By Brandon Eddleman
“Don’t dwell on the past. Look to the future”, I’m sure at some point, in all of our lives, we’ve heard or said this very statement. Just move on. So simple to spout and, yet, so hard to live.
If you’re anything like me, when the chips are down and you’re feeling low, there’s nothing, quite like, a nice game of Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda to give yourself that nice little hit of dopamine to raise the ol’ spirits.
When I’m deep in the throes of these fantasy mental masturbation sessions, I find myself circling back to one moment in time. A moment that would have changed everything in my life. A moment where had I chosen differently, I would not be the person I am today. I like to think, I would be a much better person, had the choice gone the other way.
About ten years ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to be a Green Beret. I obsessed over it. I consumed every bit of media available to me. I bought every book. I talked to every person I had ever known that had ever been in any branch of the military. I was given good advice by those that cared, and I was given bad advice by those that didn’t know. I tried to conjure every ounce of knowledge I could to make an informed decision, but I had one issue. I had competing desires.
I was twenty-eight years old, at the time, and I had been working, slowly but surely, on my college degree for the better part of a decade. I wanted to finish, and I wanted to finish bad. Which did I want more? That was the question.
The thought of waiting several more years, until after special forces training was complete, to finish college was gut wrenching for me. Thinking I had no other alternative, I was ready to just bite the bullet, take the 18 X-ray contract, and do what I had to do, and then, I discovered something that would change everything.
National Guard Special Forces! Where have you been all my life? I could finish school and tryout for the Green Berets. Win-win, right? I thought so too. So, that’s what I did. That was the choice, right there.
My critical error. I joined the National Guard, served 8 unspectacular years in a conventional unit, got my college degree, and got out at thirty-six years old having never once even tried to attend a Special Forces Readiness Evaluation.
Now, here I sit, looking into my screen, a thirty-seven-year-old out of shape never-was, but by God, I got that degree. In my “if I had to do it all over again” fantasies, I would have taken that 18 X-ray active duty contract and never looked back.
Sure, I might not have made it. That’s always a possibility, but the ache that comes from failure is nothing compared to the agony that comes from never even trying. I think about that decision every single day. Where would I be right now? What would have I accomplished? What kind of man would I be?
If there is one thing to take away from this whole situation it’s this, if you want to accomplish anything great, you must have a single-minded passion. You can’t be split in your commitment. Give it everything, or don’t give it anything.
So, that was it. In hindsight, that is my biggest regret, but you know what they say about hindsight.
Brandon is an Operations Supervisor in Portland, Oregon, working towards his MBA.