Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Latest Strategy Revealed

Now that I have confessed my plans to the family (and thus am no longer in danger of being strangled by them for not telling them before posting on my blog), I can blog about my latest upcoming "adventure."

I have found myself, to put it lightly, in a proverbial "pickle". I am pursuing a master's degree in history, specializing in women's military history. However, I have no money to pay for said degree. To that end, I managed to secure a Stafford loan, which takes care of the tuition needs. However, that opened a new can of worms - six months after I graduate, I have to start paying that money back, plus interest. With the way the economy is currently going (and the not-so-bright people sending it further down the tubes), I have a slim chance of finding a job right after I graduate. And at the moment, I am also unemployed. The situation was beginning to look more than a little desperate to me.

So, I began considering various options. I could use my historian skills to research a famous family, and then blackmail them with what I found. Unfortunately, my Christian notions of proper behavior and morals forbid that option. Christian morals got in the way of several other options, too. Then my brain began to revisit an idea that I had flirted with as an undergraduate: Army ROTC. The idea was appealing from the very start: I would have a way to pay for grad school, would graduate debt-free, and would have guaranteed employment for at least the next four years after graduation. In addition, I would learn skills that would enable me to better protect myself, would gain physical fitness, would have far more insight as a historian specializing in women's military history, would be able to travel more, and would hold a position worthy of respect. The chance to make a positive change through my work was appealing to me as well. A few obstacles stood in my way, however:
1. My weight (I'm not fat, but I am certainly a bit overweight)
2. Possible objection from my parents (I do not require their permission, but I do like to have their approval)
3. A moral issue - What if I have to kill someone in the line of duty?

The first issue is not as big a problem as I previously thought. When I spoke to a few of the ROTC instructors, I was assured that my summer training session will certainly get me into the correct shape for the army. Also, I have started working out for at least an hour each day in order to get into the best shape possible before classes start. I already have a very good idea of where I will need to be physically, so getting prepared is not as difficult as I had first assumed.

The second issue was also easier to deal with than I first thought. My mother was not overjoyed by the idea, but she became supportive after listening to all the benefits of this decision. My father shocked me by instantly warming to the idea, and by repeatedly demonstrating his support since the day that I told him of my plans. He built me a chin-up bar in the basement, has made some helpful suggestions to help me improve my workouts, and helps me remember to exercise each day.

The third issue was a little harder to overcome, but I did manage to at last. Appropriately (for me), it was a film that helped me see the way clearly. I was watching part of Sergeant York (a 1941 film based on the true story of the real Sergeant Alvin York), and one of Gary Cooper's lines was strangely applicable: "Well I'm as much agin' killin' as ever, sir. But it was this way, Colonel. When I started out, I felt just like you said, but when I hear them machine guns a-goin', and all them fellas are droppin' around me... I figured them guns was killin' hundreds, maybe thousands, and there weren't nothin' anybody could do, but to stop them guns. And that's what I done." In other words, Sergeant Alvin York, a former pacifist, killed enemy soldiers in order to save lives. Now, obviously, it is unlikely that I will ever have to take the life of another, particularly since I'm seeking a non-combat position once I become an officer. Nevertheless, there is always the chance that I may run into that situation, and I obviously should think that possibility through before it has a chance to happen. Once I internalized the reality that my work could actually save lives, I knew that I will be able to do this. The third possible barrier was lifted.

So, I now have a lot to accomplish in a short while. In order to get into the ROTC program, I must lose 20 pounds, and be able to do 50 sit-ups in two minutes, 17 push-ups in two minutes, and run two miles in under 19:36 minutes. It's a tall order, but I'm determined. So far, I can do 38 sit-ups in two minutes, and I can do 13 push-ups (but I have to touch my chest to the ground in between them). Clearly, I am going to be a very busy (and likely sore) girl for the next few months.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"