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Thinking About the Army, October 14, 2001 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

the soapbox @ benturner.com
archived soapbox: October 14, 2001
"Thinking About the Army" [permalink]
    keywords: army, military, enlisting, career, job, life, growing up
    soapbox #: 315
    written: November 5, 2001
    words: 1780

"Thinking About the Army", an Essay

Lately I've been thinking about what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. Right now I'm trading stocks, but I don't make nearly enough to support myself securely. I had hoped by now that I'd be able to generate enough consistently to make a living off of it. My plan basically was to wait a year after I graduated from college to see how it panned out. It's been a bit longer and, while I can generate modest income, not enough to live on my own.

I mean, I like living with my parents, for obvious reasons, since I don't hate them like many people hate theirs. But it's gotten to the point where I'm not satisfied with what I'm doing insofar as whenever I talk about trading, most of it is just bullshit because it's not providing me with my own place and car and independence as I would like it to. I mean, it's fun, but I'm just not good enough at it.

So I'm left thinking about the fact that I also have other faults, such as not really meeting enough people to have much of a social life. I compensate for this by actually being fairly productive, at least in my own little world. I mean, I've written more on this site than most people will in their entire lives. But that really doesn't mean anything. Is it earning me any money? Is it getting me any sort of reputation? Does it really exist outside of my own mind? Not really. Few people know about this site. Not to say my site, or my writings, are worthless, but they are accessories to what should be a full, vibrant, and interesting life. They are not my ultimate goal.

Obviously, I have to get a job if I want to have enough security to expand on my life, which can still include trading, but not as a primary money-maker. A friend of mine says there's no pressure to start a career now, and some people suggest that I go to graduate school to pursue business or whatever. That is still a possibility, although trading has somewhat alienated me from corporations because at this particular point in time, even America's top companies aren't exactly loyal, efficient, or particularly innovative or helpful. You look at the wide spectrum of jobs and you see long-time employees and newly hired people getting laid off all the same. You see companies lying about their numbers, and refusing to invest in creative solutions to problems. You see that sort of scenario that Adam Smith may have feared, companies that dehumanized their workers.

Now don't get me wrong. I do not consider myself too good for a job. I will take a job if it is available to me, even if it's at some company most would abhor working for. A job is a job. I do not look at jobs as enhancers of my own sense of pride and self-worth. Perhaps coming out of my father being a professor, and perhaps the fact that my parents came from poor families, that is why I value being dedicated to something more than I do seeking reputation or pride out of something.

Then again, that brings up another issue. How do I really know? I mean, I've never really been placed in a situation where I had to take a job, or I only had one decision to make, or I had no welcome opportunities. I've never been tested in my life. It has been a cake walk. I admit that I'm spoiled. I admit that what my parents had to go through make my life look like a breeze. I admit that I'm naive in many areas.

But I do feel in my heart that I have to find something that challenges me in a way that I thrive off of, and it doesn't necessarily have to be high-paying. Now, most people will say they want a job that gives them free reign and creativity and all that other crap that no one in his right mind wouldn't want. But the difference is that I'm willing to walk the talk.

In the few situations where I've been responsible for other people and helping them to succeed, I've taken great pleasure from doing so. Not that this is unlike everyone else, but it's a feeling that is irreproducible. Despite my introverted nature, I do feel as though I can help other people maximize their potential and balance them with results. I feel as though I can be reliable in pressure situations and can offer a lot to other people. I feel as though if I believe in something, I will dedicate myself to it.

But it all comes back to me not really knowing. I didn't have tragedy or poverty or endangerment or divorce in my life as I grew up. I lived in a very secure environment where the only tests in my life were primarily those assigned by myself.

I think what I'm tired of is my potential not being on the same level as reality. I'm tired of thinking I'm just bullshitting all the time.

I've been mildly thinking about joining the army. To those close to me, this is a complete violation of how they see me. They can't even fathom me in the army. They don't want me to do it.

That didn't really help me get a good idea of whether it was good for me or not. Although I guess since they're the ones who know me the best, they'd know.

On the other hand, asking someone who's in the military would receive a response from the other extreme. They'd welcome me and say it'd be something I might seriously want to consider.

It seems like most people in many countries are polarized regarding the military. It's not seen how it used to be seen. A few decades of Vietnam post mortems, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, and age-old fear of violence will do that to you. When it seems like military guys seem to be a bunch of bitter people with no war to fight and nothing else to do except polish their hunting rifles and tell war stories, you can see why the polarization exists.

But I still believe that serving in the military shows a desire for those qualities that make up what it means to really be human, such as loyalty, dedication, duty, honor, and so on. I mean, for someone who talks about standing up and speaking his opinion freely as much as I do, I'm not sure whether being a desk jockey on some random e-commerce project will cut it for me. Not that I might not be put in some menial position in the army, but at least I'd have a sense of duty and contribution towards my country. At least I could do a job knowing it contributes to something I can believe in directly, which is the USA.

I think the pendulum has swung too far in one direction, coinciding with the blowoff top in bullish optimism in the stock market. I think that the US has for a long time become more and more self-centered since it has done better and better with each year. Eventually the pendulum would begin to swing back, and it seems like that has begun, especially in light of 9/11. The US is being forced to recognize the effects of its negligence and the reality of a world that still isn't as peaceful as people might think. For years it has been unhip to be American or a serviceman or a police officer or a professor or any of that. The big bucks comes through business and law and medicine and technology. Those are desirable professions right now. However for most people involved in those areas, they are often soulless jobs. It's only a select few who can wear their hearts on their sleeves at work in such areas.

Just watch...I bet in another decade, it'll be cool to have military experience again. :) As it is, our heroes and leaders consist of spoiled Hollywood/NYC people who fled NYC as soon as they heard the 9/11 news. Our celebrities tend to be the ones we look to for guidance, when really the only thing they know how to do is act like someone else, if they can even do that. A nation of playboys.

I want my life to mean something. I want to do something important. I want to protect people who just want to live their lives. I want to take care of my parents. I don't necessarily want a family of my own right now, and I don't want kids yet, so there's no pressure there. I just want to be responsible for people.

As it is I'm not responsible for anyone. Kind of sucks.

I look at basic training with eagerness. That they cut out all your bullshit and require you to perform is something simple and elegant. That they test your limits and build you up so that you have basic survival skills and training is a plus that I think any man should have. But I also think I could study military intelligence after I get through basic training, and so I could help study data and generate analyses of military situations and movement worldwide. I feel I would be good in that area. And it'd be something that'd directly impact the security of those who I love. I'd have a sense of duty and purpose.

Granted, it's still just a consideration at this point. I might just try to step up my trading to the next level, or do the requirements to get into business school. I'm not sure yet. But I do know that I have many flaws that I feel I'm at the age where I should be getting rid of them. I'm getting that skittish feeling I get when I don't feel satisfied. That feeling like I need to be doing more to get where I eventually want to be. I wouldn't necessarily follow a career in the military, but I do think it'd be a good step in making me a better and more complete person.


 
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