One fall morning, I skipped up the steps and down the gilded halls of academia to my first class of the day for the semester. As I rounded my way into the class room, I was almost knocked down on my ass by an invisible uppercut to the chin called yoga pants. Yes, you know what I’m talking about. I graduated high school in 2002 and went straight into the Army, into a very different world than the one my peers flailed around in back on civvie street. When I left the Army and started college in 2010, I found that America had become a very different place. That, or I had been very naive all along. Men now wore tight jeans. Gay black guys are now socially acceptable. Teenage girls now wear transparent yoga pants.
When you go to professional-development courses in the Army such as PLDC (now the Warrior’s Leadership Course, whatever the hell that means) or BNOC, they teach you that all of your briefings have to begin with a motivator. This is your motivator. But when a Ranger goes to college…
As I walked into my class, a nubile 18-year-old freshmen was sitting back on her chair with one leg propped up, the heel of her sneaker up on the chair next to her. The yoga pants she wore were pulling extra-duty, the fabric stretched to the max and leaving nothing to the imagination. I stood in the doorway, my mind taking a second to realize what I had been unintentionally looking at.
Now, this may motivate some of you young bucks, but as a 30-year-old father, it just made me feel like a dirty old man.
I ETSed out of the Army very frustrated with what I felt was the Army’s unwillingness to win wars. My plan was to go to Burma and link up with the Karen rebels or with Christian freedom fighters in Sudan. I figured that I would just keep on doing the Special Forces mission but on my own terms, or as Jim Morris would say, write my own foreign policy. However, life events conspired against me and plans changed. The potential plans I had on the back burner for college also…burned out.
I had planned on using my GI Bill at some point to go to college abroad, and was looking at an international-affairs degree at a school in London. I scouted out the school, met with the administrators, and got the school accredited with VA so they would pay my tuition. Then came the bad news. The post-9/11 GI Bill provided a housing allowance, but when you go to school abroad, that housing allowance is based on a U.S. national housing cost average. Back in 2010, that was something like $650 a month, which won’t take you far in London. Compare that to a $2,700 (later raised to $3,100) stipend if you go to college in New York City.
So London was out. I was vigorously playing video games in my mom’s basement (not an exaggeration) and decided I better hurry up and find a place to start college in the fall. I registered with Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and eventually moved into an apartment in my hometown, Tarrytown. Mercy was one step above a community college and aside from business statistics, the classes were easy. I wrote a novel that first year of school just for something to do.
While in my freshmen year, I knew that I should shoot a little higher and applied to transfer to Columbia University. Mercy had its upside. There was some immaturity with the students, but most of the teachers seemed to enjoy their work and there were a lot of blue-collar kids there who were serious about their studies. It was actually my fellow veterans that I came to despise the most. It seemed that my band of brothers felt that their service entitled them to never have to work for anything ever again. They openly bragged about how to rip off Veterans Affairs with fake disabilities.
One of them asked what my rating was, and I told him I didn’t have one. “That’s bullshit man. Look, just go and tell VA that your penis doesn’t work because you’re traumatized. There is nothing they can do to test for that.” Aside from being disgusted with this type of fraud, there was a more pragmatic complication. “Uh, you know my wife is like six months pregnant?”
The best professor I had at Mercy was a dude named Dr. Leahy. He was a medievalist, a historian who taught Western history. Truth be told, he was the best professor I had in college. Period. This guy knew his stuff. If you asked him an obscure question such as, “What was the role of the media in France in 1870?” he would respond immediately with a three-part answer.
You couldn’t get anything past this dude. He also told the young students in his class what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. He was a realist and told them that they needed to think about in regards to where they were going in life. He said that not studying and getting bad grades was actually a form of self-hatred.
Anyway, with a letter of recommendation from Dr. Leahy and several other professors, I transferred to Columbia the next year and entered into a whole other bizzaro world where nothing made any damn sense…
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