One upside to my crazy life is I’ve got to know some pretty cool folks along the way. Great adventurers, questioners, and super-powered weirdos just gobbling up life. Basically relentless truth seekers that often fire my hope.
Hmm, combo life + wipeout you get “Lifeouts.” Maybe that’s a good word for them.
Anyway, I got to revisit some of the flimsy but seemingly “great” ideas ambitious young men like moi hang our hats on when launching into manhood. My 19 year’s hero’s journey was riddled with fear. Fears about failure motivated just about everything I did. I was a true wanabee super hero, and no shame in that. I’d guess that description fit most of my fellows at BUD/s. But training, ironically, would teach me oodles about how to undo such hero bullshit. But that’s nuance and more psychology than I’m willing to air out here in a blog post.
The short story is I couldn’t handle the pain. I was a noodle on a superhero’s mission. Pain – real gut-wreching pain- brings out every niggling weakness you carry. And I was encountering pain I never imagined possible. So I made lots of new discoveries about my weaknessess. And I did not like it.
I think for most it’s easy to sidestep pain in everyday life. Pain isn’t constant, especially if you’re lucky to live in an America or another free market economy. It comes in spurts and cycles. Pain has become something to avoid, plan for, and control. And that’s sensible because pain sucks. But eventually everyone gets whacked by a shitstorm they couldn’t see coming. Then we do the next best thing with pain – we cover it up. Could be with food, drugs, pain, sex, religion, entertainment, whatever. This is just another attempt at control. We even dose for pain. We plan on how much pain we’ll allow into our lives. We do this through exercise routines, or controlled exposures to “growth” experiences like psychedelics, or silly amounts of time in the sauna or ice baths, or family dinners (I’m joking on the last one). We do this because pain exposes our vulnerabilities. All our shoddy parts become visible for all to see. Well I tell you folks there’s no hiding from pain in BUDS. And it’s not the kind you can plan for or hide from. It’s uncomfortable. Pain is just coming at you every which way but loose. With a firehose. Consequently there’s no hiding from yourself, and I for one had alot to hide from.
Like many if not all 19 year olds, I was selfish and insecure. But I had some wounds too. So my dream of becoming a superhero wasn’t built on anything of substance. Truthfully, it was held together by bravado, bullshit, and bubblegum. Oh and shitty action movies. It was a cover up for stuff I wasn’t prepared to change. Perhaps that’s another reason for the high failure rate in BUDS- pain causes people to lose sight of their strengths and deal with their weaknesses. Perhaps weakness is a poor choice of words here. It’s more like work that needs completing but hasn’t been started yet, call them starting points. Anyway, when you’re beat down and weak you’re suffering, and real suffering makes you lose sight of freedom real fucking fast. Either you take action and find a way to avoid becoming a victim or sink. In other words, you’re forced to create freedom on the inside. And by freedom I mean reasons to keep your dream alive and keep going. And that’s hard work. The truths of lessons like these still speak to me daily. I think it’s partly because BUD/s felt so close to a living hell the lessons sank in like traumas. The really bad and good stuff get seared into your memory. So the insights have just kept on giving.
But quitting BUD/s led a genuine crisis of purpose- and that was priceless. We live in a culture so devoid of legit purpose we typically have to manufacture our rites of passage. Consequently the whole purpose thing ends up being a crap shoot for young adults. I think that’s what motivated a Gen X’er like me to consider SEALs. I knew I was going to get my ass beat, for real. And that I’d be held accountable for an adventure I couldn’t possibly prepare for. This rites of passage issue doesn’t seem like it’s disappeared. People are as lost as ever. Suicide’s up. Perhaps that’s one reason for the rise of Spartan Races, and video game becoming a sporting event, collegiate overdoses, and the resurgence of entrepreneurship with young and old, etc. Who knows. But the well of sorrow I dove into into made for a big slash. I had a major wake up call to discover the who, what, and where behind the person I am today. It was messy too. I can tell you as 19 year old I didn’t go into special forces training expecting to get a existential lesson on freedom. Truthfully my plan was real fucking simple. I’d become a globe trotting super hero and hopefully later an astronaut. Zero jokes here folks. But a lesson on freedom is what I got.
When you check into BUD/s training there’s the Creature From The Black Lagoon and a sign that reads, “the only easy day was yesterday.” It took me 10 years or so after quitting to realize that sign wasn’t only about BUD/s training. It’s also a reference to life. There is no easy way. There is only freedom, and whether we get a good spin or bad, we all will ultimately will have to learn how to transform our struggle to understand how to use it. Personally I think the day we understand what to do with our freedom is the day the real adventure starts. Life is a school that rewards mastery it seems.
He’s prolific, and writing daily. So if you’re looking for warrior wisdom, John’s got a solid but approachable take.
Ok, that’s a wrap. Stay true in the meantime folks,