03 January 2010

New Year, old questions

It's a new year, a new decade. In some ways, it's like hitting the reset button. Or Ctrl-Alt-Delete, if you prefer. I like New Year's....I don't make resolutions, as I may have mentioned before. They usually just make me feel like I've failed, and I hate that feeling. Instead I recommit to doing the same things I always try to do: continue making my faith and my family my top priorities, improving my relationship with God and seeking His counsel in matters great and small, taking better care of my family and myself than I did last year, and being a better person today than I was yesterday.

I do have a couple of specific things I'm mulling right now though, but I don't think you can call them resolutions. I'm considering training for a full marathon this year. And I'm in the process of making what could be a life-changing career decision. On the first one, I need to decide rather quickly so I can begin training. I run regularly, but marathon training is a bit different. On the second, I have some time to think about it. That's where the old questions come in.

I'm coming to a crossroads with the military, and I'm considering a new career path that does not include a uniform. In September of 2011, I will have served 20 honorable years and will then be eligible to retire. I've always thought I'd stick around much longer than that, maybe even long enough that they'd have to kick me out for being too old. Also in September of 2011, I will have graduated from college with a brand new, shiny undergrad degree, that I will presumably want to use. I could go the "safe" route and stick with the familiar: stay in the military and be a reserve bum, working far more regularly and predictably for my unit until I get tired of it and "it's not fun anymore." That's what people start saying when they are getting short, and they're ready to hang it up. Ask anyone who's retired from the reserve how they knew it was time, and they will tell you, "It stopped being fun." Not many people count on the reserve as their fulltime bread and butter, unless they are a reserve bum. And even in that case, most of the time, you only stay while it's fun, unless you really have no other choice.

Or I could retire, take the LSAT and apply to law school. Ever since I can remember seriously thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up, I've always dreamed of being a lawyer. I like the idea of fairness and justice, and everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Not that you'd know it by looking around or reading the news, but still, the idea is good.

I'm certain the way will be made clear for me when it's time to really decide and start acting on the decision. But still, here I sit, chewing on it and considering and thinking and praying. New year, old questions. What do I do? Which way to go? Can I really do that? Will my family suffer? Am I smart enough? How will we pay for it? (That one is covered, I think, by the new GI Bill, but it's a legitimate question nonetheless)

I don't know if I'd be a good lawyer. I'm too wishy-washy and can't make a decision.

The other big question I wrestle with, and have wrestled with for a lot of years now is this: who am I, and what makes me unique or special, without the uniform? It's a huge part of how I've defined myself for a lot of years. I went through a similar identity crisis when I quit flying and quit wearing a flight suit to work. I switched to BDU's and instantly became invisible. That has been a tough struggle, and even now, 10 years after my last sortie as a loadmaster, I still feel a twinge when I see girls in flight suits, especially if they are loading airplanes. The fact remains that I did what was best for my family. I wouldn't make a different decision if I had it to do over again. But it was really, really hard.

So giving up the uniform entirely is going to be a difficult transition. One I'm not sure I'm ready to make. So, I'm kinda glad I've got another year or so to sit on it, and think about it, and pray about it, and then wait and see what life looks like in a year.

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