I had a strange, very real feeling dream last night. It may have been from the 6, yes 6 pieces of Pizza Hut pizza I ate, or from the odd movie we watched on instant Netflix, so ridiculous that we turned it off after only 15 minutes. But I have a feeling it had more to do with the hours I’ve spent lately searching for an additional job. Music gigs are irregular and unreliable, as well as the few writing jobs I’ve secured recently. I’ve been sending out resumes in response to everything from personal assistant, to receptionist, to legal office admin. So far, no luck. I guess the economy really is in the toilet. I’ve even gone so far as to consider…CONSIDER…joining the Army Reserves. A thought I was sure would never cross my mind until I was faced with the reality of possibly having to relocate to find decent work.
As I walked back home after dropping off my resume to a near by company, the apartment resident manager was out for a walk and struck up a conversation with me. Now well into her 60s, she once was a Marine during the Korean War. Only for a few years, but she remembers those days with pride and feels a sense of camaraderie with me being a female Veteran as well.
“Beth,” she said, catching her breath from a recent trip up some stairs. “Do you ever regret getting out?”
“No.” I said without hesitation.
She proceeded to tell me how she often wonders what her life would be like had she stayed in for 20 years and got out with honors and full retirement. I knew what she meant. The military has a way of taking care of its own. And life would certainly be much easier in many aspects had Eddie and I decided to stay in.
As I walked away, I pondered thoughtfully the things I sacrificed after giving up the Army, for maybe the first real time since I got out exactly one year ago this month. A beautiful house with a swimming pool that certainly would have come in handy this scalding summer. Purchasing airfare to visit family without significant cutbacks on other things like...food. Seeing something at Wal-Mart that one of my nieces or nephews would love and sending it to them in the mail, just because.
That night, I dreamed I was sitting in a C-130, squished between a pile of fellow paratroopers and dripping with sweat as I balanced my painfully uncomfortable rucksack on my knees. The plane jerked sharply in the night, and all I heard was the white noise of the loud engine, barely suppressed by my foam earplugs. We all stood up in unison and scooted towards the door at the back of the plane, waiting for the green light to jump out, but it never came. We flew right past the drop zone as the Jump Master signaled, “22 knots.” The wind was too strong to jump. We flew in a giant circle, attempting a second chance to jump. Still too strong. By now I was woozy with motion sickness and fighting to stand upright and hold my static line above my head. A third pass. No-go. We got the signal to unhook and sit back down. Then we landed on the runway back at Green Ramp, unloaded the aircraft, and removed our parachutes and equipment. And that’s when I realized in my dream that that was to be my final jump ever, and I actually felt disappointment because it was scratched.
When I woke up the next day I thought about my real last jump. I don’t even remember it. In fact, that very scenario could have happened, but I really have no clue. And I was disappointed by that. I guess we never know when something is going to be our “last jump.”
I thought about the earlier conversation. Did that dream mean that maybe I did regret getting out on some level? Remember that movie, “Sliding Doors” with Gwyneth Paltrow? It flashes back and forth between 2 possible lives after she makes 1 defining decision.
We don’t get to see the consequences of our choices play out neatly condensed and edited like a movie, but I did picture what my life might be like if I was still on active duty at Fort Bragg. There would be some very nice things about it, that’s for sure. One of them being the pride that comes with being a paratrooper and military service member. Another being financial security. But I know I could never squelch the passion inside me that I have for something else. And I know that in my alternate “Sliding Doors” life, when another character asks me, “Do you ever regret staying in?” I would say without hesitation. “Yes. I do.”
“The sin is not in the failure. The sin is in not trying.” –Paula Deen