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Welcome Back: Academy Style

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link   All Posts
 Stephen Nolan I’m back. I must admit that when I first drove back through those gates in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. You see, as much as I love this place…. It still stinks to be here. I’ve always said that every person who goes to this Academy has to be a bit of a masochist and a bit of a sadist: a masochist because they chose to come to this life of hardship, of late nights, of early mornings, of hard work, and of seemingly impossible tasks and a sadist because two years into it, you’re going to be inflicting the pains that you just felt during swab summer, on someone else. Right now I’m definitely playing the part of a masochist. I hate that morning alarm clock more than anything else I can conceive.

It is so awful to be here some days, so why do I stay? I know you must be asking this because I’ve asked myself the same thing many times. Why do I stay? Is it for the glory or some self-serving pride? Trust me if it were only for that, I would have left here about an hour after stepping into Chase Hall. Is it people’s expectations of me? To be honest, that does somewhat affect me. That’s what kept me going through most of Swab Summer. Every time I thought about quitting what kept me from doing it was the thought of having to go back and face the people who wished me all the luck in the world as I left, and told me I would do a wonderful job. Without that subtle coercion at the beginning, I wouldn’t be here right now. At this point in time however, I no longer feel that those pressures are a driving force.

So what’s left? Why do I stay in this place that some days feels like my own personal Hades? The answer is really quite simple. I stay for two reasons: my shipmates and the days that don’t stink . My shipmates are the most important thing here. My friends are literally my life. Everything I do, I do for them. You realize that it’s a different type of friendship you develop here than ones you’re used to. Not to say that my old friends aren’t wonderful: they are, in every sense of the word, but as my father once put it: “nothing bonds people together like a common misery.” After enduring the “common misery” of Swab Summer and the academic swab year , there is a connection here that no one who hasn’t been in the military can fathom. My shipmates and I are held together by the common bond of having survived a hellish summer, and by the bond of striving to survive a hellish freshman year.

The days here are harder than any I’ve ever experienced before. They’re tougher, they’re longer, and sometimes they’re nigh impossible. Trying to cram twenty-six hours worth of activities into a twenty-four hour period isn’t always easy. Yet, despite how horrific it sounds, there are days where this place is amazing. The hard workload makes you appreciate the rare days when you have nothing to do during study hour. Nothing is more therapeutic than the wind in your face as you race around the Thames on a Colgate, and nothing more liberating than going out on liberty for an hour or two. These little things, so underappreciated in the so-called “real world” are the reasons why we stay. As sad as it may sound… these tiny things, heightened in their importance by the onslaught of other, more oppressive tasks, are the reason that some days seem almost… heavenly.

My friends, my shipmates, and those very rare, once in a semester days where all seems right with the world: That’s the true reason I stay here. Another semester is about to begin; and once again I will attempt to immerse myself in a culture that is slightly less foreign than it was a scant six months ago. I will continue on this 200 week journey that is the Academy, and pray that this semester flies by as quickly as the last one.

More about Stephen.