My transition to status as a ‘civilian’ in the broadest terms was more difficult than I’d expected. The military had been the only life I’d known for the previous 14 years and, prior to that, the only life I’d ever wanted to know. So, finding myself suddenly without the tethers of schedules and regulations and the tacit understanding of what my wardrobe would be tomorrow and the day after, etc., life had suddenly acquired a daunting aspect that not even going into harm’s way had ever provided.
Add to this that I was starting graduate school with people roughly a decade younger and I had a situation in which suddenly I could relate to no one. Prior to the semester’s initiation, I’d spent my waking hours searching for a house that needed as much renovation as my psyche at the time. After looking and being constantly unmoved, my realtor and I stumbled upon one that had yet to officially go on the market. It was just by chance that she knew of this particular property’s status and so we found our way inside.
At this point, I had been back in the states for only a few weeks following four years in England. I had owned a house there that was roughly three times older than the United States, which made this 1920-vintage structure seem comparatively quaint. Still, there was something about its character and the fact that it had been so terribly neglected for so long that appealed to me. I bought it practically on the spot, telling the realtor that we were done looking.
In my first night in the house, I unrolled the mattress that had been my faithful friend for four years at VMI, threw down a blanket and a pillow, and began staring at a wall that I would soon demolish. I had been going to classes for about a week at that point and was beginning to see how lost I was after so long a separation from academia. Studying aside, simply walking the manicured campus made me feel like a stranger in a strange land, surrounded by all these people who seemed oblivious to the outside world and how far away they were from reality. I was biased, of course, one person’s reality being another person’s manicured quad. I’d expected the transition to be easier and had been wrong. I had a lot on my mind that night and tried to focus on the transformation of the house as a distraction.
The ultimate cathartic activity, if there is such a thing, is the process of remaking something into something different, hopefully better. Change is necessary for growth, but sometimes it needs to happen regardless of whether anything grows or learns. I had left the only life I’d ever known for something that, at the time, seemed so far beyond my ability that my only comfort was the prospect of grabbing a sledgehammer and destroying something I owned. I knew what I needed to do to transform the house into what I wanted it to be, but I wasn’t so sure about the status of my own transformation. Among all the variables, the one constant as I sat in the quiet darkness was that the wall at which I was staring would no longer exist in a few days and that my life, for whatever it was worth, would have to change in ways almost as destructive in order to survive the unknown.
For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Alyssa challenged me to, ‘Write about the day you (or your character) knew that your life was going to change forever (fiction or non)’, and I challenged Head Ant to write about her point of view regarding belief (in herself, others, God, god(s), etc.) and whether she sees it as a benefit or a burden.
Sir @ October 13, 2011