I have heard people say that “Life is a School,” and I’ve often used that analogy myself to explain the tests and hard lessons that it obviously contains. You know, we do go through various stages as we move through the age categories and our responsibilities grow so much more difficult to maintain. But then, our experience and maturity should be developing, as well; so that the senior class is much more equipped and expected to succeed than the poor little freshmen, just out of junior high. Nothing wrong with that analogy.
But, let’s look at life as if it’s a Boot Camp; which in actual fact, does become the destination for a certain number of graduates down here in our real life. Since my only impression of boot camp comes from movies, (G.I. Jane among them), I’m sure that many of you soldiers can fill in this comparison well beyond the surface that I’m going to offer here. Life, school, and military training are similar, in that they all offer a linear time period, filled with certain requirements, that we must successfully master in order to progress.
However, life’s Campus/Base is an invisible one, so that, quite frequently, its enrollees don’t even know there’s a program. Things are really subtle around here. Where’s the teacher carefully explaining the material and holding our feet to the fire with tests and grades? Where’s the drill sargeant barking in our face, day and night, ruling over us and leaving no freedom (or necessity) for personal choice? Where are the Rules? Where are the Rewards? Where’s the wipeout? How about medals? Glory, guts, graduation? Time out? Spring Break? R&R?
Life just goes on and on, often un-dramatically. Is anybody watching? Does anybody care? Some people are breezing through, as if they’re on a green, leafy campus with classes of their choosing; while others are slogging through mountains wearing heavy packs, or dodging bullets on their belly in the mud. And they might even live right in the same town. Might be next door neighbors…except, one has a safe, thirty-year mortgage and a good job; and the other faces homelessness when the bank forecloses.
And that’s just a snapshot of the moment, not their whole life’s story. Who knows, maybe the one emerges from that period with a four-year-degree in Fine Arts, but no job skills; and the other comes out as a Green Beret or a Navy Seal. It’s happening all the time, all around us, and who can say what the end result will be?
However, let’s follow the boot camp idea for awhile: In the Real Man’s Army, you would have a drill sergeant bellowing orders, commanding your every action and pushing you to limits you never imagined achieving. He’s on your case; he knows what he’s doing; and is determined to get you there even if you hate him for it. Unless you wash out, he will hone you to your highest potential.
In real life, you have no drill sergeant dedicated to the task of transforming you to be all you can be. No one is on your back, taking the guesswork out of life. You must be your own taskmaster. Therefore, you might doubt that this analogy is the case. In the real Army, there are obstacle courses, which look exactly like what they are: mud, barbed wire, high fences, rope walks, mountain passes, booby traps, mazes and ambushes. You know to be on your guard and keep all senses alert. You know that you must draw upon your hidden reserves.
Life has things like that, too; but many times, innocent-looking, easy places pose the most challenging obstacles where the dangers are far more subtle. When nobody kicks you out of rec’ rooms; makes you stop wasting time; keeps you on-track…you often tend to just sleep-in or get drunker and drunker.
A boot camp is short and intense. You either make it or you don’t. Life, itself, is generally long and tiresome. The goals are not so clear, and once achieved, don’t always remain so. Possibly, he who becomes wealthy is actually wiping out; and he who plugs diligently along at a simple craft, is actually making it through. Again, no drill sergeant, no scoreboard. But, plenty of obstacles.
However, if we can consciously grasp and hold onto the Boot Camp Analogy during this long and often tedious course that we’ve all landed in; perhaps we can develop a sort of drill sergeant philosophy about getting ourselves through it in one piece as a survivor of the inevitable obstacles; applauding ourselves for remaining on our own two feet and still in the game, with a pretty good chance of graduating successfully. All it takes is knowing the ropes!
Good luck, everybody!