It was a shattering blow to my ego, that I had built around the idea of being a statistic to keep enemies away. I was already suffering from losing a long-term relationship, and worried for my grandfather, and then, my entire identity came crashing down with those towers. I still have trouble typing it out today, over five years later. I can not watch the videos of those buildings burning without crying, but neither can I turn away, nor would I want to.
Numbness was the only thing that I could feel for a while after that. Fortunately, when I checked in with my unit, they allowed me to stay on leave, because there was nothing that they could do, except to sit for days watching the news together, just as most of America was doing in their own homes. I don't know what would have been different, had I been with my unit on that day, but I can clearly picture all of the soldiers I had come to know sitting around a TV, some in tears, some too shocked to move, all of them feeling the same sense of failure and impotence, from the newest private to the oldest sergeant, with the commander in his office because he can't be seen as week in front of his soldiers.
Eventually, life went back to normal, but still with a hollow spot in the background. Days, then weeks, then months passed. A year passed, then another two months until something else important happened in my life.
On Thanksgiving Day, 2002, I was out helping to train an infantry unit, and we had gotten the day off. I pulled out my trusty calling card, and dialed my sister's number. I learned that she had a new roommate, who happened to be single. I didn't talk to her roommate on the phone, but we did talk over IM that night, and several nights after. We first met at the end of January, and hit it off immediately. I took leave again after that, and decided to propose in February. We had planned on having a long betrothal, but that went out the window in April, and I was married to Trina on the 20th of that month.
One of the first big changes that she brought out in me, is that she got me to quit drinking. She also taught me how to dress, since I was too geeky to learn that skill. At the end of our first year together, I thought that she was perfect.
The end of my four year enlistment was coming up, so my wife and I decided to re-enlist. One year after re-enlisting, though, my almost daily running caught up with me, and my hip gave out. I had a choice of either having surgery at the hands of an inexperienced surgeon, or take an honorable discharge. Obviously, since I can't run, and I'm now a veteran, I chose to take the discharge.
We moved back in with my sister, and I started school. With my new-found discipline, and a wonderful wife supporting me, I began to work at Sam's Club, first cleaning toilets, then as a nighttime stocker. We lived about a half hour drive from the town where I worked and went to school, so for a long time, I had the schedule of waking at 8pm, working until 5:30am, sleeping in my car at my school until 8:30, learning until 2pm, then going home to repeat the cycle.
Eventually, I was fired because a pallet full of merchandise was mis-marked, poorly wrapped, and crumbled under its own weight. Unfortunately, I was the fork lift driver, so despite never having touched any of that merchandise, I was held accountable.
After that, I still thought that my wife was perfect, but I was astounded at how much more perfect she was then, compared to how much I thought she was perfect at the end of the first year.
I found Steve's site shortly after being fired, and started reading avidly. When I read about finding a life purpose, I tried the methods, but I just couldn't find something, so I put it out of my mind. I'd try again a few times, but without any success. Finally, as the five year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 came up, I remembered that hollow spot I had been hiding, and it gave me the clue to my purpose: Peace.
Now, I am living my purpose, helping people to find peace in every way imaginable, including participating in this forum and keeping my own blog. My life has improved dramatically, as I'm now teaching, and my wife is absolutely perfect, even more perfect than I could have ever have imagined before.
Alright, I've shown you mine, now you show me yours.