Sunday, September 28, 2008

My World...

INTRODUCTION

I write to you from the library at the University of South Florida. As of late, this has been my home away from home. Actually, it is more the case that I am at home at the library and periodically get the opportunity to visit my apartment.

Seriously.

I am in the first semester of my senior year and have tackled a course load much heavier than any in the past. My two majors both require senior seminar classes. I am taking both this semester. The international studies seminar requires a final twenty page paper. The religious studies seminar has a fifteen page paper requirement. I am also enrolled in Beginners’ Hebrew, which - oddly - I have not only found interesting, but have also shown some proficiency for. I am also beginning my senior thesis, required by my honors program. I am very excited about this project and will speak more about it below, in tonight‘s conclusion. Finally, I am enrolled in a political science elective. The class, titled “Modern Political Theory”, actually focuses on political philosophy. And the adjective “modern” got lost somewhere in between class title and class material. Despite the class being misidentified, I enjoy it very much.

Which is sort of the story of this semester.

I have been quarantined in the library by the burden of work, and despite my first-time-ever proactive take on coursework, realize that at the end of the semester I am going to be running haggard. Despite all this, however, I really couldn’t be happier. I have learned to enjoy studying and have really learned to love college. Much like my time in high school, I am only realizing how great of an experience this is as it draws to close. And, as I have no idea (and I emphasize, “NO”) what I will do after I graduate, I am being tempted to extend my education. People joke about being “professional students”, but seriously - if I can play this out by attending graduate or law school, why not, right?



(personal) INDECISION 2008


Of course, all isn’t “mets-su-yan” (dropping some Hebrew on ya!). I stood on the very precipice of finally attending the Army’s Special Forces Assessment and Selection class and, at the last second, turned away. Those whom have followed know very well how dear I held the possibility of becoming Special Forces qualified. I was excited to attend the two-week class, and by all indications, was set to do very well. About a week before shipping to the class, I got a case of “cold feet”. I became hesitant to miss a substantial amount of class here at the university. A big factor in my decision to withdrawal from Special Forces qualification was how well I was (and am) doing in my Hebrew course. During my freshman year, I had taken Arabic and failed miserably, receiving my only collegiate grade lower than an “A”. At that point, I decided that I failed to demonstrate the aptitude for mastering a foreign language. But this Hebrew professor is teaching in a method understandable and pacing the class at a rate that I can manage. Why disrupt a good thing?

Back to the topic at hand: Special Forces. So I just quit. I don’t need to sugarcoat my decision. I looked at the opportunities that I had before me and I chose to follow the path offered by the university. And, by doing so, I withdrew from the Special Forces program. But I would rather not use the word, “withdraw” or any derivative thereof, for fear of being labeled wrongly. I have no shame in admitting that I quit.

But here is where it gets weird…

I have but one regret. And that regret has nothing to do with a missed opportunity. My only regret is that I rejoined the National Guard in the first place and now have some remaining obligation. Because, oddly, the second that I decided to withdrawal from the Special Forces program - the instant the email was sent indicating my intention to quit - I felt relieved rather than disappointed. For about six years, I have dreamed of becoming Special Forces qualified and then, within the matter of a few nights - if that - the fire simply became extinguished. I can think of one person who exhibits indecisiveness and spontaneity as great as I (hint: my sister). But this even has me baffled.

I want nothing to do with Special Forces; no desire to be in the military. I am sure the change in attitude is related to my life away from the National Guard going as well as ever, but the level of my disinterest in service right now is so fully complete.


REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE…


But, as it is hitting me now, I suggest we look at this philosophically (perhaps the wrong term). My change of heart has probably been motivated by several factors. One, though, that I can not deny is a general feeling of worldly discontent. This is an odd feeling for me. Throughout my experience in college, I took pride in being a bit more stoic than others. I have my ideology and I am still not too old to relieve myself of dreams of changing the world. However, I never felt the need to be rebellious for rebellion’s sake. I rarely spoke up in class when conversation turned to matters political or religious despite my interest. I chose to not do so because I felt that most others that had, were doing so only to hear their selves speak. I am not sold by hype, and I don’t rally to causes. I am the anti-movement kid.

But that’s changing. Always politically-minded, I have felt a recent turn towards nonchalance. Two presidential candidates present themselves and neither really excites me and one scares me completely. Warren Buffet warned that our country’s economic system was near collapse and then hedged a five billion dollar bet that the government would prop it back up. He was right and devastatingly so. The very administration that I backed in the face of monumental opposition smacked me upside the head by thumbing its nose at the Constitution. And, now, like never before, I feel that I am living in a country that is running contrary to my fundamental beliefs. I have this odd swelling of inner revolution. And, with that inside, it is much more difficult to express externally a desire to serve.

And there’s so much more. Recently, I have had such a great feeling of independence. I think that I am currently feeling what others experience when they first arrive at college, for the first time free from their parents’ oversight. Having never really had that experience, somehow I am convincing myself that I am having it now. And, really, I think it is because I am so happy with my current situation. This independence that I feel is total. Seriously, I feel for the first time obligated to no one. For example, I have always worked out because I enjoy physical activity. But, in the back of my head, I knew that I was also working out to fulfill requirements necessitated by the Special Forces program. This is no longer true. I work out because I want to. And that is the sole reason. And should I feel no desire to work out; I have no requirement to do so. Even my current excessive study habits are borne of my own desire and not some demand that I feel from my professors. Every day I wake up happy in being able to do whatever it is I want to do. I feel no social pressures, no rules, no obligations - just independence. And it is awesome.

I feel like I am having an “Office Space” moment. To those whom haven’t seen this move (and should be embarrassed to have missed it), the turning point of the film is when the main character is hypnotized by an occupational therapist only to awake the next morning with not a care in the world.

The night that I decided that I was going to withdrawal from the Special Forces program was monumental. It was also like I was choosing to live life on my terms and mine only.



THESIS


There’s final thing that I wanted to mention and I briefly broached the topic in the introduction: my senior thesis.

I am really excited about this project and hope to share its progress here. The entire thesis will take two semesters to complete. I am studying past cases of genocide. My goal is to classify symptoms common in the origins of these past cases of genocide. The completion of this goal will allow for the production of a practical model. This model will describe different conflict types and then the symptoms that commonly occur in those conflict types before the occurrence of genocide sets in. By having such a model in hand, experts may be better able to identify future emerging cases of genocide before they fully bloom.

I feel that this is a pretty significant endeavor, but I am really excited about producing a useful tool. Much of college is dedicated to research only practical in the expanding one’s own body of knowledge. I hope that my model is real-world useful in preventing future cases of genocide.

3 comments:

Diana said...

Well,I thought I was a "insider" but this blog really gave me a good view into your more "private" feelings. I am impressed and grateful that you are happy and content.
It will be very interesting to find out what you decide to "do" after college.
I am quite sure you will change your mind several times before you have to make that decision:).
Keep up the good work and keep us all posted on your endeavors.

alexa said...

Steve,

This was a powerful post to read. I can empathize with your decision to be done with something you've worked so hard toward for so long. That's huge, walking away from what had, only days before, been a significant part of your life.

I'm so glad for you that the decision was quick in its dawning and its execution, and that you're happy with the direction you've decided to move toward. Take care,

Alexa

JMP said...
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