It actually turns out sweeter in the end.
created by author using Midjourney
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I remember how badly I wanted to fly helicopters. I’m still disappointed I didn’t get to, so I put those feelings in the proverbial lockbox in my mind and threw away the key. I’ve come to realize that moving fast does not equal moving in the right direction. I decided I wanted to fly helicopters over the summer between my junior and senior year. I had to jump through a lot of hoops really fast in order to qualify, so I didn’t have much time to consider if that was what I really wanted. I just studied for and took the SIFT, made all the flight physical appointments, and got eye surgery in the course of a month or two. But when Branch Night came, I wasn't really sure how to react to my branch. After all the struggle to branch Aviation, shouldn’t I be jumping for joy that I did get it? I mean, I ranked it as my #1, after all. But when I opened that envelope, I was actually hoping for something different. I wanted to branch Cyber. I realized that too late. I didn’t take most of my cybersecurity classes until I was a senior. I bombed the interview because I didn’t have any idea how to prepare for it — or that I even needed to prepare for it. I know I did poorly on the test because I was inexperienced when it came to some coding languages. In other words, I was probably not a good fit for Cyber. But I wanted it so badly. After that, I celebrated and put my regrets away and locked them up for good. I was going to fly helicopters! Then, in April, I tore my ACL in my right knee. I had surgery six or so weeks later, in May, right before graduation. I didn't get to march in any Grad Week parades. I barely hobbled to my awards ceremonies. I was in excruciating pain. The moments that were supposed to be so wonderful, turned out to be pretty bittersweet. After that, my mental health took a nose dive. I didn’t do much in the office I was stationed at, though I tried my damnedest to make it worthwhile. But…I was headed towards a long time in service that I wasn’t even sure I wanted anymore. When my medical board came up, I was in no mental shape to fight it. I just let it happen, even though it was a long and grueling process. I was and still am extremely disappointed about my service. From not trying to get the branch I wanted to being completely defeated when I didn’t recover well from my surgery to getting retired because of my mental illness, I was devastated. I put my things in storage and I moved back home. I worked as a special education assistant and made some more moves too fast. I applied for Vocational Rehabilitation benefits and started doing online classes to get a major in Special Education. I bought a house. I was settling. I had applied to several graduate schools for a Master’s in Russian, but for a long time I didn't get any responses. I didn’t think I was going to get in, so I gave up and decided I was just going to have to give up on my grandiose dreams and live in my hometown. It wouldn’t have been a bad life, but it wasn't what I originally dreamed. And then… I got my acceptance to Duke. I was over the moon. I had a lot of moving parts to put to rest. I had to request a change with my VR&E counselor. I had to sell my house that I just bought six months earlier. I had to move back home and put my things in storage (again). I had to schedule a move to my future apartment. I had to find my future apartment. But this time, I thought it through first. I didn’t rush headlong. Was this something I truly wanted? The answer was, and still is, yes. The point of all this is to say, take things slowly. Don’t rush. Don’t settle. Don’t be blinded by the shiny things and forget that this is your life and you need to consider all the options before making a decision. What I found is, despite all the hardship and tough decisions I’ve had to live with, it all works out in the end. You just have to hang around to see it through.