Big Endings

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Even the beefiest chapters eventually have to end, both in writing and in life.

This past week, I signed my name on the bottom of my DD-214 and walked off my ship for the very last time. So many thoughts have been fighting for supremacy in my head, but it is impossible to define the experience in terms of any one.

Wearing this for the very last time.

My military career began, in a way, ten years ago. I admitted to my parents that I was interested in enlisting in the military. This was somewhat of a shock to everyone, who had no idea that bookish, delicate Nora had been harboring these ideas. It was kind of a pipe dream, though, and I figured I wasn’t really cut out for it—I couldn’t do a single push-up, after all. But my parents encouraged me that if I really wanted to, I could try. And so I researched my options, decided on the Navy, and waited impatiently for my 17th birthday so I could enlist.

My dad had some other ideas. He was much more in favor of the whole idea than my mom, but he envisioned me as an officer. That was completely different than my plan of doing one enlistment and then going to college. I wasn’t feeling ready yet to go to college. I was a stellar student, but I was still struggling with the idea of what I wanted to do. Plus I hate telling people what to do! But my dad wanted me to at least look into it, and so I scheduled an interview with the ROTC recruiter. I was offered an on-the-spot scholarship from him, and I began to revise my plans. Maybe I could go to college first. Being an officer would definitely have perks and better prepare me for life afterwards (I had dreams of a political career at that point). I applied to colleges and picked out Boston University.

At the same time, I had a friend who was applying to service academies. He teased me about “only” doing ROTC, so I applied to USNA to prove that I could get in. I was accepted, but I still planned on doing ROTC. Except there was a hiccup with my paperwork, and I ended up on the waitlist for BU’s ROTC unit. I remember sitting on the stairs of my house, crying. My life was over. I had no options. I wasn’t cut out for USNA. But my dad talked me down, encouraged me that I could do it, and I sent in my acceptance to USNA. (About a week before I was to report, I got notified that the issue had been resolved and there was room for me at BU’s unit. Too late!)

On June 29, 2005, I stood in the hot sun of Tecumseh Court and swore in to the United States Navy as a Midshipman. I was 17 years old.

Now, 9 years later, my service is completed. I’m 26 and still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up (politics is definitely out!). It’s scary, standing on the edge of a whole new chapter. Staring at a blank page of life, hoping I’ll find the right way to fill it up. But there must be new chapters, and my book is far from done.

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