When I tell people I used to be in the army they look at me with the biggest look of surprise. I understand where they’re coming from. I’m artistic and literary, more than you’d expect for someone who was in the army. So I decided to share my story of why I joined, why I stayed, and why I left.
When I grew up as a kid I heard stories about my grandfather who was a commando officer. Baddest of the bad and coolest of the cool. I heard how he jumped out of planes into the ocean and had to swim to shore. I heard how he lived in the Amazon and made friends with the natives. I heard how he learnt survival skills and could live off the land. Seven year old me heard these stories and they filled me with pride.
As I grew older I loved to read about military history and daredevil tales of fighter pilots, spies and commando’s who fucked shit up and had epic tales to tell.
I wanted to be one of them.
In my late teens I must’ve spent hours on the Defence Force website, reading everything I could and thinking what it’d be like. Then my final year of school came and went. I could’ve put my application in to enlist, but I didn’t. No way. I wanted to be a millionaire by 25 you see. I enrolled at university to study finance and economics. That was my path, that was my plan and being a peon just didn’t fit into it.
But university was a drag. My study choice was a complete mismatch between my skills and interests and a one hour lecture was the perfect epitome of Albert Einstein’s quote “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour….that’s relativity.”.
It was hard to smile and feel alive. I was surrounded by ambitious intelligent people who were thriving and excelling. Meanwhile I was like a toddler sucking their thumb in a room full of adults. I was also struggling with not being able to make friends and was just emerging from a period of doubt about my faith.
Entering university I was a deep believer in the Christian faith (there are photos of me preaching on the streets with a megaphone somewhere out there), but as the year wore on I just couldn’t sustain or hold my belief anymore. It was a time where many of the constants that kept me grounded – school, church and confidence of my direction in life were no longer there. And girls. Far out. This hurt. I was surrounded by gorgeous intelligent women and I completely lacked the confidence or social skills to even talk to them and say hi.
Life was hard! #firstworld problems hard, but hard nonetheless!
My first year of university ended and I was lying on my bed on a hot summer’s day feeling pretty low. The year hadn’t been a success by any measure. I didn’t really have any friends, I lost my religion, getting with a girl seemed like an impossibility and I really, really didn’t like what I was studying. Make a million dollars by 25? Get out of here, I couldn’t even get invited to a party.
Then the thought dawned on me. What if I joined the army?
It solved a lot of the problems I was facing.
- Friends? I’d get instant friends when signing up.
- Girls? I’d get girls as a result of being super cool.
- Purpose? I’d get purpose by signing up to serve the flag.
- Money? I’d get paid to be awesome and do cool shit.
But I still had my doubts. What if I made the wrong choice? Its not like I could just back out. My life wouldn’t be mine anymore.
So I made the compromise. I applied to join the Army Reserves which is being in the army part time.
The Army Reserves still had all the advantages, but I had the option of backing out whenever I wanted. Training would be during the weekends and on university holidays and I’d get paid for it. It’d be the coolest job. Then if I loved it, I could enlist to be full time once my uni degree was over. Winning on every front.
I did my medical. I did the psych interviews. I was interviewed by the officer selection board. “We’ll be in touch” they said.
A month later I received a yellow envelope. The letter was from the defence force. It said “We believe you’ll make a great officer. We’re happy to tell you you’ve been accepted. Please call XYZ who is expecting your call”.
I was stoked. I think I cried tears of joy. This institution believed in me. They took a chance on me and it thrilled my soul and all of my dreams were going to come true.
Coming up next….
Part 2 – What life was like in the army.