Life after the military is both exhilarating and intimidating. I long had aspirations towards a commission or becoming a SNCO, but, given recent events and policies being implemented, I doubt that I will continue past my current enlistment. I am in no way insulting or undermining the protectors of my beloved nation. All throughout my childhood and adolescence, thoughts and preoccupations with military life rattled around continually in my head. I initially believed them to be demons that I could never exorcise, the act itself one borne of futility. Before I was awakened by a sharp jolt of harsh reality, I believed that I was weak, feeble, and impotent to change my fate, let alone the next few years of my life as I saw fit. I believed that my very existence was held to the considerations and machinations of a variety of external forces, and that my own views, opinions and emotions were largely immaterial and irrelevant. Looking back as a man, I shudder at my own insouciance, but I also have to chuckle fondly. At 15, socially awkward, short, frail, and terrified of women, no matter how much false bravado I sought to exude, I wanted nothing more than to be a guitarist, whether in a rock band or on my own, a la Satriani or Vai. I not only lacked the friends, but I was in sore need of originality. The vast void of post-school life threatened me on a primordial level, similar to how life outside of the Navy does. I’ve lain awake for the past few months wondering what I’ll do when my service is up.
I’m not that talented at my job. By my own admission I’m competent, but I lack passion for the profession. In a shop where a good half of my coworkers own modified laptops and desktops that they fine tune and customize with the same relish as a gearhead who’s charitably come into possession of a 67 Mustang, I am the outlier, the misplaced Luddite adrift in a sea of tech-savvy hackers. The most powerful, articulate peace of hardware that I own is my Galaxy S7 smartphone, a gift from my parents. The handy little device is my loyal assistant, and I run my blog, play online poker, maintain connections and friendships from all over the world, and manage my money from the little luminescent rectangle. I’ve used it tirelessly over endless nights, my only company a glass of iced tea, researching possible financial avenues. Perhaps I could work in IT. I’m good at certain aspects of my job, and have taught myself basic coding. The issue is that my talents have been allowed to fester and atrophy due to other duties being foisted upon me. My tenure in the military has taught me one thing above all, for which, while it initially frustrated me to no end, has proven to be my sole consolation. That harsh fact is that, no matter what, whether machines become superbly advanced and eventually overcome us in a dystopic nightmare, or our technological prowess is stunted and our upward ascendance towards digital nirvana is ultimately stalled, a young man with a strong back and arms is always in demand.
I’ve carried a variety of guns, which I enjoyed profusely, and I consider those unceasing moments of brotherhood my best year in the Navy. I’ve looked into private contracting, which I’ve come to find is basically an extension of the infantry and Special Forces. Although I’ve long admired that world, and always will, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would be little more than a hindrance to them given my unfortunate lack of experience over the wire. Next was an excursion into the benefits of maritime security, which I’ve undoubtedly performed loads of. Not the way I want to spend my life, but the money’s there, and, hell, I’d get my guns back. I’ve pretty much accepted by this point that I’m destined for a career as a blue collar worker, or as a type of blue/white collar hybrid. I lack the temperament to sit in a sterile, cute little air conditioned office, performing menial, cyber assembly line work. I’d rather castrate myself than suffer through forced conversation and gossip by the water cooler with effeminate, emasculated “men” and corpulent, entitled women, although the very act would suffice to castrate me in a sense. This is all for the best, however. I’d rather wear work boots than polished dress shoes, and Levi’s with a black t-shirt or well-worn flannel will always beat an overpriced suit. I can’t help but feel I’ve disappointed those who’ve wanted more for me, yet I can’t muster the shame to apologize, because none exists. It all comes down to earning potential and the presence of fertile monetary soil that lends itself to the cultivation of compounding affluence, and this exists in abundance in a variety of physically arduous jobs. I’ll be fine.
This of course isn’t to say that I won’t be using my head as well as my hands. Quite contrarily, the career paths that I’ve been offered entrance to in the private sector while still enlisted are quite magnanimous. When granted the chance to travel the world, creating network infrastructures and coding routing protocols, my heart fluttered. The company, which will remain anonymous, would pay for everything, all expenses completely covered. I’d be free essentially, earning 6 figures, a wealthy vagabond, free-falling and floating with no ties to anyone or anything. But, I’ve lived such a life for far less money, a fraction of that salary, and while it is indeed intense and preferable, even desirable, loneliness begins to gnaw at my heart after a prolonged period of wandering. My physique and size alone have drummed up spontaneous offers for private security for some wealthy business owner or spoiled foreign national. Bouncing jobs in dive bars around colleges are legion, and the poker room is always open. No matter which way I follow, I’m safe in the knowledge that I’m prepared and resilient. I’ve always fantasized about living solely by my wits, uncertain about steadiness but alive in the flickering, chaotic moment. Only time will tell.