I decided at age 20, with my two year degree in Commercial Art, that I was finished with college and set out to find a job in the art field. Success! After diligently looking for work and applying to the promising ones, I was offered a full time job as a layout artist for a local newspaper. Everything I did as part of the job was a learning experience. The more I did the better work I put out. But after a few years I felt restless and decided I needed a change and moved on to another job.
As I was getting settled into this new work environment I knew it was finally time to be on my own. A longtime friend and I decided the time was right and we became roommates in our very first apartment! This was a major milestone for me and I couldn’t have been happier.
My new job was as a package design artist and I learned on the job a very different and challenging style of artwork. After working up the design, I would take it off the drawing table, then set it up to photograph using a large mounted camera, and finally went behind the scenes to develop the film and prepare it for printing. Sometimes I was in the darkroom for hours which made stepping back into daylight feel like I was coming out of hibernation. But it was here, at this company, that I was faced with a profound change in my thinking that propelled me towards a new goal and a calling that I could not ignore.
My boss’ wife, Susan, had made a pretty impressive career for herself in the military or more specifically the Army Reserves. I found this out one day when she came into the office. I was totally surprised by this fact but it also had me curious as to the reason why? It was the late 70’s with the unpopular Vietnam War now over. Why did she feel the need to join up? I don’t remember asking her about it back then. Maybe I felt it was an invasion of privacy. I was shy, too. Her mannerisms were crisp and strong in the way she carried and projected herself. I admired her in many ways. One time we were all invited to a local social event. It was a Memorial Day weekend tribute of music, pomp and circumstance. Susan was the first one who literally jumped out of her seat to stand at attention and salute as the drums sounded and a group marched in holding the American flag. Then the rest of us stood as the Star Spangled Banner was played. I remember watching her as she proudly stood in dress uniform, and with the crowd sung the words. But mostly I remember, with a feeling of amazement and awe, was in the way she stood tall above everyone else.
Fast forward and here I was at the Army Reserves recruiting office filling out paperwork. What was it that brought me here?
In my restlessness of trying to find myself in my work and with who I really was, yet more importantly, who I wanted to be, I did not feel settled. I hadn’t travelled the world much at all and only knew my small corner in it. There was more out there and I was determined to find it. So, I began to question my life and the decisions that kept me here. Once again I left a good job to move on always looking for the ‘greener grass’ which was always on the other side. The other side of what was the question I didn’t know the answer to. But this time my restlessness had taken ahold of my life as new decisions were taking me to places I did not want to go. A boy, who I had known for a long time, and now dated, wanted to get married. I thought to myself, I’m too young to die. This was how I looked at it back then. He was settled. I was not.
Back at the recruiting office, I finished filling out all the information they needed and left with the time and date of my qualifying test as the first step into joining the Army Reserves. I needed and wanted to get out of Dodge in the worst way. This, I felt, was the way out. Finally, the day was here. My recruiter arrived at my apartment right on time for the drive to the test site in Chelsea, Massachusetts. This was my first big step. However, I was not quite ready to leave yet as I still needed to dry my hair and change my outfit for the third time. He waited patiently not saying a word. Looking back I realized my lack of being prepared was a sign. I was not ready. We finally left, needing to pick up two young men for the same test time. Zipping around picking up one boy then over to another town to pick up the other, I was suddenly aware the recruiter was trying to make up some time. I kicked myself for not being ready and for the angst it caused everyone when we finally rushed into the parking lot.
We were late. The testing had begun and the door was closed. Literally and figuratively the door remained closed. The others rescheduled their time to take the test. I did not. Today, that moment of my life nearly 40 years ago is still crystal clear. Had that door not been closed, who knows where my life would be today? I guess I needed to dare myself to do something so totally out of character and make an attempt to point my future in another direction.
I did marry the boy I dated who is my husband of 35 years. We have three beautiful daughters, unique unto their own dreams. They continue to forge their own lives through the ups and downs of living, learning and growing through their wants, needs and desires. One daughter, at an early age, heard her calling to join the military through no cajoling on my part. The Air Force was her one and only choice. She has added to the noble calling many of our family members took over the years in the conflicts that called them as they pledged their solemn oath for God and Country. Through the years we have supported the military. One significant way I hope to give back or pay it forward to the military is through my first published novel that was inspired by a young soldier and family friend. “Today is the Day” is fiction but it is ironic how current day threats now happening in this country were woven into the storyline. It was written well over two years ago.
Looking back to that pivotal moment so long ago when things could have gone the other way I sometimes think, ‘what if’?’ There are too many answers to that one question to play the “should have, would have, or could have” game. Should I have rescheduled the test? Would it have made the difference? Could I see it any other way? At the time, no, I couldn’t. I was caught up in the moment with a chance to make a life change. I did make an attempt, but fell short and then talked myself right out of pursuing it any further.
There are no regrets, only a look back to a moment of my life. Would I have done things differently? Absolutely or maybe not but one thing is certain there is always a reason things happen the way they do.
Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon
Debbie Curtin writes stories about people, places, events and other topics of interest that engage the reader. As a member of the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, Debbie keeps ‘in the game’ with other like minded people. She has been an artist and creative person all her life and uses the unlimited sources of inspiration that abound everywhere in her writing as another art form.