Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Will Never Quit

Somewhere along the way to where I am now, I lost track of what was important.  My aspiration:  contributing to the end of the gender barrier in combat arms.  The wall is already crumbling, look at the Female Engagement Teams.  Yet it is not fair that women are asked to put their lives on the line doing a cultural or SF (Special Forces) assignment, without recognition for taking the very same risks their brethren take in combat arms.

As a woman, I have struggled internally with choosing a path where I could get my dose of adventure and adrenaline high; and choosing a path where I can help women who join the military in the future not have any doors closed to them.  Some days I am frustrated beyond belief because of the opposition from both genders, but I am not disheartened.  I know what I am passionate about beyond all else is true:  that qualification and not gender is how personnel should be assigned.  Archaic ideas of what women should and shouldn't be doing is not how they should get their branch.

There are women who have served who are opposed to this idea because they don't ever want to be in combat arms, but that's putting themselves on a pretty high pedastol isn't it?  Are they saying they shouldn't be asked to make the same sacrifice as any man who has signed up to don a uniform and be a Soldier?  These women would probably never repeat this, but I've heard it muttered before that they don't mind the gender barrier because they sure as hell don't want to be Infantry.  Well, I have news for them:  they wouldn't have to.

First of all, my proposition is that combat arms be open to women, not that women must be integrated into combat arms.  I would propose no minimum quota in the combat arms, at least initially.  Unwilling women already get assigned to Field Artillery and Military Police because minimum quotas are attempted to be met by the Army.  I know from watching one or two Branch Nights at West Point.

Second of all, and more importantly to me, I would like to say for the record:  Puh-leeze!

If one is scared of being roped into Infantry (Queen of Battle, Hooah!) or having to go to Ranger School, I assure you the commander will readily sign the memorandum to get you out of his or her branch since you probably wouldn't offer much to it.  And as for Ranger, don't worry just refuse to do one of the obstacles, and easy, you're out.  I'm not trying to be snide... well, not too snide, just pointing out that commanders should have a large amount of leeway to reassign disqualified candidates.  Which brings me back to my first point, that minimum quotas are a bad idea.  They leave a bad taste in everybody's mouth.  I am not just trying to call out the timid, I also think that the most enthusiastic woman who cannot meet the demands of combat arms should not be allowed to stay on in that role.  Not everyone wants to serve their country, and not everyone who wants to is capable.  Ask any recruiting office; they will tell you.

But do an experiment and have a couple recruiting offices be allowed to put women into combat arms in a few different locations nationwide, and you might hear some surprising reasons from women why they want to join the Army.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hoping for a Partner

Nothing is as motivating and as potentially heartbreaking as hoping you have found someone to share hard work, personal and career goals, and a drink on the rare nights when the two of you are together somewhere with a chance to be alone.  If I can just keep my expectations reasonable I might bridge an unexpected gap and keep a friend who has qualities I admire.  He is more friendly, more upbeat, and more positive, but he does have a darker side. Decisions that I shun or uncomfortably try to ignore, and are - quite frankly - none of my damn business.

Though I find it difficult to trust people, that's no excuse for judging them too quickly on their personal life choices.  I struggle so much to just accept others; and often try to overlook my own glaring flaws.  I wish I had an invisible friend who could calmly and non-judgmentally ask me why I am bothered by someones' asinine behavior, or fecklessness, or tactlessness, or carelessness and recklessness.  I frequently find myself measuring someone else up and writing them off.  I wish I could be more careless and reckless, and I am strangled by jealousy when I see a free soul, even a fool.

Freedom eludes me, it runs through my fingers like sand.  I want to not care what others think of me!  I want to have freedom from society's constraints!  And unfortunately I see no way to do this presently.  I end my inner cry for freedom with silent and internal weeping locked in my mental blocks.  I still care too much, I still put too much of my well-being in anothers' hands.  I thought I'd learned to stop. Yet the cycle repeats itself.  Good intentions or not, I will never ever put myself in this situation again.  I don't care how long it takes, how much hard work, how much loneliness or how high I must lift my chin and stare unblinking into the judgmental cacophony of the world... and this isn't pride!  I do not think I am above anyone or everyone!  I am not trying to be any one's enemy!  I am trying to throw off mental shackles that make me someone I am not.  I would like to be the free and happy woman that I am when I am fully occupied with my goals and career, and the same woman who makes adult decisions that she accepts because she has the freedom to stretch her imagination and take risks from which occasionally she will be burnt.

And this hopefully includes a partner... all partner decisions aside, I am pretty positive I have found another friend to add to my support network.  So far I have a few very good friends who have started to help me grow and learn, but none yet in the Officer Corps.  I have friends who I can turn to for help even in the Army, but no mentor or partner in the traditional Army career path of an Officer. But thankfully, maybe through this blog, I have come a little closer to acceptance and a little closer to seeing that all my harsh judgment is really an attempt of my inner conscience to be more free and accepting of the me that I hold back.  A me that takes higher risks and isn't eaten up with anxiety all the time.  A happier me that will hopefully help me on my way to my goals, because what fun will it be accomplishing them if I'm too uptight to enjoy the result of my efforts?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Feels Like Home...

...because it almost is!  My good friend is driving me back to El Paso where I will consolidate all the things I absolutely need to fly to Germany at the end of the month.

In the meantime, Monday morning I have to report for hometown recruiting assistance program (HRAP).  I am showing Texas to my New England driver/counterpart and he approaches the trip with the same attitude he approaches so much of life:  open enthusiasm and a cheerful point of view.  Basically he drives since his car is manual and I haven't quite graduated from the 25-35 mph zone... we theorized I would drive some couple of hours on the open stretches of highway but it hasn't happened yet typically enough.

We drove from Richmond, VA to Mobile, AL on day one.  Plenty of cute though so-so pics taken hastily from the highway.

Today we made it from Mobile, AL to Austin, TX to meet up with a couple friends who I went to high school with.

Drinking Shiner Blonde, maybe can write a guest blog for I Love The Sauce if they haven't written on this beer yet.  I had to get a Shiner beer since my guest isn't from around here!

I guess the road trip is a success so far since we don't hate each other yet.  So much to do, and so little time is all I feel like... tonight the streets of Austin and tomorrow the Riverwalk of San Antonio.  Then my "little" hometown, the sprawling city of El Paso.  I just hope there is enough time to properly enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Everyone is Valuable, Right?

Why why why why why why why is this so difficult for me to grasp?

Our class speaker for graduation was Major General Luis R. Visot and he emphasized the importance of respecting everyone, or how everyone contributes.  This Army is a team effort, so on and so forth...

Yet I am consumed from the inside out with contempt for some people!  Even when I see the good they contribute, could acknowledge it, label it, commend it (succinctly), and praise it (reluctantly), I still find a fireball of dislike for those individuals.  Even if I can keep my mouth shut around them, I still find them slinky, annoying, cloying, lying, cowardly, unintelligent, and overall defunct and lacking.  I find it difficult to believe the Army has any trouble at all finding people to label as below center of mass, needs vast improvement... one might even say immeasurable improvement impossible to achieve before the next promotion.

Okay... deep breath.
So... in spite of this tirade against any and all disgusting, miserable carcasses filling uniforms (and filling them quite tightly if you know what I mean *cough cough, tape test*) ... I recognize this sort of intolerance and short temper does nothing to help myself or the Army.

Now I want to be clear I have nothing against the large boned or slow learning.  What I do have an issue with are people who are so wrapped up in their cowardice and low self esteem that they do more harm than good to an organization overall.  If you have the moral courage to improve yourself than I respect and admire you.  I have in my heart an overall good intent.  I do not wish to sabotage or attack people who are working hard to achieve goals.  I want myself to be kinder, run more, be stronger, think faster, speak more languages more fluently, lead better, and be more at peace with myself and the world... but I expect the same drive and motivation from others even if it's in different measures.

I find peers who are too scared to say anything the worst of all.  It is easy to tell a subordinate to fix something; I would go a step further and say it is your job.  It is difficult to tell a supervisor to fix minor things, but there are clearly outlined methods of dealing with more weighty problems.  It is a very difficult thing to deal with a peer, and it is very obvious if you are afraid of a peer.  Suffice to say, during the 12 weeks at TBOLC, I dealt with and saw a very sorry individual for whom I have very little respect left.  Not only did they assault my ears with the pitch of their complaints at every single turn, not only did they fail time and time again when pressure was on, but they managed to do so while convincing themselves that they had personal courage!  The personal courage to get into a fight with someone that everyone liked and respected and who certainly shouldn't have had to waste two seconds of time on a spineless prat like this individual (and no, not me, I burned a nice handful of bridges).  The reason I am writing anything at all about this person is because I believe that they have the best chance of progression of the few people I had very low respect for.  The others were self-sabotaging or had so little ambition as to make them harmless to the organization overall.  This person that I am talking about has done three things:  be horrible and hopeless at any real charisma or leadership, be in utter and total denial of the problems in the way of them improving his or herself, and finally (and possibly most importantly to being included here) has managed to personally get involved in my affairs in a somewhat distant and unrelated manner.  I can tolerate - in a gritted teeth won't write about it sort of way - many things... but for certain trespasses there is no other recourse than for me to swear constant vigilance if ever an opportunity to reduce this person's toxic influence comes my way.  I wouldn't go out of my way to do anything, it's just not worth any effort on my part... but I will remember the character of this sort of person and it will play a part into any decisions made in the future that may regard said individual.

With all the nudge-nudge, head-pointing, cough-coughing suggestion of the above post, I believe I can rest a little easier.  Sure physical fighting would be a much more satisfying outlet, but the person I am thinking of recoils so easily from a verbal confrontation, I know they would most likely faint at the suggestion of a quick 2-minute wrestling brawl.

Back to MG Visot's suggestion... seeing the good in everyone.  Is it possible?  Yes, I suppose I could wrap up this post that the aforementioned individual was adequate at physical fitness, and that they probably won't commit any war crime wittingly... so it is a start to being a decent human being.  I could admit that they gave me endless possible use to my sarcastic attacks, which has been both amusing and a good exercise for when I need a quick prod or poke for anyone of a similar nature who I meet down the line.  They have also given me a taste of how much I will need to bite my tongue when the feelings of disdain rise up to the levels they have in the past 12 weeks.  So, it wasn't a total loss.

There were a lot of good people in my class.  A majority of them were good Soldiers.  A majority of them that I didn't get along with were good leaders.  They will take care of their own Soldiers and uphold the main tenants of the Warrior Ethos.  I know this blog could have focused on that instead, and for that I'll make a mental note that I feel better as a person when I focus on the good.  I really do hope that the people who worry me when it comes to taking care of Soldiers will get mentored.  I also genuinely hope if they cannot be mentored they will be sifted out of the Army.  I have a lot of respect for the institution overall.  I only wish it were fully integrated when it came to gender.

Hopefully my next post will be a slight bit nicer.  But then again, my blog is about sadness, anger, or determined hope.  I know the other feelings don't necessarily help me, but I cannot help how much they flow into my life.  I can only try to exorcise the influence they have on my treatment of other people.  I hope that I can treat people - all people - more kindly in the future because then I might suffer less from people who don't know how to deal with aggression and sarcasm.  In spite of my own sharp tongue being a double-edged sword, I am at least secure in my ability to be insulted, pushed around, and aggressively challenged and still move forward.  I am not someone who has tried to surround myself in sickeningly sweet marshmallow padding and then laughs too loudly at mere comments and jokes that break my heart and self confidence.  I am strong, but I need to learn how to relate to more people.  I need to learn sympathy, kindness, and mercy.  I am certain I need to learn forgiveness as well... but it's a lesson I am too proud to approach at the moment.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Life Plans Dashed Against the Ceiling

I've been feeling like lying down and staring at the ceiling.  I don't want to sleep.  Why I feel like my life plans are dashed against the ceiling is just the result of my nature.  I can never let sleeping dogs lie.  Right before significant events in my life I have to fight, have to cry out, and have to make my stand.  I cannot wait for more peaceful moments.  I can always blame the stressors in my life:  having guests, not being fully signed out, not having a car, and suddenly feeling "trapped" and like an inconvenience.  These are all factors in my current crisis.  And although I know I am 'catastrophizing' I am able to see for the first time with slightly clearer vision that I am not the sole wrong-doer.  I put other people on the spot with my ill-timed fits, but it tells me volumes about themselves.  The problem isn't with the individuals who I hold in contempt, it is with the mutual friends we have.  The people that I care about, in many ways, I care too deeply about what they think of me and how they live their lives.  I don't want them to be taken advantage of, and I don't want to feel like I am treading on their happiness or trespassing on their peace.  I would rather walk out of peoples' lives than ruin them, I just can't seem to learn the art of quietly bowing out.  Instead I toss the lighter over my shoulder and light the bridge (and fifty gallons of gasoline) on fire walking away from the subsequent explosion.

So what, you may ask, is the event?  Tomorrow is graduation from Transportation Basic Officer Leadership Course (TBOLC).  Fifty-five members of my class will show up between 0800 and 0830 at the Transportation School and seat themselves in an auditorium to be recognized for the 12 week feat.  It's an accomplishment, but not exactly the high point of a military career.  It's sorta like getting a 75% on your drivers' test.  You have proven you can pass... which the same could be said of the Doctor who got C's in med school, but med school is slightly more difficult and mentally demanding than Transportation BOLC.

It's not that I'm not happy to be done; in fact, I have a great big bubble of relief rising up in me waiting to burst when we are released tomorrow and we can scatter to the four corners of the world for a nice break from each other.  I know the Transportation Corps is small.  The Army is small, and the Transportation Corps is the third smallest branch in the Army.  It would be foolish to imagine not running into peers down the road.

With deployments decreasing though, it is becoming less likely to run into the Reservists and National Guard Officers.  I know... that I won't know until I get more experience, but I suspect I may not be on a regular career path.  I have plans that are outside the left and right limits of most people.  It's not arrogant to say this because a brief conversation or 12 weeks of observation would reveal this about me.

Now I am just eager to get away from everyone.  The feelings of dread and anxiety have built up enough that I just want to be alone in my apartment.  I have no such solace at the moment, though.  I have lashed out at my closest friend here for forgetting me and failing to account for me in his schedule.  I am hurt, and I am confused, and I am not acting very rationally.  I know I should be grateful for his efforts to help me.  Instead I am so upset he is taking me for granted, and so flustered he is throwing my schedule and personal plans askew, that I decided to choose tonight to yell at him about a guy who has been (intentionally or not) antagonizing me.  You might ask why it is his fault.  It's not.  But when I start my tirade about offenses I took personally, I am looking for a fight.  I didn't finish explaining myself I just waited for him to oppose me, and then I started to give him the silent treatment.  Worst time ever to do this!  Yet even now I cannot stop yet.  I had some valid reasons for what I did, I just explained and acted on those reasons in the worst way ever.  Now tomorrow I have graduation madness.  I wonder if I will ever have a drama-free culminating event.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Colder than I've Ever Been in Virginia & Master Resiliency Training

The chill has returned now that it's January, and it feels worse than it ever did in December.  Maybe in the previous month it was more tolerable because the holidays were a distraction.  While it's not the same as a Gray period at West Point, since there is still so much green and no snow on the ground, it's still a down period.  If I was to apply anything I learned yesterday it would be to identify the Action/Event that triggered this mood.

Yet, looking at my emotional patterns and the things I've written from this blog to my journals:  I am more sad, less grateful, and less personable than a lot of people.  I want to improve some of this, but some of it I want to embrace.  That I don't have a sing-song lilt to my voice when I address people has never bothered me before, but now I hear myself trying to emulate this to sound more friendly.  It's false on my lips.

Some things I enjoy because they drive me, I have been leaving on the side.  I haven't been able to get through the first story/chapter of Band of Sisters.  I haven't been studying languages for the last 12 weeks.  Yesterday I managed to get halfway through a German lesson before heading to bed for the urinalysis that began at 0400 this morning.  I managed 30 mL by 0600, I am a shy pisser.  I haven't been in touch with my good friend "Sunny" who always saw the best side of me.  I wasn't able to find out why one of my friends went to the foreign country she is now in, and I don't know for how long.

I'm supposed to make my "positive" list from yesterday and it goes like this:
  1. One of the women in my class who I enjoy the company of gave me a piece of Dove chocolate and a sip of her Cappuccino yesterday; it was a great pick-me-up.
  2. A friend and I compared our 24-Strength List and read it in reverse as a 'weakness' list.  It was very funny.  I enjoy laughing.
  3. I read about the Army World Class Athlete Program in the Army Times about the Army wrestlers who qualified for the Olympic Trials.  One woman, Iris Smith, won the 158.5lb weight class.  I haven't been keeping up with Women's Wrestling and the Summer Olympics are coming up!
And I'm supposed to theorize how to make the things that made me happy continue.  I know I need to start keeping up with women's wrestling again, that's easy enough.  I can continue to seek the company of those two friends because it wasn't a specific event that made me happy.  I need to avoid a source of distress and anxiety for me right now.  I'm stuck with it anyway for a good amount of time and distance.  Then I can focus on these things I've let slide on the side and, well, doing my job.

I've got to remember who I am also.  I'm not a sweetheart from a large family who is a good "people" person.  I'm the youngest, I tend to be self-centered, and I like individual events even though I like socializing.  My close friends are generally more somber and serious individuals (who when we go out, still know how to have fun of course!).  They might be more subdued and less exuberantly buoyant... but they mean a lot to me, and their affection means more to me than from someone who is as extrovertedly kind to everyone.  Those people are great, don't get me wrong, I am learning to appreciate and admire the excellent way I see them appeal to everyone's taste.  They are wonderful for certain tasks, but there are many ways to contribute to the world and mine is not that way.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Year 2012

Rang in the New Year right in downtown Richmond.  It was a fun time for everyone, and there were even bagpipes playing at midnight in the street when everyone came outside to greet the new year with a kiss.  If the way you bring in the new year is in any way indicative of the way the rest of the year will turn out I will probably be inebriated most of the time and very well bipolar as I was at times exuberantly happy and at times almost distraught.  The night ended correctly though and everyone pulled together.

On the way back we stopped by a diner that I'm pretty sure was making their profits for the year by being nearly the only place open for breakfast at around 2 in the morning.  They only had two servers though and three floors of seats that were for the most part full of people.  Seeing as they had no public restroom though, I had to cajole the others with me to ask for a seat in order to use the facilities...  but when I exited the bathroom I found out the others had decided to leave and were waiting for me outside.  The friend waiting for me pointed out that the restaurant wasn't even cooking food for each customer they had buffets of breakfast laid out... at which point we grabbed handfuls of bacon and ran.

It was a great round of partying with pizza ordered afterward instead of attempting to stay in the hellish diner. And now that I have had some time to think about it, here is my list for 2012.  Not resolutions, just goals, and screw having to make them measurable:

  1. Train for a half marathon
  2. Restart training in freestyle wrestling... failing that (or in addition) Join a BJJ or MMA club
  3. Be nicer and more sociable (whatever this means)
  4. Try exercises to be more calm whether breathing, yoga, meditation
  5. Send a letter through the regular post at least once a month