiences, meet new people, and not be safe and complacent in San Francisco for the rest of my life. Because frankly? It's even harder to imagine my life if I stay here than if I leave. At least for a little while. Four years. That's it. Initially, anyway.

I'm not exactly sure what the next steps are, though I imagine talking with a recruiter is going to be among the first. And just because I've decided this doesn't mean the U.S. Navy is going to agree with me. But I want to start saying this out loud to start making it real.

I ask in return some support and understanding.


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