Honoring Charlie, Serendipity and All
I learned a very valuable lesson last night from an unlikely source. My husband and I were confronted with our least favorite part of life in the military– saying goodbye to some really good people. Constantly starting over does have its perks; when we get tired of our house, poof, time to move; when the same restaurants are wearing on our appetite, we know that very soon we will get to expand our culinary horizons in some other part of the world; when everyone dear to us is leaving and we suddenly find ourselves with no friends, we get to start over with a whole new gang at the next duty station. But there’s never anything fun about watching trucks pull away packed with possessions, memories, and people you adore.
So last night, a dear friend of ours had to say his goodbye, much earlier than planned. His time in flight school was cut short due to circumstances far beyond his control, and in his true style, he called a last minute dinner with us and notified us he was literally leaving after dinner for a lonely drive to Arizona. I don’t think he minded, he was going home to see his people, he had a business, he had a life there, but it sort of got my wheels spinning.
Charlie came here chasing a dream. Why anyone in their right mind wakes up one day and says, “hey, I think I’d love to fly around this mechanical bird that relies solely on a propeller and gets its kicks off defying gravity, oh, and I think I’d love to do it for the US Army so they can send me to some desert in the middle of nowhere,” is really beyond my understanding. Nevertheless, Charlie and a whole crew of GI Joe’s and Jane’s think that is the coolest job out there.
And I’ll tell you this, the training is hard. The school is hard. It’s all hard. And even though I tell my husband to grow a pair every time he reminds me how hard it is, my 6 years in college have nothing on this sort of education. It makes my head spin and I’m only involved from a distance.
I think the only thing making it remotely bearable is the camaraderie you build with the students and families going through it with you. And that’s where Charlie came in. We adopted Charlie, like we do many people, mostly because he has a somewhat twisted sense of humor, he likes my cooking, he can talk politics all day long, and I really enjoyed trying to play matchmaker using him as the suitable bachelor. My husband even appreciated his desire to hash out the political scene with me because quite frankly, my husband gets his fill of my motor mouth.
Charlie’s flight school dream was cut short and ya know, that sucked. He handled it like a champ, head high, ready for the next endeavor. And even more impressive, he hasn’t given up and plans to come back. But until then, he’s being loyal to his commitment to the Army and true to who he is as a person.
But what the whole thing taught me is that we all have dreams, certain goals we plan to reach no matter what gets in the way, and that’s a beautiful thing, but there’s going to come a time for all of us when we might not be able to achieve a certain dream or goal. No, that’s not the butterfly, hearts, and flowers inspiration we look for to get us through, but it’s reality. Sometimes things don’t work out, sometimes we fail or someone or something else fails us. Maybe the career we envisioned isn’t actually the career we make.
I’m living proof. I wanted to have my Doctorate by now. I wanted to be a Foreign Service Officer. I wanted to be a New York Times Bestseller. I wanted to be President. No, my time isn’t up. I have plenty of days ahead of me to keep working, but looking reality in the face can be quite a humbling experience. And a very necessary one.
Then it’s up to us and what we do with reality. What do we do when we realize the hurdle actually can’t be jumped?
Well, I’m arguing that you be a little like Charlie. You summon your Plan B, your Plan C, and maybe all the way to Plan Z.
I probably rely too much on serendipitous thoughts, but I do believe that we are where we are supposed to be when we are supposed to be there. We just need to be the best versions of ourselves while we’re there and the rest will fall into place.
Standing near Charlie’s rental truck, trying to stall our farewell, Charlie gave us a handwritten thank you note. I read it out loud once we got in the car, and though it didn’t say much, it said thank you. Along with some inside jokes and LOL’s, enough to make us reflect on what makes him way better than a good person.
I have a sneaky suspicion, Charlie’s Plan B will trump his Plan A any day.
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/viciousbits/1210433853/sizes/l/