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December 21, 2019

Taking a substantial life risk isn’t easy.

Today marks 365 days left in the Army for me. On Monday I can officially submit my resignation to Human Resources Command (HRC). This is another milestone.

I don’t know the first thing about taking risks. While I don’t regret the path that I’ve chosen, I also know that the path of chosen has been one of extreme structure and predictability. No, I don’t necessarily know what the next 48 hours of my life is going to look like, ever. But, I have a predictable paycheck, benefits, and essentially a guaranteed job. I’ve never had to stress or worry about finding employment or if I was going to be able to afford dental care.

What I haven’t had is freedom. And what I clearly see now is that it becomes so easy to settle.

That’s not me complaining. That’s just a fact. Can you relate? These are the choices I’ve made, and here I am. My life plan up to now has materialized exactly according to the plan. Now that I’ve arrived, none of it was what I expected, so instead of sitting here feeling sorry for myself, I’m going to do something about it.

It seems like more and more people my age are leaving their jobs and looking for something different. For me, as I’ve discussed in my first post, I have a deep desire to find a place where I can contribute in a way that is meaningful for me. And for me, that isn’t the Army. No insult intended towards those who choose the Army as their path. Now all this may sound like a shallow, naïve, short-sighted, idealistic, millennial BS, but it’s what my heart desires. And I’m going to own it. Security, financial stability, a job, nice things… those can all be replaced. Once time is lost, we are never getting it back. And really, as I think about this more and more, not only CAN I go seek this, I SHOULD.

Listening to something Jordan Peterson recently said reinforced this for me:

“If you look at older people and you ask them what they regret in their lives, it’s not the opportunities they took, it’s the opportunities they could have taken and didn’t… deep in their conscience, part of our structure, our deep, deep structure, we have a known moral obligation to take what’s offered to us, in it’s full catastrophe–and to make the best of it, and to do that properly with our ethical choices, and that we do not let ourselves off the hook if we fail with that.”

Right now, I have no commitments. Sure, quitting a guaranteed job with a pretty decent salary and benefits and retirement is a bit daunting, but I’m in a much better position to leave and I realize that. I don’t have student loan debt, additional mouths to feed, or a mortgage. And for that, I’m thankful. That being said, I feel a very strong conviction to go and find the problem that I can help solve. I am mentally, physically, and financially capable of doing so, and that makes me feel even more of a sense of desire, obligation, and urgency.

People with far more to lose and considerably less stability than me have left everything behind and have been able to contribute in a significant ways. Looking back a few decades, the way it kind of went was that men locked down a “career” as young as they could and women married and then that was life. You started a family and had your career and that was what you did. Whether it was fulfilling or not really wasn’t a concern or priority. Those days are over.

Either way, I KNOW I won’t end up homeless or destitute. Not having a *plan* in the conventional sense or in the Army sense is a bit liberating. It definitely provides room for flexibility and detours. We’re all so used to having every detail of life planned. People ask me all the time, “But what are you going to DO?” Sometimes it’s out of curiosity. Sometimes it’s to measure. Sometimes I sense it’s coming from a headspace that we’ve been indoctrinated with. As if the Army is the only thing / profession / career / goal / mission one can pursue to find meaning and serve humanity.

I spoke on the phone to a gentleman the other day as I’ve been networking and establishing connections in the wildlife conservation community. After going back and forth over email, I learned that he had also gone to West Point, class of 1989. After sharing my plan with him, he told me that looking back on his 22+ years of service in the Army, he didn’t necessarily regret any of it—because there was goodness there. But he had never really taken a risk. It was safe to stay in the Army, even though he didn’t necessarily love it. He said he thought I was doing a good thing, and that I shouldn’t let anyone talk me out of it…and don’t look back. That was encouraging to hear.

There are infinite possibilities… So make a plan and take the risk!