Hey, friends. Let me tell you about that time I quit the Army. And, stick with me cuz I promise I have a point.
I was 20 years old, bored, no clue what I wanted to do, putzing around with codependent relationships, and failing at my attempt at being a normal person pursuing a random degree that would hopefully bring me stability and a life well-lived until the day that I die.
I. Was. Stuck.
So I enlisted in the Army and, boy, was I excited. Scared but excited. I was convinced this would be it…I’d make everyone proud, I’d explore the world, and I’d jump out of airplanes and help get bad guys.
You’re afraid of heights, dummy.
A parachute rigger? Did I hear that right? You want me to be a parachute rigger? I have a fear of heights. A debilitating fear of heights. But, yeah, I’ll be one of those, even though I don’t know what one of those is or does.
Dummy me wanted to leave asap so all it took when I was at the recruiting station was “well, there’s not much else available so if you sign here, you can leave real soon.”
Well, hot damn, sign me up then!
SIR, YES, SIR…I’M READY TO SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE, GIVE THIS COUNTRY EIGHT YEARS OF MY LIFE, AND JUMP OUT OF AIRPLANES SO I CAN RIG PARACHUTES DURING WARTIME. I DO SOLEMLY SWEAR THIS IS MY CALLING. SIR.
Ridiculous. I was ridiculous. And every Veterans Day, I’m reminded of my ridiculousness.
But…I can laugh at it now because I learned some valuable lessons. I learned that wanting to do something epic, something heroic, something that doesn’t make me feel like a lost pathetic soul, doesn’t have to be something major. I mean, if I wanted to escape, I could have chosen anything else…anything. A therapist’s office, perhaps? Jeezus.
But, I chose the Army and, yes, I know there are silver linings. I’ve been through every single one just to get through the pain of regret.
Now, let me sidestep and say the military very well could have been the right choice for me had I given it more thought, or maybe a different branch of service, or maybe had I not been impulsive and jumped into it for the wrong reasons. But I just wanted to go, to leave, to escape from my life.
I wanted freedom from who I was.
Freedom starts in your mind.
Here’s the problem…wherever we go, our mind goes with us. And, I don’t want to get too deep into it because it’s a complex subject. There are people who truly cannot get out of their situation…prisoners of war, to name just one. I’m not referring to those extreme situations, I’m not referring to the third-world countries, the poor kids who have no water or food…I’m referring to the all-too-real self-induced prison we create in our own minds.This is usually caused by self-doubt. You must learn to detach from the doubt. If you don’t recognize it creeping up, you need to pay closer attention. It’s there, and you can either feed it or kill it. But, you must learn to recognize it or it will take years from your life.
I digress. To bootcamp I must go!
Take the focus off the fear.
After bootcamp, which was three months of the most amazing, challenging experiences of my life that I will NEVER regret, I had to go off to Jump School to train to jump out of planes and rig parachutes. I can still picture those Army Rangers scaling the buildings while I’m attempting the required one pull-up to get into chow hall. LOL. #whatadisgrace
Sorry, self-deprecation is my specialty. Jump school…the first step towards achieving parachute rigger status was to conquer the tower. This tower assimilates the free falling experience. You’re attached to a harness, and I can’t remember how high up the tower is but there are levels and I was on level one.
There I was, looking down, ready to take my first jump, shaking from fear, when the sergeant down below yells ‘STATE YOUR NAME!”
I reply “JUMPER, SIR!”
He then yells “NO…STATE YOUR NAME!”
To which I reply again “JUMPER, SIR!”
It took three times for him to realize my last name is Jumper. This made me laugh so hard that when I did jump, I wasn’t even scared because I was laughing!!!!
When you’re not so focused on your fear, you do things you didn’t think you could do.
After completing boot camp, which I did with flying colors as squad leader (go me!) and then finishing three months of advanced training in admin work, (not rigging cuz, ya know, I sucked at it and failed jump school), I went home to start my eight-year career in the guard. Fast forward a few months and a million peeled potatoes later, I got pregnant, got married, (yes, in that order because I’m winning at life), asked to be discharged from the Army, (again, winning) and thus went my own merry way to live a life of regret masked in civilian bliss.
Oh, the regret.
The regret is real.
I don’t regret failing jump school. It’s the quitting that I will always regret. Not giving the military a fair chance. I regret not going active duty (and not just because peeling potatoes once a month was boring as hell but, uh, hello, I thought I’d be helping with hurricanes?) I regret rushing into it, but most of all I regret allowing myself to believe I wasn’t good enough to do it all.
I quit because of fear.
I no longer go down that rabbit hole. I no longer let the regret take more than a few seconds of my time. Had I not quit, maybe I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today, who knows. The older I get, the more I realize I don’t have time for bullshit. And, wasting time on regrets is bullshit. It doesn’t serve a purpose. It doesn’t bring me happiness and it certainly won’t change the fact that I did, in fact, quit. Besides, I would have made a terrible parachute rigger no matter how much my name fits the role. The chutes wouldn’t have gotten rigged cuz I’d be in the plane holding on for dear life but then I’d be forced to jump and I’d end up a POW laughing at all of you who think you have no freedom. LOL. That’s some truth right there.
Be a hero to those you love.
A hero in the Army, I was not. That’s ok. I don’t need to do epic life-saving things. Neither do you.
I hope my kids see me as someone they can look up to. Someone who takes notice of the little things that are the big things. Helping someone in need. Giving without expecting anything back. Dropping off soup for a sick loved one. Buying someone coffee for no reason. These little things are the things that matter. Being there for my kids is what matters.
I started this blog to inspire others to go after their dreams. It seems so…small, right? So insignificant. I’m not scaling buildings, I’m not putting out fires, I’m not headed to Afghanistan to fight in a war, and I’m certainly not jumping out of airplanes to get bad guys.
I’m an ordinary person who finally found some relief by not trying to be extraordinary.
By just being who I am. By taking off the mask of fear. By starting a damn blog. By starting graduate school. I stopped trying look perfect in the eyes of others and that alone has opened the prison walls that have resided in my mind for far too long.
I hope you find your freedom.
Whatever freedom means to you, I hope you find it. I hope you feel the fear and do it anyway. I hope you break through your mental walls so you can feel that relief that comes with letting go. I hope you stop trying to be perfect.
We are all stronger than we think we are.
Now, go take that leap but make sure to look before you jump.