You wake up at 8 a.m. You get ready for work, you grip the steering wheel and yawn into your coffee cup. You shuffle through papers at your desk and you look out the window at the world shuffling through people on the sidewalk. You come home and maybe there’s food waiting for you, maybe there’s a dog happy that you’re home, maybe not. You watch the television and dive into an emotionally charged series with dragons and empires, or hackers and revolutions. But you pay no mind–the show is interesting, but it’s not real life. Those are other worlds.

This is real life:

You wake up at 8 a.m. the next morning. You put on the tie or the hard-hat and you yawn into your coffee cup. You grind it out. Every day you grind it out and every day it’s the same.

You remember the old days. Maybe you talk about them with your friends over beers, maybe with your wife as she cycles through titles on TV to figure out what to watch next. You speak of days that, for some reason, just matter more than the days do now. If you were to hold them side by side, those old days would be so much bigger than the small days defined by that daily, repetitive grind.

Oh man. Those were the days when you held a rifle in your hand and dirt was embedded into your palms. Those were the days when you pushed your body and your spirit to the edge, and perhaps even a little further. They were the days of blood and tears, and the days when you realized the value of values themselves–loyalty, patriotism, brotherhood.

You wake up at 8 a.m. the next morning. You grip the steering wheel and yawn into your coffee cup. You listen to your boss, maybe he’s talking about church or maybe he’s talking about how many chicks he’s banged in the last month. Both seem to believe in their causes just the same. You come home and think of the good old days. Maybe your wife finds something on TV, or maybe you find it yourself as your dog sits next to you and peers out the window into the daylight as it drifts away.

You watch the television as the main character is pushed to the brink of his own existence, and just for a moment, he screams. He lets it out, just for a second. He’s in a war, be it a war with the evil forces in the world or a war with himself. He’s been beaten, scarred, battered and shamed. Maybe he’s seen thousands killed or maybe his mind has been twisted beyond recognition. He’s had a harder life than anyone you’ve ever met.

And a part of you envies him.

Nothing is good about this character’s life, but he’s alive–really alive. You yearn for that connection to life again, anything to sharpen the dullness of the slow ebbing away of your soul. Shoot me in the chest or just leave me alone, you say, why do you have to gnaw just a little piece away every day? You so desperately want to connect to those emotions, to things that actually matter. But that life? It only seems to leave when you find the freedom and comfort you so desperately fought for. That fervor and insatiable appetite for all that is good in life simply drifts away with the daylight as you rest your head and sleep in the arms of a comfortable America.

You used to think it was the line between life and death. That it was the adrenaline that kept you going, but that doesn’t sit quite right. You aren’t so interested in the action for action’s sake anymore. Or maybe you never really were. To be in the service of some great cause, some great machine that left its footprints in humanity’s path forward–that was the fuel that drove you. But you’re not there anymore. Those glory days are gone.

So you take a hard look at the world you’re in. And you decide: Maybe I won’t have a rifle in my hands and dirt embedded in my palms–maybe I’ll have a baby in my arms or a pen in my palm. But I will continue to serve, one way or another.


Featured image courtesy of DOD