June 3rd, 2005

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12:14 am - wherever you look, what you find tends to be what you seek
Tonight after dinner with Maura, I wound up heading to the Red Tub for drinks with Emily & Co.  "Co." included some relatively new players tonight, so I found myself (re)telling several of my better "sea stories" from my six years in the Navy.  A good time was had by all; and on the way home I realized something: I'm not sure quite when it happened, but at some point during the last couple of years, I lost the last of the resentment I had towards the Navy.

If you know me well, you probably know I got - well, several, to be honest - really raw deals out of the Navy.  Partly this is because my family had a rather distinguished history of battling the NIS over the circumstances of my namesake's death in Vietnam... and I went into the most politically sensitive POSSIBLE rate; partly this is because I was just a really poor fit for what the Navy was looking for personally... ESPECIALLY in said most politically sensitive possible rate; and partly this is just because, well, I was really pretty damn difficult back then no matter how you sliced it.

The thing is...  I was a horrible fit for the Navy, and the Navy itself was a horrible fit for who I was, regardless of the political sensitivity issues surrounding my personal circumstances.  But you know what?  A brick wall to pound my head against repeatedly was exactly what I needed at that age.  And one way or another, whether I knew it or not (and believe me, I didn't) it was what I was bound and determined to seek out.  And I really can't think of anything that serves as a better head-pounding brick wall than a Navy that doesn't think you fit the bill it wants you to.  I needed that.  I really did.  And if I hadn't been someplace so hard and unyielding - not necessarily "firm and just," mind you, the outfit DID do some really fucked up things and DID (and probably does) have some drastically... imperfect... ethical standards in place - well, I don't think I'd be better off for it now.  I think I'd still have banged my head against the wall I was determined to find no matter where I was - and I might still be doing it to this day if the Navy hadn't obliged me by letting me beat myself perfectly bloody until I got it out of my system and learned what I needed to learn.

So, yeah.  I got screwed out of a $6,000 enlistment bonus in the most heinous, last minute, and flat-out crooked way possible.  I got forced into being a freaking WELDER in circumstances so downright bizarre that I had extreme difficulty convincing other sailors that it had been forced on me, rather than me volunteering for it - because involuntary rate crossovers just didn't happen.  I got denied on every request for an early out that I put in, in an era where all around me sailors were getting paid gigantic bonuses to leave the Navy early to meet downsizing goals.  I got left with no visible path to any kind of career I was suited for because my DD-214 proclaimed to the world that I had been a welder for the last six years.

But... I learned the most valuable (and rare) computer-related skills I currently possess in the process of learning how to troubleshoot discrete analog circuits in Electronics Technician A School.  I learned so much about mechanical engineering in Nuclear Power School that I went from being the most mechanically clueless guy on the face of the planet to being able to lift the hood on a car and identify with a few glances what everything there was and what function it served - not because NNPS taught me about cars - but just by knowing what had to be there and the basics of how it would have to work, from basic principles.  I learned - at times very painfully - how to earn respect from people who work for you and start out with none.  I learned how not to get nailed to the wall by people who, for whatever reason, are bound and determined to do so.  And, although the lessons didn't really take until a couple of years after I got out, I learned a lot about how to actually get along with and earn the trust of existing authority... even when there are things you disagree with them strongly about.

I've known for a long time that I probably wouldn't have done anywhere near as well at college when I was a kid as I have been now.  And I've known that I did, in fact, learn a lot of good things in the Navy.  But what I never quite cottoned to until tonight - what I maybe wasn't ready to realize until tonight - is that aside from the obvious good things - the broad if informal and not-that-great-on-a-resume education, the chance to be self-sufficient when I desperately wanted to be, the great "sea stories" to tell at parties, the pride in being able to say I served my country honorably, etc. - I really needed exactly what the Navy was to me: a big, ugly, fucked-up brick wall to beat my head into.  And I'm a lot better off for it having been there for me, in all its imperfect, unchangeable glory, when I needed it.

Thanks, USN.

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(11 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture] From: teapotdome
Date: June 3rd, 2005 - 10:24 pm
And don't forget the invaluable ability to leave a picture of a yawning vag on a supervisor's computer if need be.

[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: June 3rd, 2005 - 10:25 pm
Which was one of ye olde favorite sea stories that got trotted out tonight, actually. =)

[User Picture] From: bitchness
Date: June 3rd, 2005 - 11:22 pm
I <3 that story.

[User Picture] From: clme
Date: June 5th, 2005 - 09:44 pm
Was this the one that didn't show up on the screen until well after the period you could be blamed for it? :-)

[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: June 5th, 2005 - 09:47 pm
Prezactly. Custom-written AUTOEXEC.BAT that checked the system date and, on or after D-Day, erased itself completely before replacing itself with a "clean" version after doing the dirty work.

[User Picture] From: enotnert
Date: June 3rd, 2005 - 11:35 pm
jim you've never proven to me to be anything but amazing

i have a feeling im gonna rely on your words of wisdom a lot in the upcoming months, maybe i can provide something in return. .

what exactly i dont know, but something

[User Picture] From: discogravy
Date: June 4th, 2005 - 04:37 am

yvan eht nioj

It'd be great to see recruitment posters like your post. "Join the Navy: when you need something big, unchangeable and ugly, USN is here for you"

From: cpf
Date: June 4th, 2005 - 11:30 am

From: yagoda_yagoda
Date: June 4th, 2005 - 01:23 pm
More Jimboesque Navy recruitment posters:

Looking for a big, ugly, fucked up brick wall to beat your head into? Try the Navy.

You're a poor fit for the Navy, and we're a poor fit for you, but at least you'll get the self-destructive behavior out of your system while we do our damnedest to fuck up your life for you.

From: peek_pk
Date: June 25th, 2005 - 04:40 am


Having been there to watch you burn the uniforms, and to see the glee oozing from every part of you as you burned them, it seems as if you've finally realized what some of us already knew: You honorably took what they dished out, and you did it with honor, and it did make you a better man. It's about time, Jimbo! ;-)

[User Picture] From: aj_reloaded
Date: July 15th, 2005 - 08:24 pm
I really needed exactly what the Navy was to me: a big, ugly, fucked-up brick wall to beat my head into. And I'm a lot better off for it having been there for me, in all its imperfect, unchangeable glory, when I needed it.

My feeling exactly, albeit I was green side. Very interesting, introspective post. I’m adding you, fyi.

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