If I hadn’t joined the military right out of high school, I likely never would’ve had quite enough money to feel safe moving out of Lake City, FL. Probable that I’d still be there now, possibly in prison or also likely dead.
I don’t even know why I joined the military, meaning at the time that it wasn’t a fully conscious choice. It was this frenzied desire to flee at all costs, to put the expectations and pain of my youth behind me with all the haste my situation allowed me. And it cost me a lot; the army is difficult and I made it even more so by joining tough units. I’m not at all social and I don’t like being around people and of course I generally don’t like men — but the army is all of these things and more.
There’s this phrase “of two minds” that is bandied about. The only time I’ve ever really felt that way was driving to and walking into the recruiter’s office. It’s not true to say that I joined the military on a lark; however, it’s also not true to say it was a well-considered decision. It was as if I was watching myself from above signing the paperwork and getting the details, all the while with a chant echoing through my head of, “What the fuck are you doing? You will fail.”
I didn’t fail, though. Probably the single best decision I’ve ever made in my life as none of the rest of my life would’ve happened without it.
There’s no single truth, nor single path, but the passage out of where I grew up for someone like me was narrow and risky and I’m still surprised I was able to walk it.