March 21st, 2009

christmas 2008

Punch. to. the. GUT.

A short while ago, I read the following words on Stony Brook's website:
Following a careful review of your application, we are unable to admit you to Stony Brook University.  Your interest in Stony Brook is appreciated...
In the moment that my eyes met that text, nothing and everything changed simultaneously.

As for what happens in the time between now and 2400 EDT 18 May, the status quo prevails. I am NOT re-enlisting. I AM separating from the Navy. These are non-negotiable certainties. I was set on six-and-out long before I decided I wanted to go back to college, and the derailment of that course does nothing to alter that mindset. I may not have a future at Stony Brook, but I have things far more important - a ton of money in the bank, good friends who confirm I'm on the right path, and a loving family that will stand behind me no matter what I do. Regardless of how deep the economy is in the porcelain throne, these things - and the peace of mind that accompanies not being under the Navy's thumb - are worth more than the job security of the Navy. I would rather bleed the bank account dry than be miserable for four or more additional years.

But when the calendar turns to Tuesday, May 19...it's all up in the air. The first inclination is, as you might expect, toward the civilian nuclear power field. With my skill set, it's something I could slide right into, and there always seem to be jobs available. Staying in the atom-splitting business means I can't go home again; thanks to Shoreham, Long Island is as much a nuclear-free zone as New Zealand. I don't like that, but it is not a totally negative factor. I'm not devoutly attached to Long Island; I have, after all, spent the bulk of the last ten years residing elsewhere. I don't necessarily have to absorb the high cost of living in my ancestral home. I also can, if I want, start anew in some uncharted location. I can pretty much go anywhere in the country. I'd prefer to stay in the Northeast (and close to my family), I'd consider the Midwest or West, and only if all other options are exhausted would I look at the South.

A big challenge is going to be translating the skills I've acquired over the last six years into civilian speak, to try to compete for jobs against the rest of the population. Not only that, not having a bachelor's degree puts me behind the power curve right out of the gate. And at this juncture, simply entertaining the thought of something other than nuclear is a bit daunting. This is the only real job I've ever had, and it's kind of difficult to see myself doing anything else. But at the same time, I don't envision myself running the fission game forever. For that matter, as I close in on number "two-eight," I'm still not certain of what I want to do with my life.

I don't know how much (if any) time I'm going to take off after I check off the boat. I don't know whether I'm going to take the Post-Navy Roadtrip. I don't know whether, or how much, I'm going to drink tonight. I do know that I'll be watching Sideways in the next day or two. I do know that I really don't have much of a backup plan, but I do have a safety net in multiple respects. And I do know that largely due to that safety net, I'm handling this much better emotionally than events of similar magnitude in my past. Don't worry about me. I'll figure something out, and I'll be fine.
christmas 2008

But aside from that thing...

...I'm not doing too badly here at Naval Station Mayport, just outside Jacksonville. The Submersible Death Trap is moored down here for its annual spring visit. And as is always the case, leaving the confines of the base requires one to be tethered to one or more other Sailors. We're told that we're grown men, given the responsibilities of grown men, and told we're expected to behave accordingly. Despite all that, we can't be trusted to be on our own in an American city - all in the name of force protection and public relations. Of course, I abide by the rules; but I do so with the knowledge that in two months, they'll no longer be my rules.

I am not drinking this evening, despite the body blow delivered to my long-term plans this afternoon. That's one reason why, as is the fact that I haven't slept much in the last day and a half. Those things being said, the most important reason is simple logistics. We're moored in the "North Bumblefuck" end of the base, more than ten minutes' walk from the liberty center where I'm typing this, and well over half an hour from any alcohol. The possibility that I might have to make that walk back, combined with a stiff wind up this evening and my lack of a civilian jacket, means I'm keeping it sober tonight.

I'm keeping my focus on the ECAC Hockey championship game, in which my Cornell Big Red are playing Yale. Cornell needed two goals in the last three minutes of regulation and a double overtime winner to down Princeton, and they appear to be in solid shape to make the national tournament. Regardless of the NCAA outcome, adding conference title No. 12 would be a sweet accomplishment, especially for the seniors who haven't yet hoisted the Whitelaw Cup.