‘Professor of understanding / In the military…’

So here’s a weird little fact about me: I have this strange complex about being shoved into the military. It wasn’t really a thing before I got into college, but now every so often I just kind of have a little freakout about how I wouldn’t be ready if somebody decided to pick me up and put me in the military.

It’s a really stupid “fear” to have. There hasn’t been a draft in America since 1973. I know that there’s no reason in the world I need to be in the military, that people are screened for physical and mental soundness before anybody goes into the military, and that nobody really holds it against you if you don’t pass the tests, or like Edward Snowden himself, have to leave the military because your body didn’t hold up. I also am fairly sure nobody would judge me for having the preferences and strengths/weaknesses I have, that there are probably people who have been through Absolute Hell who would think the stupid abilities I have are uncommon and amazing.

And yet, I still periodically get caught up in whether somebody who has been in the military would be like “isn’t that cute” when they found out I got depression from one college class being impossible and continued to have mental illness for over a year. When I’m feeling a lot of stress, I way too often wonder whether the “training” I’m receiving for science is more or less stressful than its military counterpart would be, and whether I should stop complaining. I already constantly wonder whether people who haven’t understood my laid-back style of doing things is a stress handling mechanism are right and whether if I really want to Be A Man I should be expected to heal all the panic attacks and ‘off’ moments that sneak through just by sucking them all up. Add to that this whole military thing, and you have the weird moments when I wonder if I’m not worth anything because I’m not strong enough to Serve My Country™ 🦅🦅🇺🇸.

Hilariously, my fears never remotely get to war situations or anything else Actually Scary. It’s always just about interacting with people, failing at things, and being judged.

I don’t know for sure where this all came from, but I kind of blame the overused drill instructor trope where military rigour suddenly appears where you don’t expect it (why is that so common?), and maybe the nonstop military ads radio stations play every single day. As well as the fact I once had a high school teacher who was a veteran and the most terrifying teacher I ever had including every instructor I had in college. I still remember the day when I was setting everything to default on my laptop to prepare myself for more hardcore punishments for not being able to achieve the mechanical, sacrificing pace of doing schoolwork I’d need to do in order to “stop procrastinating“—probably the small beginnings of depression honestly—and the tone he told me to can my inattentive-looking fidgeting in still sometimes makes me want to hide. He was fucking serious about standing for the school pledge too.

I guess that’s why on an “as people” level I thought Guile and Nash seemed like they’d be terrifying and unapproachable, I’d had actual bad experiences with what I thought was “the quintessential ‘Murican” so it actually made me a little emotional that another country that has no good reason to would see American soldiers in a way that was so positive and human and honestly right on the mark. Everything I know about most veterans (that I read while trying to figure out how I should feel about sf characters :p) makes me think that really, this is more the way we should see them and like… painting the military as something you should be afraid of may be a disservice to them? I think too many people forget that veterans actually have to deal with all the weird prejudices people might have about them and the fact they had a lot of allies in the military but when they get home might not have very many people on their side at all.

I’ve kinda accidentally turned into weirdly this advocate for veterans and properly understanding the military, while knowing embarrassingly little actual details for the purposes of say, writing stories about military characters or something. I feel at this point like I “oughtta” give that a try but I’m really afraid I’d get something blatantly wrong and have everything I wrote here come crashing down on me again.

So… yeah.

If you live somewhere other than America, I hope you’ve learned something about American culture today.