Nine years ago, I set foot on a new path in life that promised as much difficulty as it did hope and adventure. That path had its share of smooth paved roads but there were plenty of muddy ruts and potholes as well. I think I’m past that now, but it provides an interesting context to what I’m experiencing today.
When I first started down the Army path, I was naïve and hopeful. I wanted to make a better me. The Army was never my destination. Neither from the beginning, nor any other point in my career did I think it was something I wanted to do with my life. It was a contract, and nothing more than the vessel to get me where I wanted to go. But from the beginning, I found that the more I learned and the longer I was in, the more I hated what I had become and what I was being asked to do. And that’s funny, because as a private, the goal is to not be a private. More respect, more money, and more sham. As a squared-away specialist, you entertain thoughts of becoming an NCO. More respect (from the top), more money, and a different kind of sham. As a sergeant, you pretty much have it as best as it can get, for, once you’re a staff sergeant, you might as well give up. By that point, you’re stuck and the fun is over. By that point, you realize your best days are done and you’ll never quite relive the thrill of the job as you had at specialist and sergeant. So, to take a camera term, you start out with the wide-angle view of service. As you narrow your pay and focal length up the ladder, there is a point where everything seems to converge for greatness. But once passed that point, it’s all downhill.
When I went back to school, everyday was fresh and exciting. I took a philosophy class, photography class, and a human sexuality class. How does it get better than that? Although I had some shit to deal with (online Algebra), I aced my first semester and made the Dean’s list with a 4.0 GPA. My next semester was almost as good and I still had a great time. I wanted to be in class everyday—I simply couldn’t get enough. Then, in my third semester, I was both enlightened and horrified by my experiences. I had the most amazing class and some of the shittiest, as well as the burden of applying to transfer to a renowned university. After a sham filled summer, I was promoted to university. The responsibility was great. The pay was great, too, but it was difficult work. I did mostly well, but had room for improvement. The second quarter at university was full of suck. I became the staff sergeant—stuck. I’ve realized the further I go, wherever I am, the further away I am from doing what I want to be doing—even though I’m fulfilling the requirements. And now, just like the career staff sergeant, I’m following the dirtbag motions just to get through it all. The passion is gone. Work sucks and I’m left wondering what the hell happened to it all?
I like my major. I love the genre but I can’t stand my school. The university experience plain sucks. I could make more of it, but then again, I’m not nineteen or twenty years old. I have other responsibilities. But, for as much as I like what I am doing, I wonder about what I could be doing. And lately, my passion is with the camera more than the pen. I’m in a freaking journalism major and I haven’t done any writing! Examine: my JOURNALISM major requires 3 literary courses, 2 upper division history courses, and 3 related electives. The JOURNALISM courses are 2 intro classes in the first quarter, a history and ethics class on the genre in the second quarter, and then 3 workshops. Unfortunately, you can only take one workshop a quarter, and Seniors are the only ones guaranteed to get one! So, if you’re lucky, you don’t do any writing for this JOURNALISM major until the third quarter (assuming you’re a junior transfer, like me). So, that’s 5 literary and history courses, 3 intro courses, 3 writing workshops, and 3 electives that can be used for either literary or writing courses.
After all that, is there any doubt why I would rather tell a story with my camera instead of the pen? Just like in the Army, the longer I am in, the more my joy turns to gloom. No longer am I the fun-loving specialist. I’m now the staff sergeant, stuck with an irreversible plan that makes more sense to wait out than start over.
I don’t want to feel this way. I want to be a specialist again and enjoy my classes. I want to look forward to school everyday like I did then, and for once, I want to DO what I thought I was going to DO.