05 August 2013

Verba Immortalis

Giambattista Tiepolo, Venus Appearing 
to Aeneas on the Shores of Carthage.
Virgil's Aeneid. Now there's a hell
of a read (says 5 years of latin).
If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.
~ Benjamin Franklin

Color me patriotic but apart from their rampant sexism and occasional hypocrisies, I’ve always been a fan of our founding fathers, even good old Ben. I came across this quotation the other day, and it resonated with my present situation. I am standing at a crossroads, wondering what my legacy will be; hell, I’m wondering what I even want my legacy to be. Am I creating things worth reading, seeing, listening to? Are my voice and my presence affecting a positive, lasting change in my environment? Am I living a life worth remembering? I would like to think so, but for obvious reasons I do not have an objective opinion on the matter.

I have this really annoying, awkward love/hate relationship with my day job. The Army certainly keeps me busy, and while I was a Platoon Leader I felt that I legitimately was able to make a difference in the lives of my Soldiers, which was all that mattered to me. Now that I’m on staff, the difference I make is subtle at best and not nearly as gratifying, and it occurs to me that all of the preparation and training and education I received as a Cadet was to prepare me for a job that I have already done and will not ever be able to do again. My PL time, as much as I hate to admit it, is over. For the vast majority of my career, should I stay in, I will be on staff in a support role, not a leadership one, and I will only get further and further away from the Soldiers as I continue to get promoted through the ranks.

Part of me can’t wait to step into that next leadership role: Company Command. Part of me still believes that all the staff time and bureaucracy and sexism and frustration are really worth stomaching just for those brief, awesome leadership opportunities. Soldiers are amazing. Period. And being a Platoon Leader was the best experience of my life, this coming from someone who has gone cliff diving off of waterfalls inside a cave in the middle of the Belizean rain forest. (Yes, I know; check my privilege.)

However, an increasingly large part of me wonders if the brief rewards of the Army are worth the numerous, immense down sides. Sexism so ingrained in the culture of the organization that 99% of them don’t even realize they are being sexist, no matter how many Equal Opportunity and SHARP “training” sessions the organization swallows. Part of me is sick of always being the only woman in the room, in the conference, in the group, in the formation, at PT. It’s frustrating and it’s annoying as hell, and if I complain about anything at all, I’m told to stop being a girl. I could wear the subtlest, most natural of makeup, paint nothing but clear strengthener on my nails, or barely spritz on the subtlest of perfume and I get accused of trying to attract, distract, or otherwise act inappropriately around the men at work. I know because it’s happened too many times to count. Clear nailpolish! CLEAR! So I never wear makeup in uniform, not even mascara, or nail polish or perfume. Ok, I still use my scented hair products and deodorant, but come on. I’ve gotta have something.

But the constant, sometimes subtle but more often quite blatant, sexism isn’t the only headache of the military lifestyle. Prolonged separation from loved ones, for example. Even as busy as I keep myself, Orion’s deployment has hardly been easy thus far and I’m only 1/9 of the way through the wait. Based on my own experience with deployment, you’re as likely to get stuck there for an extra three months as you are to actually return roundabouts the time they initially tell you. Waiting isn’t easy, and unlike most “Army wives” I understand what he’s doing, what he’s going through, why I can’t hear from him as often as I’d like, precisely how much danger he’s really in that he can’t tell me. Being dual-military has it’s ups and downs. We have the mutual understanding of our jobs and how time consuming and mentally/emotionally draining they are, but at the same time, we have jobs that are time consuming and mentally/emotionally draining. Even when we are together, there isn’t much left of daylight (if any) when our workdays finally end, and those workdays usually begin long before the sun rises.

So I wonder what, and where, I want to leave my legacy. Do I want to make a career out of the Army, fighting tooth and nail for recognition as an equal in what will likely never be an equal organization—certainly not within my lifetime—or do I want to just fulfill my commitment and then pursue something else? I wonder what kind of wake my magical practice leaves behind me, if there’s even a dent in the ether. I wonder if all the little things I make and draw and paint and bedazzle will be appreciated by anyone other than me.

I wonder if my words are worth reading.

Sure, I like all the things I make, and I enjoy making them. I love the way my guitar feels in my hands when I’m in the middle of composing a new song. I love the satisfaction I get when I finish writing or editing a chapter in one of my stories (yep; editing the first and starting to write the second). I love the calluses on my fingertips from sewing and sculpting and playing. I even love how my fingernails bear the proof of my crafting, as they will never be long and luxurious, painted or no.

But does anyone else? I make all these necklaces and pendants and earrings and bracelets and paintings and statues and a bazillion other things, but I tend to either keep them myself or give them away to friends and family. My family has always been supportive of my “hobbies,” but that’s how they seem to view them: just hobbies. Just expensive habits I have that cause me to shudder with glee when entering a craft store, and they're not entirely wrong. I presently spend far more money funding my hobbies than I earn from them, but creation has never been about money for me. It’s always been about joy. My creations, my art, my music—they bring joy to me. They are an outlet for my emotions, the high ones and the lows, and when the act of creation is complete, I feel complete. I hope that my creations bring as much joy to those who see them, hear them, read them as they do to me, but the insecure part of me wonders if it’s possible that my intense joy in creation could transfer like that.

I’ve always strived to live my life as a beacon, a ray of hope to light the way for the lost and the, well, hopeless. I firmly believe in living by example, so I try my very bestest to walk my own talk. It’s not easy, and I’m human, so I slip up now and then; but on balance, I think I do a pretty good job. So I hope that is what turns out to be my legacy: that whatever I decide—to stay in the Army until I retire, or to get out at the end of my commitment and focus on family and my hobbies and whatever other career path comes my way—I can lead others toward love, life and hope, that my life was one worth remembering.

And, of course, one day I’d like to write something worth reading…but we can’t all be Virgil.

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