When I was seventeen, I was kind of a heavy kid. My largest weight was 240 lbs, weighed by the scales of the United States Navy. The recruiter was very interested in getting me to join, on account of my having a very high score on their tests. He introduced me to a master chief who was in charge of recruiting people to work on the nuclear power plants aboard naval ships. They tested me and found that I was smart enough to enlist as a nuclear power specialist.
The only bar was my weight. I had to get down to at least 180 pounds. The next year was full of jogging, eating salads and wrapping myself up to sweat off the pounds. It didn’t work fast enough. I still had around ten or fifteen pounds to go.
The date came nearer and nearer for my final entry. My recruiter, who was a first class petty officer, had me drink a laxative for a couple days before my last medical exam before basic training. It was awful. I ate nothing but salad and laxatives, but I came in at exactly the cutoff weight. I was sick enough that I didn’t really feel that I had accomplished anything.
I left for basic training that September. The days were long and the nights short. I was at NTC Great Lakes. Then came the time for psychological testing. The only two specialties that had this testing were those who were aiming to become SEALs and, yep, nuclear power specialists.
Honest answers got me disqualified from service altogether. I wasn’t fit to be in the service. I was angry, disappointed. This was supposed to get me out of the town I hated and into a new life. Why didn’t they test like this before I got all the way to NTC Great Lakes? I was shuffled into a ‘separation division’ the very next week. I read a lot, and I met people from all over the world there. There was even a recruit from Nigeria!
I stayed in the seps division for a week and a half. The petty officer in charge told us about his struggle with depression, and how the Navy was providing the help he needed because he had finished his training. He thought that it was kind of messed up that they didn’t screen earlier too.
I arrived home via airplane. Chicago’s O’Hare airport is HUGE! I bought a pack of smokes and walking what seemed like a mile from the gate to the smoking area outside, while waiting for my flight home. I was depressed. I thought that I must be the biggest loser ever to have come all this way just to be sent home.
My parents waited for me at the gate in SLC International. My mother was an awful mess. She was spiraling into another one of her episodes, brought on by my leaving home. My father was stoic as usual. The ride back to the shitty little town I grew up in was not fun. My mother had only a tenuous grip on reality. Great.
Days later, my mother lost it completely. She was screaming that my father was Satan. I said, fuck this and left with my cigarettes into the hills. Dad took her to the hospital. Again. I was shunted to the side. Ignored. What about me? Mom had to have attention and I couldn’t burden the family with my trouble, right?
I still had a bit of money from the Navy. I had earned nearly two thousand dollars while there. My friend introduced me to crystal meth, so I spent that summer in a haze of drugs. It made me feel GOOD. I’d never felt like that before. The novelty wore off after a while, and I put it down because I saw that the humans around me were becoming less and less human from that drug. I didn’t like the days after a binge either, feeling unwashably dirty and depressed.
I was finally arrested at a drug party, nearly a year after I came home from the failure in the Navy. I was lucky. I didn’t have any drugs of any kind on my person, but they still charged me with ‘internal possession’ from a dirty UA. I took a plea in abeyance and got a job.
For the most part, I kept my nose clean. I paid rent to my parents, paid my dad back for the lawyer he hired to defend me, and drank beer nearly every weekend with my friends. I wasn’t happy. I felt inadequate and like I was a failure. Certainly, philosophically I’m glad I’m not a sailor. The thought of being responsible for killing other human beings isn’t something I enjoy contemplating, even if they are enemies. Yet, I cannot help but wonder what might have been.
I think back to that young man. He wanted to be someone important. He wanted to be part of a group that accepted him as he was. But he was met, yet again, with rejection. He was pissed off that, when he came home in such a state, once again, he couldn’t count on his family to help.
I hid away from the world and my family after that. After so many years of rejection by peers and social groups in school, the separation from the Navy was like the cherry on top of a shit sundae. I was a fucked loser for dreaming anything at all.
I don’t exactly hate the town I’m in, yet, all the things that I do value in life are of little consequence to the people here. They don’t consider deep questions. They get the easy answers from their religious dogma. Those who deviate are, of course, shunned to the greatest degree of shunning possible. Its like you’re invisible to these people.
I’m a long hair, a hippy. I have a beard and I wear t-shirts that I’ve bought at rock concerts. I read philosophy and science books. I read mystical stuff too. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover, the New Testament several times. I’ve familiarized myself with many schools of religious thought. I’ve studied psychology and read several books on the subject. The purpose of all my studies was to bring me closer to understanding myself and those around me, has but created a great divide. I feel that I cannot share my deep perceptions with any but a few. It’s as if the gulf between me and other humans, which I hoped to bridge using knowledge, has only widened with my efforts.
Society is so shallow. It’s been disappointing enough that I just don’t go out anymore. Perhaps I need to find a dating service like the skit on MAD TV: Lowered Expectations. Maybe my desire for an intellectual match has to be tempered with the fact that not everyone is interested in the questions of existence.
I’m just so damned lonely. I have friends to be sure, but I don’t have a lover. I have material prosperity, yet no significant one to share it with. All of my resources are hoarded for my kids. I have so much to be grateful for and to be sure, I certainly am. Many do not have what I do, yet I envy those who have someone with whom to share their burdens. I am not Ebenezer Scrooge who counts wealth as the sole measure of human value. I am not satisfied with this solitary existence, nor do I think that Scrooge truly was with his either. Yet, the missteps and missed opportunities become the regrets of old age. Is that my fate? To be an old and lonely man, regretting that girl in high school who would light up when we would meet. That girl who always seemed to be so happy to see me, yet I couldn’t see that she liked me until years had passed.
Going to bars is soooo awful. I really don’t like it at all. Karaoke is the sole exception. Grocery stores? Church? I want to scream out loud I’m so frustrated in this quest for companionship!
I just hope and pray the theme of my youth peters out. I hope and pray that failed liftoff isn’t simply an oracle showing me the dismal future. I know that there are many, many people in my same situation, dying for a friend, longing for a lover. Hopefully I can find someone who wants to build a new rocket together, one that will launch both of us into greater heights than either of us thought possible.