Posts Tagged ‘Life Lessons

10
Oct
08

Never Quit

I can taste the end of all of this now. Six months of tough training is nearing a conclusion. Long hours, restricted freedoms and challenging academic and physical tests; almost done.

This weekend is a 4-day weekend for my platoon. Then it’s back to class for the final surge. I’ll be getting plenty of sleep, drinking plenty of beer, and finishing a few books I have in my locker, in particular Niall Ferguson’s, War of the World and Marcus Wynn’s, Brothers in Arms. Lots of Outback steak and football too.

Free time tatses so good now. The Army’s version of Stockholm Syndrome has me appreciating the little things in life. It also has me missing things like friend’s and family.

This is Columbus Day weekend. I hope that people take the time to browse some history on Columbus, even if it’s just a wiki entry. Whatever people think of him, he had some qualities that are of benefit to everyone. The man simply wouldn’t quit. In the Soldier’s Creed, one of the first things an American soldier is required to commit to memory, are the lines: “I will never quit, I will never accept defeat.” Neither should we, neither should this country.

In the past, I’ve quit too often, I think. I learned at an early age that quitting works to alleviate pain in the short term. I ran away from abusive homes five time, slept in bus stops, on sidewalks, in abandoned cars, on some of those nights where the chill of autumn in Maine was preferable to domestic strife. That was a long time ago and it’s certainly no “Million Little Pieces” story, but those times make me who I am now, because I remember them more vividly than things that happened last week…

I quit high school too, before getting a general education degree and then going to college. At that age, and to some extant even now, I was searching for something, more appropriately someone, to fulfill me and make me feel of worth. This was a huge mistake on my part. Our sense of value cannot come from others. Mine comes from my own view of what is right and wrong and my faith in God. We must consider how our actions affect others, but ultimately the best men do what they know to be right. Honesty with self is the most prized of attributes–and that’s called wisdom.

I quit in marriage too, though of course it takes two to tango. There’s regret about almost everything that I’ve quit, and a sense of pride in all of the things that I’ve toughed out.

There’s a character in my novel: Cliff Harding. Cliff wrote a cheesy book called, The Meta Life. He sells it on paid ads. That book, though filled with foolish anecdotes, presents the theme of my novel, and it’s a lesson we can all use: Nothing good is easy.

Don’t quit worthy causes. Never give up the fight. After 37 years, this slow-learner has finally learned that lesson.

01
Sep
08

Changes Or: How to start an Existential Crisis

In the past three years, I’ve experienced an enormous amount of change. Change can be good. Too much change is bad.

We all need a sense of stability. Something that we know we can count on to be there for us when we wake up. And that thing has to make us feel good.

As I said, over the last three years, change has been its own pattern in my life. A divorce, leaving my job as a police officer, a job which taught me more than I knew about life and people than all of my other time combined. I worked as a cop for eight years. I don’t regret it, even though it’s a tough job for an introvert. It brought me out of my shell a bit, toughened me, sharpened me.

But it was time to go. Especially after the divorce. A divorce can ruin you or save you. I’m not sure which mine did or will do, to be truthful. Everything I had, came and went with that marriage, so I had to start over. Leaving my previous job was a way of trying to escape the memories of that marriage. It was a partially successful gambit, because I took to writing, something I’d always wanted to do, and knew I had a knack for, at leat I think so. I completed a novel. I don’t know how good it is and it doesn’t really matter, because it took a lot of work and its power as catharsis was undeniable. When I sit here and think of writing it, I get chills. My time alone, thinking and typing at home, at the coffee shop, finishing 350 pages, it’s an achievment for me.

I lost a brother last year, too. I didn’t know him very well, and hadn’t seen him in decades. He was married, with children and he worked for a power company in Georgia. The prior Christmas, I’d received a card from he and his wife. He’d provided a phone number and invitation to call him. But I put the card in a drawer and never called. My sense of guilt, something I’ve carried with me since childhood, prevented me dialing that number. I wasn’t what I wanted to be–stable, in control of my life, and able to give much to others. Despite having an honorable profession, I felt like a bum. From my earliest days, starting from when my grandfather died, I’ve felt mysterious guilt. Or perhaps “angst”, as Soren Kierkegaard would have called it. A year after getting the card, I was notified that Charlie, my brother, had died when he fell several hundred feet from a cell-tower. I’m told he looked like most men in my family, with a rugged build and blue-collar temperment. Now, I had not only to deal with my own guilt and pain, but that of my father, who hadn’t seen Charlie in a long time, either. My father is disabled, has little but his children and the stories he can tell with a proud smile of them. He’s experienced the sudden loss of a father, brother, and son now. I worry about him every day, which makes being away from home tougher. This brought me to the realization that everything I’ve ever done, everything I’ve ever accomplished, was in some way connected to trying to make Dad proud. To aleviate my sense of guilt.

So, now I’m in the Army. It’s still too early to say if it was a good choice. The training environment is intentionally kept stressful, so I can’t really say it’s been too enjoyable. I’m in what many consider the best job in the Army–Intelligence. I’m good at it too. Time will tell, as always…

I hope that the Army brings me some stability in the coming years. I want a family too. I do want to marry again, I think. One thing I’ve learned is that almost all successful people have a measure of family to rely on. Even if it’s just a call from Mom or Dad, it makes a difference.

Barack and his acolytes preach change. I say beware what you wish for.




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