What’s my next move?
As a senior in high school in 1997, I was contemplating what my next move would be. I needed to make my first jump into life to succeed. Maybe I was thinking what my first move would be. Maybe, I was just trying to figure out what was within myself. I’m not sure exactly. One thing I learned growing up was that I had to be aware of my surroundings and know what was in my neighborhood. Be aware of what and where the positive and negative influences were. I didn’t have to be smart like from a book. I had to be street smart.
Being young and attempting to soak in as much as I could like a sponge, I noticed an Army Recruiter that lived in the same apartment complex as me. Curious about the path that she took, I became intrigued and proud of how she was on her own making it, in the real world. Not knowing what her qualifications were, I found something that I had an interest in. This was the point in my life where I had to finally grow up and embrace my responsibilities as the young adult I had become.
This was a path with no definitive journey or an anticipated outcome. Just living each day for that day, and if I did not make a decision about whom I wanted to be, then I may end up like those that I grew up around. I am not saying that those that I grew up around were all negative, but I feel as if I never fit in. My family support system was not strong, more times than not it was non-existent.
Making that move
So, I spoke to the recruiter and got some information. We had talked about bettering myself through education. I ran track and cross-country in high school but there was not going to be an athletic scholarship for me. I also got pretty good grades, but I didn’t see an academic scholarship coming my way either. Finally, I came to the decision that I was going to enlist in the Army. True to fashion, an obstacle was in my way and my mother had to given me permission to enlist. It was odd that a parent had to give a high school graduate permission to join the Army like it was some kind of field trip taken for science classes. Either way, I got permission to take that field trip to what was called “Basic Training.”
This time I uprooted myself, and off to Fort Jackson, SC, I went. Coincidentally, I was to stay there to complete my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) as well. I took the first step to completing the “me” and what I wanted to be. Seventeen and finally on my own; I found myself doing something that was going to a benefit me in my life and my future.
Knowing that I was on my way to being successful was an eye-opening experience. What wasn’t so eye-opening, were the long days in training and the countless hours of sitting in the classroom. Constantly standing only to try to stay awake, and not really remember what the lessons were. I didn’t mind if I missed a point of emphasis, I did mind the Drill Sergeant in my face reminding me that I needed to be awake.
I signed up for a run team within the trainees to help pass some off time, as little as it was. Catching up on some well-needed sleep was not an option, nor did they have a club. I kept a competitive advantage over most of the other females due to my running backgroung in high school. And being better was my motivation to continue in giving 100%. I envisioned where I was going, I could picture that Army recruiter, and I knew that average was not going to cut it. I maintained excellence because my will only allowed that. During those four months were classroom training, field training, marching, running and more running, reprimanding, and finally graduating. I made it to the next chapter in my life; I was a United States Army Soldier!
Graduation is finally here, what now?
After graduation, I returned to Baytown, TX where I lived with my cousin for some time. Being enlisted in the Army Reserves I only had to report one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. I still needed to be able to support myself for the other 28 days a month and the other 50 weeks in the year, so I had to find a job with whatever skills I had at the time. I never found the training aspect of drill to be challenging at all.
As a matter of fact, the most challenging part was attending the drills. I had no reliable method of transportation to and from drill. Buying a vehicle was not an option because I couldn’t aforrd it and I didn’t even have a driver’s license. Public transportation or cab fare was often expensive or unsafe option. so there I was a Soldier in the Army Reserves with a place to go and no way to get there. I had left my neighborhood to build into greatness and what I found was that the field trip my mom signed me up for was a boomerang back to the same place where emotional and physical support systems were rare and dreams were still present. Outcomes were often the same depending on actions.
The real journey begins
I had taken my first step, now I needed to take a Jump. I decided that I was going to get out of my comfortable not so comfortable situation and join the active duty Army. This was a support system that was going to provide me a place to live, provide me with money to live, provide me with food to live, and they were going to put me in a pace that was usually walking distance to work from the place I was living! Was it too good to be true? I wasn’t sure, but I was certain that I was going to try.
I have always been independent to a point, but in need of some dependence as most of us am. Always having the will to achieve goals and to be great by being strong mentally and physically has help me through every situation. This situation was no different; in fact those characteristics drive me. I was not a citizen yet, so there were some options not available to me that others may have had. However, that story is the theme of my life. If it’s easy it probably isn’t worth it! Committed to serving the country that extended the opportunity for me to be successful and that alone I am grateful.
I jumped for the first time!