I know that someday you'll find better things.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Be All You Can Be

On Monday, I decided to join the National Guard.

I can’t really identify the reason. Maybe it’s because a part of me feels guilty for not following through with the Air Force ROTC thing back in college. Maybe it’s because I want to serve and contribute to our nation. Maybe it’s because I want to finally do something that will make my parents and children proud. Something big. Something meaningful.

Maybe this is the mid-life crisis I’ve always heard about.

It has to be the National Guard. A full-time military career wouldn’t work for our family’s schedule. One weekend a month and two weeks out of the year seems reasonable, right?


I informed Russ of my decision on Monday evening. He was supportive but skeptical.

“So you’re okay with it, then?” 

That was easy-- almost too easy. I'd expected more resistance. Or at least some discussion.

“This just seems like an odd choice. I thought you were anti-National Guard," he said.

It was a fair observation.

“I’ve never been anti-National Guard, per se. I just don’t think it’s appropriate to send the part-timers with local commitments and families into combat ahead of the skilled career soldiers. I mean, I understand why the military does it, but it has always struck me as extra-tragic.”

My mind always goes back to one of my former students, a boy who had to go live with his grandparents when his mom, a single-parent, nurse, and National Guard member, was deployed following 9/11.

“Yet you’re willing to be a part of that potential tragedy?” Russ implored, calm as ever.

I was ready for this question--I'd asked myself the same thing during the process of deciding.

“I suppose. But I don’t think that they’d really want to send me over there. I’m fairly good with guns and all, but let’s be honest—my attention span’s not the greatest, and I tend to be a little impulsive. Plus, I have zero medical training, so it’s not like I’d be of any value in that department. I’d probably be a data analyst or something. Maybe human resources. Or organizing things. I’m pretty good at organizing things. And cleaning. I could definitely clean things.”

So the matter was settled.


I was confident with my decision right up until it was time to fall asleep that night.

That’s when the doubts started to chew away at my plan.

What if they don't let me have my concentration medicine? What if I'm assigned to work in an area with ultra-high-efficiency fluorescent lights and those blinding migraines return?
How will I find out what contains gluten and what doesn't? What if those stupid tumors along my spine come back? And those mysterious high fevers that I always get whenever I don’t get enough sleep-- how will that work out?

Anxiety coursed through my veins and pounded in my ears while that familiar feeling of suffocation began to squeeze at my chest. It had been a while since I’d had a midnight panic attack. So long, in fact, that I’d almost forgotten how uncomfortable it is.

I got out of bed to retrieve my anxiety medicine, but the worries came, too.

Oh, God. What if they don't let me have anxiety medicine?

Wait, aren’t soldiers with anxiety disorders usually discharged from service? Oh boy. How long would it be before I got kicked out?

Peace washed over me and all my worries evaporated when I realized:
I’m such a mess, they probably won’t even let me in.


On Tuesday, I decided it was time for a different plan.

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