I was cleaning my room some time ago and I stopped to take this picture:
Those are my tshirts, folded USNA-style at the top of my armoire. I graduated ten years ago but I still fold every T-shirt in the particular manner that I learned on my very first day as a Plebe (freshman) and arrange them “dark to light, left to right.” I was going to ask how many other Naval Academy alums still fold their tshirts like this but I came downstairs and found a stack of the bestie’s clean laundry folded similarly:
I guess some questions don’t need to be asked!
This got me thinking of how old habits truly are hard to break.To be such a free spirit, I lead a rather regimented life. Growing up with a strict, military father and then continuing my own military career, I’ve to some extent developed, and to some extent been forced, into this current rigid structuring of my life. And like the way I fold my T-shirts, there are some things that I’ve been doing because, well, that’s just the way we do things.
In the Military, I follow the orders of the Officers appointed over me– it’s part of the very oath that I take. Many of my major life decisions have been dictated to me whether it’s where or when I’ve moved or the job or position that I would have. And though i can provide my “preference list”, the needs of the Navy can and have trumped Mine. As it currently stands with my sea duty contract, I technically am not allowed to have children until I am 35. Obviously, that’s assuming that I find someone that I want to make babies with in that time– but still it’s sobering to realize how much autonomy I’ve yielded and it’s starting to chafe a bit.
Recently, this point had been hammered home as I’ve tried to pursue my dream and personal goal of being selected for the Olmsted Scholarship. I’ve run into many road blocks, the staunchest of which seems to be my Detailer. For non -Navy folks: My Detailer is the person who isn’t me yet makes many life-altering career decisions for me — like where I move and what job I get. There’s a whole group of people involved in personnel management but there is one for all personnel in my same job.
The Detailer has access to my complete military file. He knows the awards I’ve received, my race and age, my college GPA, my past performance, and even my elusive tech score! He knows the entirety of my military history — he just doesn’t know me. And therein lies the problem.
I want to be an Olmsted scholar. This program seems like it was cutout against my very outline– I was destined for this. The Detailer thinks otherwise– he thinks that I should be a Reactor Officer. And because his plan for my life and my personal desire can’t fit in the rigid career path outlined, he vetoes my dream with a negative endorsement.
I’m not mad at the Detailer anymore– his job is to create Reactor Officers for the Navy, but I was initially extremely upset with his endorsement. How can someone who doesn’t even know me make such a decision for me? I won’t bore you with the long, and internally monologued, struggle that I had over this issue. But I spent the last month thinking about this issue and thinking about my life and what I really want. I came to the realization that I don’t need permission to pursue my goals and dreams. My goal of living in Roma and speaking La Bella Lingua doesn’t need the Navy, the Detailer or anyone else to make it happen. My dreams simply require me.
Perhaps that doesn’t seem monumental to you, but when someone else has been making your career decisions for such a long time, it becomes like my T-shirt folding habit, and you forget why you were doing it in the first place. In honor of my new realization, I did something seditious yesterday. I had my first Italian lesson. On Monday I’ll have another, and the day after that another and the day after that, until I am fluent.
Even if your life isn’t quite as regimented as mine, give yourself permission to follow the dreams that God has placed in your heart with abandon and Faith. Don’t let others dictate to you the person that you were created to be. My prayer for you is that you find the courage to follow your own dreams. That you throw off the mantle of safety-above-all-else and the doubt that haunts you, and that you follow hard after the still, small voice that won’t — that can’t– be silenced.