Monday, May 24, 2010

A few random thoughts, written at 1:00 AM, about why I miss the Air Force and why I'm scared of my new grown-up life

I'm much less devil-may-care than I thought I was.

I'm scared. What if I do something wrong? A recent conversation with a friend has solidified a thought I've been having for a long while.

My Mormon culture can sometimes make me paranoid. What, with all the stories in which God directs a person not to, so much as, turn down a certain street, accept a certain job or eat a certain flavor of popsicle, all resulting with the avoidance of a life altering disaster.

Now I sit around at night wondering if I was supposed to turn left instead of right. Was I buying produce when I should have been in the cereal aisle , meeting my eternal companion? If I had just clicked three more times on KSL would I have been drawn to another apartment where I was supposed to be? If I had just drunk more water on Tuesday, I could have been en route to the bathroom, and been able to help that lady tie her son's shoes, sparking a thought pattern in his young brain which would lead to a life of service and a sweeping grassroots political movement, creating the peaceful society of the future....but I forgot my water bottle, and I ignored that feeling to go back and get it.

I have to come to terms with whether I believe in a God who would allow me to throw off my destiny and screw up my life when I'm making rational decisions with my human brain, even when I'm trying my very best to do the right thing and do what God would approve of.

I used to not believe such a disaster could occur. It was, in my mind, almost completely outside of the realm of physics that one could fail when trying one's darndest.

Let me explain. My entire life, from my conception through college, I've been an Air Force Officer's Daughter. Let me explain, as candidly as possible, what this looks like.

I never saw an adult who had messed up, permanently. I didn't know those people. I never knew or saw an unemployed person in my city/town/neighborhood/ward in my entire young life. I never saw a truly overweight or sickly person. Not one. No provider in my neighborhood had not graduated from college, and all had multiple degrees. All were in the prime of health. All were considered among the most brilliant in their fields. No one in my world was older than 60. Not one. People who grow up with wards where little old ladies and gentlemen slowly pass away, where people are obese, unemployed, and have failed ( really failed) at things in life....just so you know, I never had that experience.

And it wasn't as if this was just a coincidence of suburban culture, where this can happen periodically. No, these things were separated from me by institution, by law. The unemployed, the obese, the elderly, the uncollege-educated didn't live in my neighborhood....because they weren't allowed to. For the most part, they weren't even allowed in my town ( known as a base). It's hard to admit, but I never knew an adult who had made, or been allowed to make, a complete faceplant in the mud of life.

An entire world of winners. People with the ability and ,honestly, solid hard work and self-control and the education not to mess things up beyond repair, or fall and not get up. Even enlisted personnel( who lived in different neighborhoods than me), those who had not graduated from college, were coming from hard places and bettering themselves, preparing for college and honorable careers.

In the school system I was separated further from others, placed on the upper, then Gifted Tracks. I knew of a few people who "face planted" in High School, but I never knew them personally. And, to be honest, they were mostly spoiled middle-class white kids, who had no one to blame for their failure except themselves, and who chose to stay down after they threw themselves there.

It's ok to mess up, if you immediately correct course. And we all make little errors, choosing a Good thing when a slightly better/more fun course might have been available....taking pottery instead of drama , Education instead of Political Science, attending the children's benefit ball with James instead of Habitat for Humanity with Tyler. Good choice vs. Good choice.

But a face plant----- A complete life failure, like beating a kid to a pulp because you don't like his face and getting put in jail, raping a girl, dating a jerk and getting pregnant so he won't leave you, dropping out of high school to become a full-time employee at Smith's cause you'd rather have the money, doing drugs, driving drunk, leaving your educated wife for your 19-year-old secretary, hurting your children, embezzling funds, suicide because a lover scorns you, becoming addicted to something, destroying your marriage, drinking bleach to see how it feels, blowing all your money on meth, tasing a girl you are attracted to and trying to stick her in a box---these can be avoided, but somehow are not by a distressingly large percentage of the population.

None of whom I knew growing up.

Everyone has regrets- Good choice vs. Good choice. Regrets just aren't healthy. A lot more people than I thought have face plants- Obviously Bad Choice over Plethora of Good Choices.

Now, this is not to say that I ever developed a mentality that all who suffer from poor conditions deserve it. In fact, believe it or not, I was raised on a pretty heavy diet of social justice in my progressive schools. We lived in a world where we were given every opportunity to succeed . Those who took away another person's opportunity to better themselves, based on anything besides effort, needed to be removed from that position of power, expeditiously. Racism, Sexism..."enemy targeted."

My childhood had mottos plastered on walls, shopping centers, signs, and emblems: "Failure is not an option.", "Excellence in All We Do.", "Integrity First", "Excellence in action...always", "Peace through Strength" and "Any Task, Any Place, Anywhere."

For me, these were more than mottos. In fact, I'm going to say that for most people raised in my little corners of the world, these were lifestyles. I honestly believe them, and attempt to live by them. They ring in my head and come out of my mouth.

But now that I'm in college, I've met people who know more face planters. I've heard tale of college graduates, so down on their luck they laid down on train-tracks and killed themselves. I've heard of people who die alone, people who fail in their chosen line of work, people who are forced to give up their dreams because of social conditioning, graduates who work at convenience stores to pay the rent, those who want families and never get to have them, those who married poorly ( both literally and figuratively), people who drown in debt and people who die, depressed and exhibiting bleak, self-destructive behavior all the way down to the grave.


And all of a sudden it seems dangerously possible to become one. I really hope I stay logically aware of what an obviously bad choice looks like.

I'm scared.

But hey, "Failure is not an option."

Below: a lot of common mantras in the Air Force. And to me these are not just cute little sayings. My thoughts filter through these ideas just as much as they filter through my Christian traditions (that's right, even stuff like "Win or Die."). Imagine, if you would, how these are applied in my mind each day when put up against things like social injustice, personal failure and discouragement. Ya, suddenly my zeal is explained, even to myself.

Integrity First

Excellence in All We Do

"No one comes close"

"Libertatem Defendimus"
("Liberty We Defend")
2nd Bomber Wing (2nd BW)

"Aut Vincere Aut Mors"
("Win or Die")
1st Fighter Wing (1st FW)

"Return With Honor"
31st squadron

"Tutor et Ultor"
("Defender and Avenger")
49th Fighter Wing (49th FW)

"One team, one mission!"
37th Training Wing, Lackland Air Force Base Texas

"Cum Grano Salis"
("With a grain of salt")
VS-38, Air Antisubmarine Squadron "Red Griffins"

"In God we trust: All others we monitor"
5th Reconnaissance Squadron (5th RS)

"Combat Ready Combat Proven"
463d (AMXS) Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas
C-130E and C-130H / Air Mobility Command

"These things we do that others may live"
- USAF Pararescue

"Excellence in action .... Always"
91 Security Forces Group (SFG)
Minot AFB, ND

"Any Task, Any Place, Anywhere."
460th Security Forces Squadron, Denver, CO
United States Air Force Space Command

Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC's) 4245th Strategic Wing, had the motto of
"Peace Through Strength"

Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC's)
USAF SAC Original motto was "War is our Profession Peace is our Product"
"Peace is our Profession" was adopted about 12 years after the formation of SAC


Anonymous said...

All I can say is, "Thank Jupiter, Odin, and Quetzalcoatl that you are in my life." You GET it. You get the anxiety and bull-doggish-ness.

Now, believe me when I say this, you will NOT faceplant. You may stumble and scuff the heels of fabulous shoes from time to time. You may even get knocked off balance and the floor will loom threateningly, but you will not make contact. I promise.

Megan said...

It takes twice as much skill not to faceplant when wearing 3 inch heels...but I'm THAT capable. Hu-AH!

Colonal Jesip said...

I think if you're anything like the person you appear to be in your writing, you will do great. You have a good mind, a good upbringing, and intelligence. And if need be you could always fall back on writing, cause you definitely have a way with words.