Hey guys. Those of you that know me best know that I have no idea what I am doing with this blog stuff. I have never really journaled, don’t take many photos, and have a hard time talking about myself – not a real good combination for blogging I guess. However, due to some recent inspiration from my family and friends, I suppose I’m gonna have a go at it. I want to caveat all the writings that follow with the statement that I have incredibly poor grammar and absolutely horrible writing skills (unlike my sister who is quite possibly the best writer I have ever met), and I want to apologize for the ramblings that follow; but, for better or for worse, these ramblings are a part of who I am. They are my best attempt to get my emotions, hopes, dreams, loves, and losses down in some sort of discernible media.
I guess, as an introduction, I could give a little bit of background to kind of set the stage for everything that follows. Why new beginnings…? That phrase describes my life to a tee in so many ways recently. Two years ago, I returned from Iraq for the second time with my friends and brothers with whom I had shared some of the most poignant experiences in my life. I found myself wondering what in the world I was going to do with my life. I felt very lost and unsure of myself. The Marine Corps wouldn’t allow me to continue to work with those brave men I had just served with, and they were about to put me in more of a “desk-type” job (at which I would have suffered immensely). I also had the hope of someday having some sort of stable life, so I could start a family (of course that requires that I actually date someone – which is an entirely different story). My eleven years in the military were an unexpected detour that I took in 1994 that interrupted a fun, purpose-filled life that I was enjoying at West Virginia University. I had formed a very close-knit circle of friends at WVU. We were pretty set on changing the world for the better, and, like most people that age, we were pretty sure that we knew the best way to make that change.
I certainly am not bashing that starry-eyed hopefulness…seeing as how it has pretty much defined my life since age 6. You will find that, if I am nothing else, I am a dreamer. Anyway, back to the story…
For whatever reason, I began to feel an itch inside me to experience the world – to travel, seek adventure, etc. Thus began my trip around that second major corner in my life – into the Marine Corps. Looking back on it now, I know that it was all part of a greater Plan. You see, the first major corner that I walked around in my life was the day that I found true hope and love in my life and began a relationship with Jesus Christ…radically changing my life forever. That decision has shaped every action and moment in my life since – including this new urge in 1994 to walk around the second big turn in my life’s path.
I have often wondered at myself for taking that step. I had always hated the military. When I was young, they tried to take my parent’s farm away from us under eminent domain. The military was for rigid, unthinking robots. Bedsides, I would never want to cut my hair that short. Against all previous emotion and experience, I chose to go – perhaps it was sheer recklessness; maybe a sense that I was a piece in some greater puzzle that I had to fit into; or perhaps I just wanted a radical change in my life. Whatever the reason, I walked around that corner blindly and entered the US Naval Academy in July 1994.
Looking back on that decision, I have absolutely no regrets. I was fundamentally shaped during those 11 years – into the man I have become today – a man full of many faults, but also with experiences and lessons that I have learned that I never could have learned in any other time and place. I could fill a book with stories about the selfless, humble heroes that I worked with every day during those years. I formed bonds with them that will never be broken – bonds that came from bleeding, suffering, celebrating, laughing, and crying through life together…and I miss them terribly at times.
But as I was coming home on that ship two years ago – sailing first through the Indian Ocean and then the Pacific en route to home in California, I knew that I was approaching that third corner. What would it bring? How would I find my purpose and fulfilment in life? What was I fashioned to do? When the Creator formed me, what tasks did He lay out for me to accomplish? I had been greatly humbled by my experiences in war, and I had come to realize that I was nothing without Him. He was the answer to all these questions, but what did that look like as I took my next tentative step forward?
The next year was a true comedy of errors as I fumbled around trying to find my place. I’m sure you who know me best will have a good laugh at this, but I tried everything from project manager for Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, and big oil company Conocophillips, to working as a Financial Advisor for a subsidiary of Citigroup. My final job before coming to the Stanford Graduate School of Business was (while not the greatest resume booster for the Admissions Board at Stanford) by far my favorite job in that transition year… I spent the rest of the year driving a shellfish delivery truck for a local aquafarm. I delivered seafood to all the high end restaurants up and down the southern California coast. It was pretty glorious my friends, and the benefits were incredible – plenty of time to surf, lots of time to think and sort things out, and a sweet uniform (gas station attendant shirt complete with nametag and Dickie’s shorts) that the girls of SoCal simply loved.
In my futile pursuit of a job, I kept coming back to a nagging desire that I had developed while I was operating in Iraq. Because of the nature of my work in the Marine Corps, every time I traveled, I was exposed to some of the worst poverty the world had to offer. I began feeling a tug on my heart witnessing this injustice over and over again. It filled me with sorrow and anger. Why wasn’t I doing something to help? I begin to feel a pull toward the poor as they began to haunt my dreams. One incident in particular sealed my fate and set me on a course that would eventually lead me to that third turn in the path…
Sorry, I have to stop for a little bit. This blogging stuff is pretty heavy.