Observations from some recent barroom conversations:
There are times when a notable and legitimate difference is exploited to absurdity and when a fact is given more of a nod than it perhaps deserves. We, “those veterans,” from whom entirely too much is expected or nothing at all (never just the right amount, it seems). “No, no; you deserve a break. You just go ahead and enjoy yourself for a while.” Really? Two years? Five? At what point are we rehabilitated?
When do you expect us to look and act productive? When do you want us to work again? How much failure in schooling is permissible on account of our “war experiences?” How long are we permitted to not dress up EVER and not shave our ratty facial hair that we only grew out because the military wouldn’t let us while we were in? When is that being ignorant and rebellious and when is it capitalizing on your simply giving us permission? When does it indicate a genuine problem? We don’t know and I don’t know, and nor do I want to, actually, because it might require a lifestyle change I am currently unwilling to make. Where we are now is easy. Well, not really. But it’s EASIER than what might otherwise be asked of us.
So hooray for us and for being stupid and having annoying laughs and speaking too loudly and for pretending to have a good reason for acting out when in reality we don’t and should be the somberest of upright citizens. But God knows we’re not. Expectations of and for us are low, including our own of ourselves. “We’re screwed up, many of us, so it’s okay that I am too.” Really? Or is it more of an excuse to just never move beyond something that only lasted a matter of moments, changed us forever, but really doesn’t prevent at least a halfway successful return to normal life?
We’ll drink to us and for us and with just us, though our reasons are probably the worst to be had. But everybody expects us to do this. We’ll spend the next forty-five years in a veterans’ bar talking about the good old days that really weren’t all the good but, like almost all traumas and ours all the more, they arrested our development, maturity, or growth, killed something, birthed something else, and presented the vast majority of us a long life to try to figure it out. I don’t think we do so well. Maybe that’s our truly legitimate excuse. Or maybe it’s hot air that people with lots of letters after their names told us and we bought it because it was license. And it’s a license for a LOT…
But I want to know how much is permissible. When does this have to stop? When SHOULD it stop? When are we no longer allowed to be “losers” and on hiatus and hold a regular job and hate it? And that’s the problem, at any rate. We WILL hate it. We can’t do this, or at least not right now. We are smart, I guess, and studied a lot and passed a lot of tests and received degrees and various things, so it’s not for lack of ability. It’s for lack of interest. We don’t want to. Not now, that is. Did “the war” do this to us? Does it matter? Does anybody care? Are we more likely to get away with it if people think it’s a consequence of the war? If so, then that’s what we’ll say. But then again, we’re utilizing an excuse here, not following our own intuition, whatever the hell it’s saying. I try not to think about it.
Yeah, we’re different, and in reality, most of us like it. But what’s unclear is if it’s really a pronounced difference or we’re just exploiting people’s typically low expectations of us. Now, if people expected more we’d hate them for it but maybe that’s what we need. Hard to say. Again, I try not to think about it.
At the heart of the matter is this: everybody is okay with us, where we are, and what we’re doing…except for us. Why? After living with grand and noble purpose have we now utterly lost it? Who told us something stupid that we believed? Who are we mirroring our lives against and judging ourselves so harshly? We are our own worst critics of our decisions and our way of life and our behavior and laziness, and our evaluation continues to yield one word consistently: fail.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
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