The following is a selection of entries from my personal journal illustrating my transition from the Marine Corps to Vassar’s campus.
December 13, 2016,
“In memory, the months that ensued exist only as vague monotony of trials: belligerent Drill Instructors, a cacophony of cadence, and sandpits teeming with loathsome, but instrumental, sand fleas. My ego was shattered, the meticulously inculcated disciplines of Honor, Courage, and Commitment feverishly refining the insipid chaff of adolescence from my faculties. I miss it—sort of; it was an exotic time. One of self-discovery that galvanized a waning audacity to manifest destiny, while also instilling a sensibility that’s kept me humble ever since…”
Vassar has been a challenging place. My private moments are often spent reaffirming the merit preceding my admission. Impostor syndrome and associated notions of “not belonging” are staples in veteran discourse, especially as it concerns higher education. In my worst moments, it’s easy to believe that the culmination of my military deeds has been reduced to a novelty: a picturesque sentiment of heroism meant to delight an audience. I’m quick to consider myself an ingrate after a thought like this, which simply perpetuates the self-loathing piece. I should lighten up.
September 20, 2017,
“It’s pitter-patter, no? The hums of hymns, of which the senses dim. This song of feel, conceding to whims of ‘real.’ A palpable flow disrupted by our copious details. Oh—too much; please return the gift…How to reside in the recluse’s repose? To evoke enlightenment? To touch ‘God’? Granted in glimmers, the road sparsely reveals itself: inspiration teasing a faint familiarity with the righteous path. How disdainful of my desperation does it appear. To be coy in chaos, yet still bashful in bliss…”
It’s always been a matter of discovering who we are, yeah? This ain’t unique to veterans, I realize. In fact, it’s been a comforting thing supposing fellow vagabonds floating about. “You’re not alone.” While heartfelt, this can be an impotent thought until that fateful encounter. Is validation from others important to self-discovery? I don’t know. I do know I have a talent for soiling my chance at it—companionship, that is.
March 8, 2019,
“There was a time I’d have dared anyone to save me from myself. To bring me down from the standard I’d worked my whole life to surmount. A semblance of that disposition endures still. Have I made martyrdom my cause? Suffering for the sake of suffering? I’ve gotten better at accepting people for who they are, for choosing what they choose, for loving who they love. There are still things I cannot do. I can’t enjoy bars. I can’t witness people surrendering themselves to a stupor rather than confronting themselves. I can’t be part of the mass vulnerability: the incoherent pleas to be liberated by chance, circumstance, or someone else…”
Reading this, it’s no wonder why I struggle with the empathy piece. I can’t convince myself I’m entirely wrong on this score, however. I’ve been raised, taught, and trained to operate from a “higher” nature. That is, JJDIDTIEBUCKLE: Justice, Judgement, Dependability, Initiative, Decisiveness, Tact, Integrity, Enthusiasm, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty and Endurance. Couple that with Catholicism and a Sicilian mama and I’m what you’ll get. Does Vassar’s pluralism have any room for such a character, I wonder…