Saturday, June 1, 2013


My little sister is a special kid. She's super smart and she just graduated from her high school with honors and basically a huge sack of money for college. She's interested in journalism and humanitarian work. I always figured she would end up working for a non-profit somewhere or making a career out of writing news stories about far away places and people. I guess I'd had it all figured out. We both come from an artistic family, I figured she'd follow a path not unlike the one I'd chosen.

In a lot of ways, she's been reminding me of Jake Sisko lately. And I've realized that I'm more like Benjamin than I want to realize. Ben had similar expectations about his son. He subtly pushes Jake toward the sciences while Jake's off secretly writing poetry. Ben sets Jake up with a mentorship with Obrien so he can have an early start on the Starfleet entrance exams. Then, all the sudden, Jake says he's actually not going into Starfleet. He's going to be a writer. Benjamin's reaction is pretty much, "Ummm. No."

So when my sister let me know that she had been offered two options: a full scholarship to a prestigious liberal arts college or a full scholarship through the Navy's ROTC program and that she was leaning toward the latter, I pretty much had the exact same reaction as Jake's dad, "Ummm. No."

To be clear, I have absolutely nothing against the military or our service members. I do, however, think that committing oneself to years of military service takes a certain personality which I didn't (and still don't) believe my sister has. I think the military can be an amazing way to put oneself on a specific career trajectory but I couldn't see the link between my sister's ambition and that of the Navy. I spent weeks trying to understand her motivation. I worried. I cried. I worried some more. I saw a Navy ROTC girl working out at the local college gym and cried again. I pictured my sister on the other side of the world, unable to come home when she needed to. I pictured her dead.

Of course I realize that she could die commuting to college, she could get stuck on a study abroad semester and be unable to come home, she could hate every minute of a private liberal arts education. The point is, I'd spent years preparing for those worst case scenarios but I never spent time considering that she might go into the Navy. Suddenly I was bombarded by new and terrible scenarios, by things I remembered from my childhood, by things that made me sad and angry and scared. In the end, though, I had to let her go. I had to let her make her own choices. Like Jake, she's got to figure out her own path and all I can do, like Benjamin, is try to be there for her.

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