I wrote it all out six months ago. Just before I left for Ithaca, I told my high school friend B-Dub the hard truth. B-Dub is the long lost friend with whom I re-established contact last June, and she's one of the few people from back in Northport who I really trust. I never heard back from her, but it's cool, because she very well might have been overseas then. I'm going to post here the unedited text of what I wrote her, because it's an accurate account of how I went from Ivy Leaguer to raising the right hand to take the oath.
Everything was fine after sophomore year; my grades had dropped a bit, but I was still above water. Nothing was amiss as semester number five began, but everything changed two and a half weeks in. I spent most of September 11 watching the horror unfold on a giant screen - I worked in the campus store, and Tuesday was my day to have a long shift. In the days and weeks that followed, I got completely wrapped up in the news coverage. I couldn't understand what could possibly drive someone to commit murder on such a scale. I still to this day don't understand it. As the rest of the semester progressed, I continued to shut down, completely blowing off all my academic commitments; and by Christmas, I was forced to take the spring semester off, since the fall courses in my major were prerequisites for the spring courses.So that's how it all went down. As much as I despise the drudgery of my job right now, the Navy delivered on the biggest thing it promised me - financial stability. I've paid off the vast majority of my debt from the Cornell era, and have socked away over twenty thousand dollars thus far. This ensures that at the end of 2008, I won't face the same financial conditions as the end of 2002 - a condition that really helps clear the way for me to separate from the service in a year and a month.
That spring didn't see much of a change in my habits; I continued to behave sort of like a student, doing a lot of stuff with the pep band and the campus radio station, but without taking any classes. I really didn't have any financial trouble; I'd saved plenty, and my parents had fronted the money for the rent (I lived in an off-campus house). This lethargy continued into the summer, when finally my parents forced my hand; they also came through for me, getting me a job at the laboratory where my Dad worked. By this time, I'd already been re-admitted for the fall. However, when I arrived back in Ithaca in late August 2002, I wasn't ready to go to work. The fact the my non-student status in the spring had prevented me from pre-registering for fall classes didn't help. Fall 2002 was more of the same from fall 2001 - and by about Thanksgiving, it was clear that there would be no bachelor of science from Cornell in my future.
It was about this time that my mom suggested joining the military. Seeing as I was broke, deep in debt, and with few viable options, I gave the suggestion serious consideration. I easily eliminated the Army and the Marines - I really didn't see myself as that gung-ho, and with the war in Iraq looming, the prospect of being a bullet sponge didn't really appeal to me. Since my dad served in the Air Force, I decided to go with the Navy. They pulled a Don Corleone on me - they made me an offer I couldn't refuse.
What happened in my life was all my own making, and I'd certainly do it much differently if given a do-over. None of it was Cornell's fault, and I hold no ill will toward the university. Starting Friday, I've got a week of leave (vacation time). This weekend, I'm heading back to Ithaca for the first time since I joined the Navy - it's homecoming weekend, and I'm super-excited to see all my old friends.