Three years ago, the world was in front of me. And I had ambitions large enough to conquer that world. I had everything going for me: a girl that I loved, and was loved by; aspirations for greatness; and most importantly, a family who always stood behind me, no matter what I chose to do. Failure seemed impossible. I was so young, and yet so sure of myself. There was always a reason to the ďwhy?Ē and always a light in the darkness. Life was obvious. There were no mysteries. There was a plan for everything, and every plan was fireproof. Or so I thought.
I had planned to go to college, get married to my high school sweetheart, start a career in computer communications, buy a house, have some kids, and live happily ever after. It was a simple plan, allowing for error and correction. Yet there was an error in my plan, and despite how obvious it was, I never noticed it until it was far too late. It was an error that far outweighed the significance of the fallacy of a ďHappily ever afterĒ. I had made a plan. It wasnít so much that I had a plan. Everyone has to have a goal, and thus a plan to achieve said goal, however I made the mistake of planning for a life lived in a world that I knew nothing of in my naÔve high school world.
I was unfamiliar with the struggle that I was so sure I knew of. I had grown up in a family who struggled financially for many generations. And sure, generally speaking, poverty gives poverty in its offspring. I was to defy. I was smarter than the average poor kid. And then there was pain and loss; my fatherís incarceration, his acts of betrayal, and then finally, his death. I had learned to cope with pain, financial stress, political differences, and the odds against my success. All small contributions to who I was supposed to be.
And if all of my struggles hadnít built me up enough, there was my family, the ones who kept me going strong. The mother who always walked behind me, to pick me up when I fell, the brothers to hold me up before I could fall, the grandmother providing wisdom gathered from her lessons learned, and the little sister, providing innocence to the dramatic world in which we lived in, together. They were always there, for me, even though I was always there for myself. They gave me their all and never asked for anything in return.
The girl I had loved for years was holding my hand through everything, always supporting each other. There wasnít anything about me that she did not know, and nothing in me she could not see. She knew what I was thinking before I could think it. She knew my flaws, my history, and my ambitions, and in that found something to love. She was my rock.
Of course with all the good comes the bad, with the yen comes the yang. Despite my motherís good intentions, and support for my ambitions, we had always been fighting. Time and time again, she would pick me up, dust me off, and point me in the right direction. This is where the conflicts began. She had always been clearing a path for me, yet I was always straying off onto my own. She suggested north, and I wanted to go south. We fought for just about all of my high school years. And despite the way that I had always shoved her to the back, she stuck with me.
After graduating from high school, my girl and I had begun to argue. Honestly to this day, I do not know why. It was as if the more time we spent together, the further we drifted from each other. Iím sure my stubborn nature only helped progress the arguments. The flawless relationship had become fragmented. And that fragment grew, until it was noticeable. Still, we held on.
I had enrolled into school. It was nothing more than a community college. Yet, it was a start. It was my ticket to the world and progression. It was to be my way out of the life of struggle. I got a Pell Grant to cover the classes and books. I was set. I received my schedule, consisting of 6 courses for the first semester, going 3 days out of the week.
And then I broke. Unseen stress hit me all at once. Reality came crashing down on me. I had no job at the time, and the economy was spiraling down fast. How do I support myself in college with no income? Then there came the nagging relationship, falling apart either from neglect or from being smothered. And all of a sudden the fragileness of the life I had planned hit me. I needed to get to cover, before the big bomb could go off. I had to find something concrete and distant. I had to get away from everything. To take a step back, and analyze the life I was signing off to. Yet I couldnít just let life pass by while I looked for new reasons for everything I had been doing. I had to guarantee my ability to succeed.
Itís funny, really, that just like in the movies, when I needed an answer most; it just came to me, when I had quit looking, right before the breakdown. A friend, who was once an enemy, suggested enlistment into the United States Army as Military Police. An idea that would guarantee a paycheck, food, shelter, money for education, and distance from the life I desperately needed a break from, and so much more.
I swore in for the final time on September 5th of 2007, to become an MP in the United States Army. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. To be honest, I was somewhat scared. I didnít care at that point. Watching my family drift off into the distance from that rear window of the van, I didnít feel scared at the time. I didnít feel sad, lonely, or angry. I just didnít feel. From that point it became a haze.
Basic Combat Training was a major turning point in my life. It was there that I realized how much my family had been there for me. How much they had meant to me. I was able to see how badly the world would have eaten me had they not been there to protect me, as they always had been. It gave me the environment in which to improve my physical wellbeing and raise my confidence in that new strength. BCT taught me how to be a soldier and about what I was capable of.
The first time I went home from being away at training was basically the final blow the relationship that I was steadily losing my grip on. I had been away from affection for so long, that I had forgotten what it felt like, and was somewhat uncomfortable with any sort of affection, especially in public. Unintentionally, I pushed the one girl who managed to love me for me away. I just wasnít the same boy I was when I left home. Still, I held on, not knowing we were already lost.
By the time I got to my first duty station, I had learned of my girls relations with a man twice my age. After many fights, a breakup and a makeup, we decided to call it quits for good. She didnít even seem upset at that point. I had changed too much. She didnít know who I was, and to me, she was spoiled, for mistakes that I had driven her to making. No matter the feelings I had, there was far too much damage done. We were finished.
After the fall, I kept to myself for most of my personal time. At work I only talked when it was for work. I worked just to make it to the weekends, and when they came, I prayed for the week to begin again. I was never satisfied. I couldnít fill the emptiness no matter what I did.
Months went by, and then the word came: my unit was to deploy to Iraq early the next year. We began our six month train up. I was put in classes that most people donít even know about. I learned how to save a life, how to better take a life, and how to work on little to no sleep for extensive periods of time. My family relations grew stronger than ever. I began to try to give back to the ones who had given so much to me in the first place. I realized the life that I had lived up to that point. And for the first time in my life, I felt real regret. I regretted my selfish ignorance for everyone who showed me nothing but love and selflessness.
Around Christmas, I met an old friend from high school. Chemistry seemed to have developed in a short time. And we agreed to see how things worked out. I spent time with the family. Got to relearn my mother, and spent real quality time with her, without a single argument. Again I went home, early Feb, for another 2 weeks. I spent a week with the old acquaintance and new girlfriend, and then a week with my family. There was never a 2 weeks in my life that meant so much. To this point in time, that has been the last I have seen my family face to face.
I deployed to Iraq on February 27th of 2009. The new girl decided she couldnít handle the distance within the second month of me having been gone; still, I have my family waiting on me back home. They have been there since the beginning and always will be. And despite my inability to hold on to any woman, I am not worried. Iím ready to move on, meet new people, and repay my family with all the love and support I robbed from them for so long.
I have been living on a small base in the middle of nowhere for the last 7 months. Not a day has gone by that I havenít thought about my family. Not a day has gone by that I havenít asked myself what would have happened if I had not gotten the wild idea to join the army in the first place. I have no regrets for joining, though. The army provided the environment I needed in order to grow and mature into a man. And I have grown up, and matured, much more than I would have if I had done anything else. Now Iím just ready to get home, get out of the army, and take a second stab at life, with the new strength and knowledge I have.
This time, my intentions arenít to live happily ever after. They are not to live a life that I donít yet understand. I am going to live for my family. The one that gave me to the army, and the family I am going to raise in whatever future comes my way.