Sunday, April 29, 2012

Springtime Struggles

I don't like to do this, and don't do it often, but for the sake of giving an honest and full picture of my experiences as an immigrant soldier, I've decided to devote this post to what is mostly a vent. To say that everything is fine and dandy all the time would just be lying, so here's a bit on when the goings get tough.

April was not an easy month.  While it is usually a month that signifies at least two nights of full out family bonding in the form of Liben Passover Seders, I will remember April 2012 for a while as a month of many personal trials, tribulations, and failures -- with some really cool things sprinkled in on the side.  This pesach was such a difficult one for me because it was smack in the middle of my advanced training stage.  The weather went from pretty rainy/dreadful to beautiful overnight, but then again overnight from beautiful to super hot.  Hot weather, tougher assignments and drills, increasingly difficult workouts and runs all took their tolls on my body.  While I spent 4 months of basic training working off 5 years of beer and library induced physical rust and building myself basically from scratch, advanced training has not been particularly kind.  So although I am in much much better shape than when I enlisted just over 5 (!) months ago, the ratcheting up of things hit me quick and hard.  Notable examples include me still not having passed the obstacle course test in the required time of 9:30, me sweating more than all other 119 guys in my section and dealing with those bodily ramifications (needing to drink insane amounts of water, eat more salts, bring more spare clothes than everyone else, and apply gold bond literally everywhere), adjusting to walking/running/drilling with a heavy travel pack on my back in addition to my vest, and a combination of all of these factors gelling at once and causing my  body to completely break down during a trek so that I actually had to pull out after 12k (out of 40).  This last one really got me down because until that point treks had been a strong point of mine and instead of getting pumped up about what I've been doing and spending time with my family in Elwin, I was straight out failing one physical challenge after another.

I completely understand that one doesn't necessarily just succeed in a new environment so radically different than anything ever experienced before, and that is why I gave myself the adjustment period of 4 months of what I would call the very humbling era known as basic training.  But I did not account for such physical obstacles.  In other words, the physical pains were starting to affect my otherwise positive aura and prevent me from developing the other aspects of my military training/experience (leadership, language, professionalism etc.).  This was incredibly tough for me because I set high standards for myself in general, and especially for things that entail life altering decisions.  It is how I have led my life since the beginning of college, it is how I got myself into an elite unit in the Israeli army, and to not succeed with flying colors after 5 months of working myself into the system gets downright frustrating.

The physical affecting the mental is the lead in to what was Pesach 2012.  I think it was the first time that I really really missed the States.  It was totally the double whammy of not being in Natick with my siblings and parents and niece and nephews and then actually seeing my best friend since pre school and his family for a tease of a few days that did it.  To be struggling at your job, to not be with your family at an event when it has been a yearly highlight and fixture since childhood, to see a best friend come and go with the snap of a finger -- well hey man when those things all coalesce it can really depress you for a minute or two.  And it definitely brought me down.

But let's get real here, this post isn't really only a vent.  That's not who I am, and hopefully my readers (all three of them) know well that I am much more of a Peggy than a Debby.  So a couple of weeks ago when it was 7am, we had been awake for 2 hours and were walking several K with those huge packs that break your back without having eaten anything for breakfast, I was swearing off everyone and everything I could think of in my head.  It was literally just one of those mornings where I could find nothing good to think of.  And then we arrived at the main bivouac, ate a quick can of tuna, and sprinted onto helicopters.  Yep, we flew in a chopper, and I went from near tears to huge smiles.  There's always a light at the end of the tunnel, always something cool or important or meaningful, or maybe even just a tiny thing to you can take away and learn.  I have since made up the 40k trek (ok fine it was 39 but who's counting) and seen my big brother Micah -- here on a visit with his day schoolers; both things which improved my spirits invariably, especially seeing Micah.  I have a brutal month coming up, but it doesn't really matter.  My body will continue to go through insane cycles of blood, sweat, pain, and tears through the rest of my service, and it is really up to me to handle it in the best way I can: with a positive attitude and a determined will to succeed.  Nobody said it was gonna be easy, right?

Now, if only I could pass this damn obstacle course....


  1. You should know that you have more than three readers. :) Keep at it, buddy!

    – A

  2. Hang in there, Jonah! Reader #4

  3. Hang in there Jo and thanks for sharing. Thinking about you often!

  4. You're an inspiration, Jonah, be'emet. Keep it up, you're a champ.

    And good luck with that obstacle course!

  5. Your hard work and dedication will (and already is) show results. I wish you all the best at your new שלב in beit leed!