Yesterday was Veteran’s Day and I wrote about being in the service and what it all means. I made mention of second guessing myself, as everyone who ever enlisted has likely done. There is a lot to go into that decision and I talk with young people all the time about whether they should or should not enter military service.
One of the main reasons pilots shy away from flying in the Air Force, Navy, or Marines is the commitment they must agree to in order to fly. It is a seven year obligation after receiving their wings.
That is a long time.
After flight training, specialized training, and time waiting between schools, most young officers will reach the 10 year mark in repaying their pledge. After reaching that point, they might as well stay another 10 years for retirement.
For a young person eager to get on with their life, that is a long time. But then again, what that young person lacks is perspective.
There are a few things about getting old which are wonderful. Gaining perspective is probably the best.
A twenty-something looking forward to their career looks at a ten year commitment in a completely different light than a fifty-something individual. For someone who is 21 or 22, a decade is fully one-half of their lifetime. They comprehend 10 years in that light – half of their lives.
For someone in their 50s, however, a decade is only 20 percent of their time on the earth. Ten years is only one-fifth of their total time alive as compared to one-half for the young person. For those of us over 50, we can look back with perspective over our lives. We know how short 10 years is in reality with the experience of have lived five or more decades.
The young do not have advantage of this perspective. Yet. Eventually, they will . . . down the road.
And here are the really hard and important lessons of perspective.
When you finally gain perspective, when you can look back on decades instead of just years, are you going to have regrets? Or will you be content?
There are some things, such as flying jet fighters, you can only do when you are young. You get the chance only once and then the opportunity is gone forever. If you don’t take it, you might regret it later in life.
Trust me, trust my friends in my year group – ten years is nothing.
From the perspective of where I sit now, I look back on all the things I did in the military, all the people I knew and worked with, the jets I flew, the places to which I traveled, and I am content. And I would do it the same all over again.
In a heartbeat.
© 2010 J. Clark