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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where's Sargent Ermie when you need him?

i am not a marine. i wanted to be one once though. A nasty knock on the noggin from a secret admirer that i got as a kid kept me out. Seems the marines don't want guys who may suddenly slip into a coma during training or combat unless it's from something they did. Public Service Announcement kids: if you're planning on going into the Marines after high school or college, start wearing a helmet now, just in case. Looking back now, i'm surprised i wanted to be in the marines at all or even the army. i tried them too. i was not what you'd call a recruitment model. i was a small, long haired kid who preferred to sit and read or draw than run, take orders and run some more. Worse yet, i tend to cynically question most authority. Not disobey mind you, just not go along with any real enthusiasm. Think of marines splashing into the water to storm a beach and one of them just kinda moping along going, "yeah, yeah, but what's the point?" i probably wouldn't have lasted long. Most of us navy brats growing up had military dreams but that was more of a chance to use cool hardware to blow stuff up, legally, than a carefully considered career path. Of all the choices i had coming out of high school, what made me think the military was a good one?

Up till now i had always thought that i chose that as an "out." i didn't know what to do so i just kept the military option open. Presidents do this all the time. Yesterday, however, i had a revelation, a peeling back of my psychic onion, if you will, that, after the tears from the fumes cleared up, showed me this was not the case. The real reason was much more bothersome than mere lack of creativity or options. For the fact of the matter is, i normally have plenty of creativity and options tend to be what you make for yourself. i learned that from reading. No, the real reason i wanted to be a marine is the same reason why i didn't hit the road and travel after failing to get into the service and the same reason i've never tried to become a professional writer or artist, why i stare at a blank page and then give up, why i hate days off, it's the same reason i don't volunteer unless asked to and the same reason i'm weirded out by being my own boss now. It's the very same reason that through all these years the most constant prayer i've made no matter what was happening in my life, has been, "Lord, show me Your will." As pious as that last bit sounds, i now know my motivations were slightly wrong of center.

i want to be told what to do.

Whether it's from a Sargent, a parent, a boss, a wife, a pastor, a total stranger with a gun or God Himself, i would rather have an unpleasant but clear task or responsibility to perform than be cut loose to my own devices. i honestly don't trust me to make a decision in a vacuum of authoritative opinions. That's why the end of high school totally freaked me out. Why the thought of not having a job gives me shingles. It's like being turned loose out of prison. i don't know what to do but i know i have to do something! It's why i became a carpenter in the first place. It's something i knew, gut level, that i could do. It was the lowest common denominator that i thought i could stand when i looked at the newspaper classifieds. It was the reason i was looking at the newspaper classifieds at all! i needed a limited set of pre-approved options from which to start my adult life. The idea of carving out my own path gave me the willies. Granted, it wasn't as if i had no responsibilities, no dire consequences for failure. i had two, a wife and a child on the way who needed me. As it was though, my wife earned more than i did for the first seven or so years we were married but it was safe. i was flogging my body instead of my mind because i knew, solid-as-a-hammerhead knew that if i sweated and bled for certain people they would give me a little paper that my family needed to survive. No one could say i wasn't doing anything. i had protected myself from absolute failure and the harsh but accurate criticism of laziness. To protect my ego and my selfish right to complain, my mind labeled everything else as "impossible." i was a carpenter because i had no choices. When the real reason was, i chose to become a carpenter because there were too many choices and i lacked the confidence to choose one!

So now, i'm laid off. i'm only a carpenter right now because that's what people are offering to pay me to do. The stakes are just as high as they ever were. Absolute failure means not just my family out on the street but the one living with us as well. i think about the options and my soul wants to pull back into its shell and let somebody kick me to the side of the road. The possibilities are limitless, anything could happen, there's no one telling me what to do...

and that gives me the willies.

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