Throughout my life, I have rarely taken the easy way. Not that I seek out difficulty, simply that I seem to gravitate towards challenges when given the choice. I resonate with tasks where the end is unknown. Starting something and knowing how it ends is almost meaningless when compared to the fear of the unknown and the trials and tribulations therein. I guess that is why I joined the Army and volunteered to be a Green Beret in the first place. I knew, or at least I thought I knew, there would be an immense amount of suffering. Thousands of miles under the soul-crushing weight of my Alice Pack. Cold, hungry, wet and sleepless nights, pushed me both mentally and physically but I refused to accept the almost certain failure guaranteed to me at the onset. I earned my Green Beret, and with it, faced many other tests that encompass the person I am today.
I still, to this day, seek out opportunities with a high degree of risk/failure. Rock climbing, Cross Fit, sailing, drinking, surfing.. and the list goes on. But why? I think the answer is different for everyone, to one degree or another. However, I think that Veterans have a unique perspective to this question. Veterans thrive in hardship, it’s when the hardship stops when the challenge really begins. Veterans know how to preform on “X” and do the grimy work when needed, but when it comes time to do the “little things” we have a difficult time prioritizing. Remember when you showed up hung-over for that physical fitness test and got a perfect score but forgot your parents’ birthdays? That’s what I mean. It’s kind of like Edward Norton in Fight Club when he says “after fighting, everything else in your life gets the volume turned down.” I think that’s what happens when you leave the military and start to fill the void of forced hardships with new and usually self-imposed hardships.
So what? What is the point to all of this? I am coming up on a nine-year “anniversary” where I should have died in Afghanistan. Where I lost friends and had my entire reason for being taken from me. I very well could sit on my couch and feel sorry for myself and talk about the “good old days”. But, I am not going to stop challenging myself. It is hardwired into my being and where I function best. I think the moral, if there is one, is that we have a choice as to what our hardship is now and we owe it to ourselves to put it to good use. The challenges we faced in the military were unique to that lifestyle but hardship is not unique to humanity. I am proud of what I did in the military, but I am even more proud of the challenges that I will seek out today and tomorrow.