Saturday, January 13, 2007

What a day.

I've been in a really odd place for the last couple of weeks. I came back from my trip to Portland to find out that a guy I knew and admired had been killed in Iraq in December. It was disheartening to learn that to say the least. I don't want to go into any more detail here until I have permission to do so, but I'll just say that with my feelings about the war, it is so incredibly sad to learn that a friend was killed doing his best to make the place better, while trying to help the people over there. Whatever you think about the policy in Iraq, please remember that on an individual level, the soldiers over there are, for the most part, interested in making the world a better place. They're giving their lives daily for the future of Iraq, and I hope for their sake and for the sake of the Iraqi citizens that a bright future awaits behind the curtain of uncertainty that we see today.

That said, I'm more certain than ever that the time has come for me to leave the military. The military doctors decided that the asthma they diagnosed 8 years ago has disappeared, or was never really there in the first place, so now I'm worldwide deployable again, meaning that I can go anywhere in the world at a moment's notice. (For the last 8 years I've only been able to be stationed within the continental United States due to the initial diagnosis back in 1997 when I wanted to return to England after my first year in Monterey.) When combined with the fact that I've been against much of what is going on in the world today with regards to the "War on Terror" and the effects of the Patriot Act, there is no doubt that I have to leave the military if I'm going to be true to myself.

I think about using my Arabic in a way that lends itself more to the ideals that I believe in, although I do think that the military needs Arabic linguists and I'm honored to have the opportunity to teach the language. If I'm going to be a part of the "Western Machine," I want to have a function that is completely in line with my principles. I think about doing translating for immigrants who are facing difficult legal proceedings, or families who are trying to find relatives who have just "disappeared" into a cloud of patriotic acting smoke. I fantasize about going off to Cairo or Jordan for 6 months to a year to really improve my speaking skills and my knowledge of the culture that fascinates me. On the other hand, I'm totally enthralled with the macro-level scientific processes. I don't like the lab research. I want to be outside getting my boots muddy in the swamp, losing my compass over the edge of a cliff as I check my map, (or maybe I'll even settle down and get a GPS!) (I'm listening now for grumbles from Kate ;-) There is so much out there that I'm interested in. I want whatever I do to be for the benefit of mankind and the planet as a whole.

I've really been stressing about how I would be able to pay the bills in August when I leave the service. I'm not so worried about anything beyond that at the moment. I know that getting out is what I need to do for my sanity and to be in line with my ethics, to feel that I've been true to myself and to my true calling in this life. I've been stricken with really bad headaches almost every night for the last two weeks as I've tried to wrap my head around the reality of all that is facing me. Today I believe that some of that stressing has finally come to an end.

I've realized that I can earn an income doing things that I really would enjoy doing, and I have the money at the moment to invest to get the training that I need. I've committed myself to weekly guitar lessons for the next few months. I've also signed up for enough kayaking lessons to be able to become an instructor in the spring. I'm also considering the possibility of taking enough scuba diving lessons during the next 6 months to be able to become a scuba instructor shortly after leaving the Air Force.

There is a demand for all of these skills in this area and I know that I could make enough money to pay the rent and to take college courses here if I get to a place where I can actually teach these skills. I'm not sure if the skills would help me in whatever new location I decide to relocate to in order to continue my college education, but at the moment I'm not feeling worried about that. The idea of being able to at least stabilize my life here in Monterey, even after leaving the military behind, fills me with an energy an an enthusiasm that I haven't felt in quite a while.