The American Flag dances proudly in the wind in front of my building; its form but a shadow in the eerie glow just before daylight breaks. My nephew is processing into the Army at MEPS today. By tonight he’ll be at Fort Jackson reception – just another noun amongst hundreds; processing into the person he will be.
I’ll never forget the bus ride in. The black of night was formidable. I wanted to see – wanted to know what my temporary home looked like, but I could scarcely make out silhouettes of trees. Then the bus driver said, “There’s deer. You must be a good group. They only come out to welcome the good ones.” I lost myself in that darkness. Left behind the things I thought I knew about my spirit and my body in order to become a soldier. Maybe soldier was an assimilated feint devised to protect me from the consequences of signing my name on that piece of paper.
There was a point where I had to choose. It was either continue college to become a teacher or lose my college grant money and be a soldier. At that moment, my future was a cinematic, glistening orb. I saw myself as a teacher, a mother, a wife. I could re-enlist and go green to gold after college, when my broken bone was healed, when I was done with school. Education has always been a codex for life possibilities. I wasn’t willing to give up my education to be a soldier. Over time, the soldier in me drifted into dormancy.
Sometimes the “what-ifs” scream loudly in my ear. Lately, as I despise my job every day before returning to an empty house, I wonder, “What if I chose soldier? What if I re-enlisted after college?” Would I have made work the navel of my life… failing to marry and produce a family? Would I be living somewhere with palm trees, searching for spy intel? I have to bring myself back… remind myself what-ifs aren’t precious minerals that give the world value.
This morning’s flag and the knowledge of my nephew at MEPS reminded me of celebrating July 4 in basic training. There was no moment that boasted the power of American patriotism more. The soldier chapter of my life is closed. I am unhappy with work, house, life in general. But I live in America. I can make choices. I can change.
There is a Sehnsucht for a different life burning deep within me. Specifically that desire involves another person. Today I must act upon my freedom and call him. I don’t want this situation to be another what-if. If he says, “No.” I will survive. But if he says, “yes,” the possibilities are endless.