Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Boot Camp Lessons

This was a letter I wrote a few days before graduation from boot camp. I never got to send it, but since I described some powerful lessons learned, I decided to post it here. Enjoy...

Dear Aaron,

This is probably going to get to you at a time when it is no longer relevant in any way. But, I kind of want to write it anyway, because this is a big moment and I think I might remember it forever.

It's almost 3 am. I just got off night security watch. I am sitting tonight because I an on a light/limited duty status due to a stomach bug. I'm in my Navy working coveralls. Division 925 has worn these once before, at fire fighting. But this is our official Battle Stations dress. My boots are freshly waxed with several coats for protection against whatever awaits me tonight. I'm wearing my recruit ball cap for the last day. In 17 hours, I will be reporting to the USS Trayor for Battle Stations and I will start the final test I must pass in order to graduate boot camp on Friday.

It's amazing to think, it's finally here. Seems like a few weeks ago that I was in my Navy sweats, wandering around with a group of dazed recruits, with no idea what was going on at all, or why people were getting yelled at. Suddenly, here I am. No longer a civilian, but a trained, disciplined, confident person who is setting out on a very big adventure.

In three hours, we'll be waking up, just like any other day.In fact, tomorrow we have almost nothing to do, except to review basic things we've learned. At 1700, we begin packing for the overnight ordeal. By 2030, we will be climbing aboard the Trayor at long last. We finish at 9 am the next morning, tired, hungry and elated. That afternoon I'll get to call you for the first time in 4 weeks. I hope I can remember all I need to say. We stay up all day Tuesday, the final stretch in the Battle Stations process.

In reality, this ride has had major ups and downs. Missing you was the hardest thing. Giving up music was almost as bad. The emotional wringer you get put through every time a shipmate gets set back in training. Frustration when you do the right thing, but someone else doesn't, and you are held at fault for it. The exhaustion you feel after a night of standing watch. the pain of waiting another day at boot camp, wishing you were home instead. All of these things tempt you to give up trying, every day.

As hard as it is to admit this, the bad experiences all play into the good that has happened here. Fear is a decent motivator sometimes. Pushing yourself to the limit shows you how much further your limit extends than you thought it did. When you move past your pain, you begin to realize you've actually grown stronger.

That's really what gets you through in this place. Several times I would try to motivate myself with thoughts of things I wanted. At the pool, I told myself I was doing it because I wanted the Hoyts to be proud of me. On the track, I wrote down 12 things that included my rage at my family, my need to get out of here, and my love for you, and planned to think of one per lap. But when the moment of truth came, every attempt I made to motivate myself vanished. I would lose all direction and cower at the horrible, impossible task I saw before me. And at that point, something I didn't know I had in me would emerge and shove me headfirst into that impossible thing, and seconds later, I would find myself on the winning side, in shock and disbelief.

I've had that moment several times since I came here. The two biggest ones were during the 9 foot jump at the pool and during my final PFA. At the end of those two events, I felt like I could graduate that day, because to me, I had just conquered the biggest mountains I had encountered in my life. Tonight I look forward to facing that mountain again. Now, i know that I can do nearly or seemingly impossible things, and that is very confidence-inspiring.

I can't wait to see you and hug you tight in a few days!! And after this, we get to spend the rest of our lives together. I love you and miss you. Goodnight!



Anonymous said...

Congrats, Angel. I'm glad you can finally see your family for the poisonous vipers they really are, and that you are moving ahead in life. The mere fact that they would decide to harass you when you return rather than congratulate you is proof positive of who they are. Leave them in the dust and never look back.

W. Lotus said...

I hope you are enjoying your new life! I can't imagine going into the military; I am far too sensitive (and rebellions, come to think of it) to handle the indignities of boot camp well. So I have lots of respect for those who willingly submit themselves to that. I wish you all the best!