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Memory Lane

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link   All Posts
 Jessie Lukasik Well, would you look at that – it’s finally Spring! The equinox was yesterday, and happily enough we’re starting to feel the season in the air. No more grimacing every time you walk outside from the below-freezing temperatures; no more feeling totally drained from a two-minute walk from Chase to Satterlee because the wind is forcing you backwards every step. Dare I say it…? It’s getting nice outside!

And, since it’s such beautiful walking weather, I think it’s time for a nice stroll down Memory Lane. (Oh yes, I’m going to have a bit too much fun with this metaphor!) Brace yourselves; this could get a little cheesy…

One year ago to the day, on Sunday, March 21, 2010, I signed the form accepting my appointment to USCGA, effectively saying “Yes, I am ready to give the next nine years of my life to the Coast Guard and my country.” Quite a heavy statement to put into one quick signature on an unassuming-looking paper document. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time – and I realized at the time that I had no idea what I was getting into. But oddly enough, I was ok with that.

It was an abrupt decision, accepting my appointment. I think it may have surprised my family and friends even more than my decision to apply to the Academy in the first place. I didn’t make much show of weighing the pros and cons of going military before picking my path – that dialogue was mostly internal. To everyone I knew it looked like I left for a long weekend with no particular inclination as to where I would go to college and returned on Monday having signed up with the U.S. military. Talk about doing a 180 on people!

I applied to under Early Action, received a conditional appointment in December, and got my medical clearance in early February. I toured as a “bean sprout” at the very end of February – but I reserved judgment. I’d applied to a number of Ivies, and they wouldn’t send out their decisions until May. Don’t get me wrong – I loved what I saw at the Academy. But how could I know if I would love it just as much if I were accepted to Harvard, or Columbia? I thought I’d wait until I had all my options before me so I could make a good, logical decision.

But in the end, what fun is logic? As much as you sit and stress and strain while you work a decision over in your head, sometimes all it does is give you a migraine. I know we’ve got a lot of super-scholars looking into the Academy – I’ve walked that line myself. You want to reason out a concrete, “best” decision; you want to find the “perfect” choice; you want a “right answer”…

When it comes to decisions like college, however – especially if you’re considering making that jump from the civilian to the military world – there isn’t a right answer. Terrifying, right? There’s no instant validation of your choice – only time can tell you if you chose right, chose wrong, or something in between. You have to intuit. And eventually, you have to stop debating, stop agonizing, and just make a choice.

Uh oh…looks like Memory Lane is taking a pretty convoluted path right now. I’m getting lost in reminiscence. Let me get back on a more narrative track…

I mentioned that I left on a long weekend and came back with a firm decision to come to the Academy. Here’s some fun irony: that long weekend I spent on a Caribbean cruise. Yes – I made my decision to join the Coast Guard from the deck of a Carnival cruise ship. Not quite what you’d call “salty,” but it’s fitting enough…

I was sitting on the porch as we pulled into the Bahamas, just watching the hustle-and-bustle down in the port as we prepared to dock. And what do you know, if we didn’t pass a Coast Guard vessel. Of course, my eyes went straight to it…and I got the strangest sensation…

I unexpectedly found myself wishing I could switch ships – stop lazing about on a cruise and join the Coast Guard crew I saw working so diligently beside us. I always get a little restless on vacation (maybe I’ve mentioned I’m a little hyperactive…) The thought of working on the water, always being on the go, off to some new adventure every moment, and doing something beneficial to humanity, suddenly looked very romantic, very noble, and very appealing.

When my family joined me out on the porch, I announced that I no longer cared to hear if Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Vanderbilt, or any such “name” schools wanted me – it was of no consequence. I was going to the United States Coast Guard Academy, and that was that. Two days later, I signed the acceptance form and mailed it off, “sealing my fate” in a little white envelope. And you know what? I couldn’t have been more certain that I had found “the right answer” to my college dilemma.

I guess that little Memory Lane stroll turned into more of long trek! All I’m trying to get at through this little nostalgia trip is this: sometimes it’s best not to over think your actions, or your decisions, even the big ones. I spent 18 years of my life stuck in Georgia trying to plan out how to have some adventure in my life. Yet all the thinking and planning in the world couldn’t have given me half the adventure that I’ve found here at the Academy already. I’m glad I took that leap of faith. I’m glad I stopped “reasoning” and just did what felt right. I’m glad I am where I am.

More about Jessie.