I had been sitting there for about half an hour, laughing and joking with the people buzzing in and out of the small, hidden office on the bottom floor of Jackman. Somehow we all crammed in there, all types of people from all different backgrounds with all different stories as to how we ended up there. And yet, we all shared one common goal: getting in.
For four years I had strived to meet the standard, then to exceed the standard. And in the thirty seconds it took to flip around a sheet of paper, four years faded into my empty hands.
This will probably be the most personal and real blog that I have ever posted, so I ask you all to bear with me. Last week, I found out I was disqualified and would not be able to serve in the military in any capacity at this time. I had exhausted every option available and left no path untraveled. I never gave up hope and never took no for an answer. I gave no one the power to say that I did not try.
But, in the end, it wasn't enough. I was devastated and lost now in what to do. What standard, if not the military standard, am I to strive to go above and beyond? To whom, if not America, am I accountable to with my honor and integrity? How will I, if not through military benefits, pay for school? What am I to do with my life if not to serve?
So many questions, so many fears. I am not alone. This is a reality for many, not only those looking for a contract or commission but for anyone who has been discouraged from their dream.
So, I want to share a bit of a hard lesson that I learned in reality. I went to my dorm and mulled over my questions, not knowing what to do. I went immediately to my Flip Flops (my Rook Sister and closest friend) and vented to her. I leaned on her for comfort, but I couldn't see any solutions. Logically, I knew that this could happen and I had set myself up for the worst. I had been going to the Career Development Center for a while before I got the final word on my ability to serve. But, I still felt lost.
Then I called my parents. It took me a while, but I finally got up the courage to call home. They have never set a precedent for me, I never HAD to serve like my father (an LTC in the Army) but it was something that I wanted to do. They always told me not to do anything to impress them and as long as I did what I wanted with my life then I would never disappoint them.
Well, I felt like I failed. "You tried everything, you never gave up," my father said. "You really worked for it and I am proud of you." It was hard to swallow, but hearing him say that he was proud of me for my determination in the face of something hopeless somehow meant more to me than if I was calling him to tell then that I was going to MEPS for enlistment.
An hour later after speaking to both of my parents, I hung up with the mindset of "ok, time for a wake up." "Cry now," my mother said, "but when you are done tonight, move on to something better. Make them wish that they had taken you."
What I want to get across from this story (this very real story) is that when you fall down, do not quit. Try.
I cannot tell you how many times I have fallen down as I tried to enter the military, which getting into the service is a very common goal here, but I kept getting up. Up, down, up, down. And, in the end, I feel stronger for being able to get up after so many 'hits'. I am proud of that. Now, though it is still sore and I am admittedly still writhing over what could have been, I am pursuing the 'next step' with full conviction. I am not done trying yet.
Each person at NU who had traveled with me down one path toward a contract or another had extended a hand to me, offering to help me look at my 'other options'. NU's network of connections is as accessible as walking into the Career Development Center or visiting an administrator or faculty member and saying "What do I do now?"
I invite you all as my readers to journey with me in my next few posts as I figure out where I am going now and how I am going to go beyond a boundless standard. For those hundreds of students facing this same disheartening issue: Do not give in. Try.
C/CPL Ari Eaton