‘The moment seemed too perfect to be coincidental—like it was happening for a reason—but it ended up being for nothing. Why did this happen, Universe? All of that was for nothing. Is this a memory I’m supposed to have for later in life? Because I’m completely confused otherwise.’
There are no coincidences. I’ve seen and lived too many unlikely stories to believe otherwise. There was a time, however, when I lacked the life experience necessary to buy into such a concept. In my younger days, I rarely saw significance in the seemingly small things that happened and phrases like, ‘It all happened for nothing’, or, ‘All of that was for nothing’, were fairly common refrains. Among the many ways in which I’ve been very fortunate in this life, probably the most compelling is that I’ve been able to learn hard lessons while relatively young.
I arrived at basic training at 18-years old in the worst shape that I would ever be in for the rest of my life up to and including the present. I had a very lackadaisical view of life, responsibility, and sacrifice as a result of an upbringing that afforded me little in the realm of caring about what came next, so long as it happened somewhere far, far away from where I’d grown up. Because of this attitude and its attendant disregard for physically preparing myself for whatever was next, I struggled for weeks. It dawned on me over this period that I owed myself more than simply being angry at the world and hating my past. I began to try. I improved. I learned.
Not quickly enough. I failed to complete a few obstacles in the course we were required to maneuver, which meant that I’d have to repeat in a few days. Not a big deal, normally, at least not for someone who’d failed because of a minor miscalculation or a careless stumble off of a slippery log. No, I’d failed because of a crisis of confidence. During my attempt to complete the course again days later, I suffered a badly pulled muscle in my arm acquired while making a poor decision involving a rope and gravity. Normally, failing twice was the final nail in the coffin and you were unceremoniously sent home.
Unexpectedly, however, people showed faith in me despite my lacking the same in myself. I was afforded a third chance, which was to take place days before we were set to graduate. During the quiet of the night watches that we all had to endure, I asked myself the questions posed in this challenge. Why now? Was this all for nothing? What am I supposed to learn from this? What will become of me? The military had been the only future that had made my past worth enduring. The irony of my lack of preparation prior to setting off on this adventure was the false notion that you can’t fail at something for which you’ve never prepared (this logic is noteworthy for its rampant dumbassery and I can only recall this time with the help of small amounts of drinking).
The night before my final attempt, I ignored the pain in my arm and sat alone in a dark room prior to lights out. At that moment, I accepted my fate without excuse or regret. I’d gotten myself into the situation and, by way of success or failure the following day, life would go on. And so it was that on a particularly difficult (at the time) obstacle wherein one hangs upside down above open water and pulls themselves from point A to point B, the pain in my arm ceased about halfway across the rope due to numbness. I closed my eyes and prepared to drop into the water and through my failure return to the life I’d yearned to leave. Inexplicably, I then put a death grip on the rope, moved one hand over the other, pulled myself along until I reached the rope’s knotted end, let my boots fall to the wooden deck, opened my eyes and awoke as if from a very strange dream.
I graduated from basic training on 11 September 1991, a day that I swore I would never forget and whose recollection has since been solidified. Much harder obstacles lay before me, all of which would need maneuvering in my military career and beyond, but it turned out that those that I’d needed to overcome prior to my life’s true beginning were mostly mental. I needed to find the end of my rope in order to understand that I had what it took to keep going. We all need this. Life isn’t for the timid or the weak and the Universe knows it. Let there be no confusion about the fact that there are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason and if we take the time to consider what those reasons might be, we’ll be all the better for it.
Sir @ September 22, 2011