Not sure how to tell my dad I want to join the army.
September 18, 2013 9:01 PM   Subscribe

My dad paid for 200k worth of schooling for me, i got a BA in Economics from a good school, went on to do some independent film production, quit my job with my boss 6 months ago, finally saw the last film I helped produce premiere at TIFF, and I've been re-evaluating what I want to do with my life. (Currently 24.5 years old.) I want to join the Army and become a Ranger, like my uncle (who my dad despises) but I don't know how to go about telling my dad.

I think his reaction would be shock, skepticism, a little pride, but I think more than anything I would be disappointing him... He thinks very highly of me as an intellectual and I think he would see this as a foolish use of my mind and ability, and I'm not sure it is profitable enough for him to affirmatively say: good job son!

This is leading me to doubt whether this is actually a path I want to pursue if my dad will not support it, the decision to join the Army (at least as an Infantry soldier) is daunting enough, let alone with the prospect that my dad might live and die thinking that he wasted money and that I could have been so much more.

While I've been training hardcore, my dad has been urging me to look for a job, he really wants me to be a productive member of society and have a family, and rightfully so a job is a precursor to these things, but I haven't told him yet what I've really been up to.

I feel like that guy in Cool Runnings, except that I come from wealth. And that's the thing, is that my dad never expected me to pay him back or to be a millionaire. Coming from wealth can be pretty debilitating to the growth of an individual when everything is provided for and taken care of, down to a maid cleaning your room and making your bed everyday etc.

College was necessary for me to even become an adult in this regard, so the money was not necessarily wasted and I think he understands that. The disciplined, honorable, independent person I am today is only a result of those years...

But I don't know, this is a tight spot for me. I'm not really used to being this unsure about so much in my life.

Any advice is greatly appreciated...
posted by sawyerrrr to Human Relations (48 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why do you want to join the army?
posted by empath at 9:04 PM on September 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, you're an adult and you don't need your dad's approval to do anything. What are you hoping to get out of this from him? His approval? Be prepared for the possibility that he may not approve, and then go kick ass.

As for coming from wealth...don't let it bother you. If you go to Ranger school you'll just be one of the guys, and unless you volunteer the information, no one there will know anything about your privileged background.
posted by dfriedman at 9:05 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you were my son I would tell you to join the Air Force.

But as to telling your dad, part of being an adult is owning your own decisions.

As to your dad, he just doesn't want to see you come back in a flag draped box. We parents cannot help but feel that way.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:05 PM on September 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Whoa now, aren't you the same person who wrote this?

"...we aren't socially, creatively satisfied and doing some "analysis" or "innovation" or "problem solving". We also don't take well to being told what to do."

Guess what job involves a whole lot of being told what to do?
posted by Dansaman at 9:12 PM on September 18, 2013 [42 favorites]


"Dad, I want to thank you for the time and opportunities you have helped me with. Your encouragement has helped shape me into the man I am today. With that said though, I feel at 24, that I stand at a crossroads, able to appreciate the things that you have done, but feeling a great sense of debt to not only you but to my country too. Despite the successes that I have achieved, I feel as though I have a responsibility and a calling that I cannot ignore. I understand that you may believe that I am squandering the opportunities that you have tried to provide for me; however, this is such a strong compulsion that I need to address it. I am not going into this without a plan. This is not an effort to find myself. This an an effort to serve my country, something that I feel strongly about. My intentions are to enlist as an officer in the army. Ideally I would like to pursue the special forces, something which you know is an attainable goal for me. I know that this may seem to be a rash decision, but this sense of duty is something that I have bee struggling with since before I graduated from school. At this time, I think I need to see this through."

If this is not representative of how you feel, you may want to ask yourself why.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:16 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get the feeling you're throwing darts at different places career-wise and your latest dart just happened to land on "join the army". I remember the question you asked this past January and I'm honestly baffled by your desire to join a military operation when you specifically stated then that you don't like being told what to do and instead want work that allows you to analyze, innovate, and solve problems. That's not what the army or any branch of the military is about. You train, you do what you're told, and you try not to get killed. My guess is that when you tell your dad what you're thinking, he's going to express the same concern and confusion because your new goal is the antithesis of who you claim to be. How will you account for the change in MO so that you can really explain that to your dad when the time comes?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:18 PM on September 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


I want to join the Army and become a Ranger

Joining the Army is relatively easy, but before you make any decisions about how to tell your dad you might as well check and see if you would have any medical or other reasons that would disqualify you from joining before you go through with telling him.

Becoming a Ranger is going to be very difficult. Think about if being in the Army but not becoming a Ranger is going to be what you want before you join up.
posted by yohko at 9:24 PM on September 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have a friend with a similar back story although I doubt his family was wealthy. He did go to a great suburban high school got a 4.0 in college went to Chicago business school and then took a job as an investment banker. Was making good jack. Then one day he calls me and tells me he is going to OCS to become a Marine Infantry Officer. Finished 2nd in his class at OCS all while his mother was sobbing and his father was questioning questioning. He served 6 years and saw action in Gulf I. He is now a very successful and wealthy investment banker with some great stories to tell clients. His father got over it after a year when he realized that this is what friend wanted and friend did it all on his own. Could have made a Disney movie about it. I think it worked because it was my friend's dream since I can remember back to 2nd grade Mrs. Locker's class.

I have a son applying to the Naval Academy. My ex is beside herself because she thought he would grow out of it or something. This is what he has wanted since I can remember. I actually think he will be damn good at it. I know he will succeed because he WANTS to or maybe because he NEEDS to. I can also assure you that while I can afford a lot of things, he is doing this not in reaction to me, but for himself.

If this is a passion of yours, put aside all the outside noise and pursue it. If this is the latest idea, you will be even more miserable than you are now.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:54 PM on September 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, look tour father in the eye when you tell him. Stand tall and proud. Firm handshake. Then after you tell him ask if he wants to go out and celebrate.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:00 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do what you actually want to do.

Not what you think your dad wants you to do.

Not what your uncle wanted to do.

What do you want to do?

Nthing the idea that you come off like you're throwing career ideas against the wall waiting to see what sticks. I hear you on that, and I myself have had a circuitous and non-traditional career path that ultimately led to never really knowing What I Want To Be When I Grow Up (and then grappling a lot with the reality that I might never get to actually be that, anyway). It's not easy to live that way, and there are days I fantasize about going back in time and doing some highly structured no second guessing allowed career path like the military.

But here's the thing about the military. No second guessing is allowed. Which might seem like a great idea, but what happens when you find yourself in the army thinking "but what if I really was an indie film producer, after all?" Too bad. If you join the army and decide you don't like it, that's basically all the rest of your 20s being miserable and planning what you're going to do with your life when you get out.

Bottom line, though? Just do what you want to do, and own that decision. As for your dad, he'll either be much more understanding than you assume, or he will be pissed off and then probably get over it eventually. Don't worry about him. Worry about you.
posted by Sara C. at 10:03 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


He thinks very highly of me as an intellectual and I think he would see this as a foolish use of my mind and ability

Hey bud, I remember you! And you know, I think your dad's opinion has done a bit of number on you, in the sense that I reckon you superficially believe it, but really don't believe underneath, and so are terrified of doing anything that might reveal you to be an unintellectual "fraud".

Thus, you go out of your way to avoid any situation where you might fail, and you have a lot of anxiety about those situations. Getting a normal, average, everyday job scares you because 1) you feel that you will be "settling", and 2) you're terrified this will confirm that you're not special or intellectual at all.

I think the army is appealing to you right now, because 1) you know that virtually anyone can join the army, and you'll basically be outsourcing all your life decisions with no choices for a few years at least, and 2) There's still something exceptional about joining the armed forces, especially being a ranger - which fits into the "I'm special" narrative you have going on in your head.

Firstly, let me tell you a little secret: Your Dad is proud of you, pretty much no matter what. Don't kill anyone, or be a total arsehole, he'll generally think you're fab, and that's great, that's what parents should do. Speaking as a one-time kid with many siblings and now a parent myself, it is much harder than you suppose to disappoint your parents. They're great like that. If you underachieve, they'll just set their expectations lower, and you'll always be ahead. :)

Secondly, even better than that: he loves you. And he'll love you whether you join the army or start flipping burgers.

Finally, I think you're actually a bit afraid of hard work. Part of this is your fear of failture, no doubt, but I also think part of it is that despite the claims above, you understand that dicking around doing whatever you want on your dad's dime is actually flipping awesome, and much nicer and easier than having a job you don't really love and having to work, and being tired, and bills and relationships and ugh. And you're right; it is.

But I think if you do the former, it will help you resolve a lot of your issues. Friend, you've been told this many different times, in many different ways here, I urge you to listen again and forgo these fairytale conjectures before you take a step you can't step back from.

Don't join the army: Find a full time job, any job, and do it for a year. See how you feel at the end of the year. If you don't like it; find a different job, rinse and repeat.
posted by smoke at 10:13 PM on September 18, 2013 [44 favorites]


Apart from your uncle, do you actually know any Army Rangers?

Perhaps you could ask for some introductions (here or elsewhere) and speak to a minimum of five ex-Rangers. Ask questions, listen to their answers, keep an open mind, learn from what they say, etc.

Then, if you wish to proceed, you will have a good basis for communicating your intentions to your father. Good luck!
posted by 99percentfake at 10:33 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


So there are a lot of stories about people who always knew they wanted o be a soldier, etc. But keep in mind, there are also a lot of stories about people who always wanted to be a soldier for all the wrong reasons. They thought it would be adventurous, exciting, noble, cool, fun, etc., but then found out it was anything but. I'm not saying that is everyone's experience, but it is a lot of peoples' experience. I've seen people have PTSD outbursts, and I know a parent who struggles every day to keep his life together, one hour at a time, because of experiencing horrible things in Afghanistan. He's jittery as heck, and can't even consider getting a job. He never received any physical injuries, but his mind is scarred. And he says everything he thought fighting for his country would be about, it was not. So just keep in mind as you ponder your decision, just because people always wanted to do something, it doesn't always make it the best choice. Sometimes it's a great choice, and sometimes it's an awful choice. Think carefully about why you want to do this, and try to find out whether you can really attain that position, and if you do, whether you will really like it. Try to look past the glorification and the recruiting posters and war hero stories if you haven't already. War is dirty, ugly, and horrible.
posted by Dansaman at 10:36 PM on September 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why do you want to join the Army? Why do you want to be a Ranger? Have you considered what you will do if you join the Army and you don't make it to becoming a Ranger? Have you talked with any recruiters? Are you enlisting? OCS? Have you spoken with your uncle about what this is like, what route you should take, and his experiences?

I ask these questions because your dad is certainly going to ask these questions. And they are questions you need to be able to solidly answer before signing your life away for the rest of your twenties.

Your prior questions emphasize your investment in being a free-thinker and following your own path. You've stated repeatedly you don't like taking orders and like to be given the freedom to tinker with your own ideas. This is emphatically not a possibility in the Army. Are you OK with being subordinate to someone you think is stupid? Are you OK with being forced to follow decisions you feel are terrible? Since you probably want to be an officer, do you like lots of redundant paperwork? If you decide to not be an officer, do you like doing the same tasks over and over, forever? It's not like a corporate job, where you can complain to HR. The Army is its own culture with its own politics and you do not get the same freedom to disagree with your superiors or follow your own path.

If you go Ranger, you are going to be asked to do things you may not just find stupid, but will stay with you for the rest of your life. When I was much younger I was talking with a kid whose grandfather was a Navy SEAL. I told him I wished I could become one. He said he did once, until his grandpa got done with him. When he was a little kid, he went up to his grandfather and told him he wanted to become a SEAL. His grandfather looked at him and said "That's great! We should get you started on training." He went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. He handed it to the boy, looked him dead in the eye, and said "First order of business--go get that litter of puppies from the barn and slit their throats."

It is a dramatic story but the point is real: the tasks you're required to do are often ugly, and your life and the lives of your compatriots are dependent on you doing them. And sometimes they're not, and sometimes you might feel there's a different way, but you have to do the ugly task anyway.

This is not a route you should take because you feel lost and want some order in your life. It is not a route you should take because it sounds really impressive and you could be proud of yourself at the end. It's not a route you should take because you want to prove to yourself you can hack it, you're tough, you're a self-made man. You're not a guy entering for the GI Bill and the benefits, so if you're entering you need to feel you're 100% committed to the non-material reasons people join the Army. Otherwise you're just going to be miserable as shit.

Part of telling your dad you want to join the Army is going to be laying out a case on why you really truly want to join the Army, and why it's not just a half-cocked attempt to find some center in your life. You need to be able to lay all the facts out and make a convincing argument that you've completely thought this through. So make sure you've thoroughly investigated everything and put your case together.
posted by schroedinger at 10:41 PM on September 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


Look, most parents love their children and are proud of them. In an ideal world my father (only remaining parent) would want me to live nearer to him and would have wanted me to marry and have children so he could be a grandparent but he's perfectly proud of me and loves me despite not doing any of these things. Even if parents have very different ideas about what they'd like their children to do - as long as they are mature individuals they'll get over it once they see their children happy and doing well. So do what you want to do. What I am not clear about from your question though is if you really want to do this. So make sure you know what you're letting yourself in for and how realistic your aspirations are before you sign up for x period of time.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:44 PM on September 18, 2013


A cousin of mine had a similar dream. After two deployments in Afghanistan, all he talks about is how messed up the 'goatfuckers' are and how his comrades are stupid. In his childhood, during sleepovers with the family, he would fantasize about his future undercover missions in Cuba, and, quite vocally, mistake the fantasy for fact. My impression of the army is not so good. He still plays Call of Duty.

It sounds as if the general sentiment in this thread is that if you're smart and in the armed forces, you'll be treated well. This is not always the case. But I won't argue this here.

I recall sitting with a marine after listening to one of Obama's (2010?) speeches on NPR. It was the one about the troop surge in Afghanistan. He was fucking crying. It was followed by The Swan, in a morbid way.

Be aware that working with the military is securing the wealth of nations. It would be the dirty work that allowed for your privileged position in society, as I'm sure you realize. Thank stratification.

Take a break from film production for a while. The cinema is worse than the carnival: it has long been a recruitment tactic.
posted by linear_arborescent_thought at 10:56 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Guys, please help the OP with focused advice and try to avoid making this "Here's where I air my personal feelings about the military."]
posted by taz (staff) at 10:59 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Why do you want to join the army?"
It's not something I can rationalize or that would probably makes sense to most people, especially with the current political atmosphere. It's an emotion, however this post, makes a few good points for why it is appealing...
"Thus, you go out of your way to avoid any situation where you might fail, and you have a lot of anxiety about those situations. Getting a normal, average, everyday job scares you because 1) you feel that you will be "settling", and 2) you're terrified this will confirm that you're not special or intellectual at all. I think the army is appealing to you right now, because 1) you know that virtually anyone can join the army, and you'll basically be outsourcing all your life decisions with no choices for a few years at least, and 2) There's still something exceptional about joining the armed forces, especially being a ranger - which fits into the "I'm special" narrative you have going on in your head."
This is all true, however I take minor offense with the way you have mischaracterized it. I didn't go to school to flip burgers, not that I have anything against that, in fact I'm fairly certain I could work my way up in a burger chain with enough time and live a very moderate life as a manager or something, but come on, my dad would probably just as soon hire me at his own company for double pay, just to refuse to see me go that way. I have nothing against bitch work. Let me make that very clear, in fact I'm the guy who if nobody wants to, I'll be the one to plunge the toilet that nobody will own up to clogging, I'll be the one to sweep up broken glass and in general do what needs to be done to make other work possible. Yes, the army is appealing to me for all the reasons you listed, and yes I want to be a special snowflake like every other scrub that joins the Army and wants to be a Ranger, but I also know I can work harder than the 50% of kids who quit. Because I won't quit, they will have to take me out on a stretcher. Anyways I appreciate this post it gives me some incite into why the Army is attractive to me, but you have tried to convince me it is not attractive which is hilarious. Do you really think I would be prepared to go risk my life, go through the hell of RASP, etc. and then suddenly read a stranger's post on the internet and change my entire mind? Please be more considerate.
"Becoming a Ranger is going to be very difficult. Think about if being in the Army but not becoming a Ranger is going to be what you want before you join up."
I have.
How will you account for the change in MO so that you can really explain that to your dad when the time comes?
He's seen how I have changed, it won't be a complete 180 like it might seem from what you've read.
"Also, look tour father in the eye when you tell him. Stand tall and proud. Firm handshake. Then after you tell him ask if he wants to go out and celebrate."
This is far and away the best advice, thank you greatly. I didn't realize I was harboring so much shame about this, and now that I realize it, approaching the situation confidently takes a lot of the problems I was "imagining" and tosses them out. I really needed to hear this. I know nothing I can say well make my mom approve, but I think this is the only way my dad will. Thank you, again.
"Do what you actually want to do. Not what you think your dad wants you to do."
Part of what I have learned in the past 6 months is to be thankful and respectful of what I have been given, which as described in the original post makes things difficult as well. My dad provided greatly and made huge sacrifices for my welfare and person. I'm not prepared to do something he absolutely would not like me to do. He is the only one standing between me and the Army, and I will trust his decision, but I will make my case as best I can. I know we are supposed to be edgy and "do what we want to do", but I've learned that respecting my father's wishes and listening to his advice is priceless. My blood is half his, he has 30+ years on me, and probably knows me better than I know myself.
"Guys, please help the OP with focused advice and try to avoid making this "Here's where I air my personal feelings about the military."
To be completely honest, it is actually very insulting to me that people would bring their personal politic into a discussion about my life. I don't mind their opinion, but to assume that their personal feelings about the Army are relevant here is humorous at best, insulting at worst.
"Why do you want to join the Army? Why do you want to be a Ranger? Have you considered what you will do if you join the Army and you don't make it to becoming a Ranger? Have you talked with any recruiters? Are you enlisting? OCS? Have you spoken with your uncle about what this is like, what route you should take, and his experiences?"
Refer to my first answer above. As for the Rangers, I know that I have two things that qualify me for being a Ranger, the first is the time to prepare, the willingness to abuse my body and best prepare it for the brutality in RASP, the second is that I will not quit. I swear on my life that I will not get LOM'd the only way out of RASP for me will be Injury, which would let me try it again at a future point. If I don't make Ranger, I'd just be in the infantry, nothing wrong with that. I plan on speaking to my uncle before I tell my Dad.
posted by sawyerrrr at 11:10 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Comment removed. Do not argue with the OP. OP, do not argue with people who are offering advice. Please do not say "Any advice appreciated" in your post if you don't literally want "any advice," it makes moderation a lot harder. From here forward, let's stick to straightforward, helpful advice instead of arguing a case.]
posted by taz (staff) at 11:38 PM on September 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


how to tell my dad I want to join the army.

I just want to address this specific question very directly.

None of us are your dad and so none of us know what makes sense to your dad, what he respects, and what he feels about the Army.

But, I would suggest that you take the answers here with more of an open mind, even (especially?) the ones that bother/annoy you in various ways.

Age and life experience can strongly alter your perspective and your way of thinking. Many people here are closer in age to your dad than you are, have had an amount of life experience that is much closer to your dad's than to yours.

The answers you've gotten here are the reactions of people with more age and life experience than you -- you're getting some examples of how people like that respond to your thoughts as you've written them. Instead of offending you, that should be very valuable for you. It should give you a bit of an insight into the way your father might think about this, the reactions and concerns that he might have. It might be more useful to you, instead of fighting/arguing against the things people bring up, to find a way to really engage with them in your thoughts, to address them.

I'm about 5 years older than you, and if I thought someone had a cockamamie idea, even I would not be more impressed by it just because they delivered it to me with a straight back and a strong handshake. That particular idea, to me, is kind of saying "Deliver it to him 'Like A Man' and he'll respect you and your wishes." But you have to realize someone your father's age might have a very different idea of what it means to do something "like a man" than someone 24 and a half year old does. I certainly have a different idea of what it means, and like I said, I'm nowhere near your father's age. For someone older, a lot of the time, the surfacey stuff ceases to be impressive, and you're looking for something a lot more substantive.

I have a feeling that the surfacey, easy stuff sounds really appealing. I just encourage you to focus more on substance.
posted by cairdeas at 1:05 AM on September 19, 2013 [20 favorites]


Even if parents have very different ideas about what they'd like their children to do - as long as they are mature individuals they'll get over it once they see their children happy and doing well. So do what you want to do.

I disagree. My family is relatively kind and functional, yet that is not at all my experience.

Your dad might be disappointed in you, and he might very well might never forgive you. Please prepare yourself for that possibility. This isn't a movie, sometimes people feel betrayed and stay pissed.

It sounds like your father tried very hard to shelter you, and that he has a specific vision for how your life should go. That makes me think he has a strong personality. I think the risk of your father taking this personally and not only never coming around to your way of thinking but actively trying to strong-arm you back into line with his expectations/needs is very high.

It also sounds like, if your father takes a hard line and withdraws his support/love/guidance, it'll be the first time that has happened to you. Be prepared to doubt yourself and to become cynical, if the military (and war) doesn't take you 99% of the way there already.

I think it's a bad idea to script the "I'm joining up!" conversation. Those kind of imaginings will just get your movie-making wheels turning and your narrative engines revving and before you know it you'll have a pretty little story going in your head that's very reassuring, but which has nothing to do with how things may or may not actually go down with your father. Just tell him, and be prepared to accept whatever consequences may come (from him or circumstance).

Is your mother in the picture? Does she have an opinion about this?
posted by rue72 at 1:11 AM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am not your dad, but I'm not too many years older than you, so I'm going to guess that our parents' peer groups overlap, and that your father and uncle's experiences of war might be similar to those of my parents' generation.

One of my closest friends' late father was an Army Ranger who served in Vietnam. Like Schroedinger's friend with the Navy SEAL grandfather, my friend has a story about what happened when he declared his intent to join up. Upon hearing this, my friend's father got out a gun, and instead of telling his son, "go shoot the dog," he said, "If you try to join the military I will shoot one of your feet off so they can't take you."

Have you spoken to your uncle, the Ranger, about this plan? I'm willing to bet that the harsh training conditions you may face at RASP aren't going to be the biggest focus of that conversation. Talk to your uncle. Talk to other veterans. Then, once you've done that, talk to your dad.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:43 AM on September 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have nothing against the military generally but I have known several people who came from more privileged backgrounds for whom it went very badly. So, it's kinda... it might work great! Or it might be terrible. So I think the only thing I can see is: If you haven't done it yet, it's not your dad you need to talk to first, it's your uncle. But I also say this from the perspective of someone for whom, well, disappointing my parents with my career choices has been practically a hobby, and yet the whole time I've had one of my aunts in my camp and that has given me so much more confidence? So, two birds with one stone: Your uncle will be a great person to help you figure out if you're 100% sure this is what you should be doing with your life at the moment, and once you've hashed it all out with another grown-up (I say this a little tongue in cheek, I know you're 24), you'll be more ready to take on your dad.

That said, it sounds like you've been out of a job for the last six months? Get a job, first. Not a career, necessarily, or a forever job, but you're not gonna make it in the military if you don't have the sort of necessary discipline to become self-supporting first. I mean, I think you probably have it, but if you want to prove to everybody around you that you're capable so that you don't get a barrage of 'you're making a huge mistake' stuff from your friends and family, take care of that now. If you're wanting to break out from that 'someone else making your bed' thing, start now, not after you join up.
posted by Sequence at 2:20 AM on September 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I will only say in response to your response OP, that you're awful confident about what you will be like on the job, for someone who has never had a job. I had a whole lot of ideas about what I wanted in a job and would be like at work, too. Several different full time jobs later, I emerged with a quite different picture of how I worked and how I want to work. So I think you need to forgive a little skepticism about what kind of worker you are when you have never held a job down.

The army might be the reality check you need. But the problem is unlike most jobs you can't back out if it doesn't suit, not readily. Don't ignore the opportunities that "regular", boring, average jobs can give you; you're not above them, no one is. I have learnt a lot about myself doing these jobs. I still think you're telling yourself fairy tales with yourself as the main character. I empathise, I really do, but life is not a fairy tale, and you miss out on a lot of good stuff if you treat it that way.
posted by smoke at 2:41 AM on September 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


I come from a family with extensive military service (both shorter term such as war service or single enlistment as well as 30-year careers); I'd have served myself if I'd been medically acceptable: I view military service as honorable, and part of the responsibilities of being a citizen. However, I have to say that I doubt military service would be a good fit FOR YOU.

Reading your posting history, you have frequently stressed how smart you are, how well-educated at superior schools, how creative and intellectual, while also bouncing from plan to plan, idea to idea. When you've asked for advice, you've brushed aside anything that questions your announced plans. If you were to join the military, you would be required to follow orders without question: you go where you're told to go, eat when and where and what you're told to eat, sleep or not sleep as you're told. Assuming you could successfully pass through bootcamp, while you can *request* a specific school or place to be shipped to, THERE IS NO GUARENTEE YOU WOULD GET WHAT YOU ASK FOR. And whatever MOS you do get, there is also the fact that when signing up for any branch of the military, you have signed up for a number of YEARS: you legally agree to serve, and you don't get to change your mind in six months and say oh sorry: you want out.

And are you aware of the difference between enlisted ranks and officers? You would almost certainly be going in as enlisted --- you don't seem to have the skills to be accepted as an officer at signup (chaplain, medical, etc.), nor did you go through ROTC or one of the military academies such as West Point or Annapolis. Can you accept that especially at the beginning, pretty much EVERYONE, enlisted and officer, will outrank you and have the right to tell you what to do, and you will be required to stand there and take it without backtalk? Oh sure, as time passes you might be promoted and no longer the total bottom of the heap, but ALL officers will ALWAYS outrank you, even if you make it to thirty years and they've been an officer for two days.

Finally, if you still want to join, I suggest the Air Force rather than the Army: I suspect they'd be a better fit for you.
posted by easily confused at 2:54 AM on September 19, 2013 [22 favorites]


In just a glance through your postings from last winter it's pretty clear that you're all over the place.

I don't know how anyone in their right mind goes from not wanting to be told what to do to "I want to join the army". That just doesn't compute. Outsourcing life decisions for a little while sounds great to me too, especially as someone who holds a C-level title. But what happens when you decide six months in that you want control of your life again? Too late.

It doesn't sound to me that you've done much growing up at all. Sounds like you are blaming your privilege for your lack of motivation and casting around for a convenient answer. You say you won't quit until you accomplish your desire but this far quitting is a more likely outcome. Get over yourself and get on with it. Either be a freaking adult and tell your father or realize that if you can't even do that how will you tell your superiors news they don't want to hear?
posted by FlamingBore at 4:00 AM on September 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Dads. Sons want to please them.

Sons. Dads want them to have a good life. A better life than theirs.

I was blurry eyed and half-awake from late night partying, waiting for the recruiter to pick me up at about 4:30 am on a cold November morning in 1974. My father got up early to see me off. The recruiter pulled up and I walked toward the door. My father shook my hand and said, "If you fuck up, don't come home." Almost 40 years later and I can still hear it.

I took me many years to come to grips with the "tough love" behind his statement. But it was love. And while there were many bumps in the road I like to believe that I didn't let him down.

Walk your own path, young man. Live with the consequences. Be able to look in the mirror. Dad'll come around if he isn't already secretly on your side. It's not so much what has happened up until now that matters as much as what will happen in your future.

No matter what you decide. Good luck.
posted by CincyBlues at 4:25 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not something I can rationalize or that would probably makes sense to most people, especially with the current political atmosphere. It's an emotion, however this post, makes a few good points for why it is appealing.

I'm an Army veteran. Believe me when I tell you that everyone I knew in the Army had an answer for "why they joined." Sometimes it was "to prove themselves", sometimes it was patriotism, or college, or what have you. But they always had a reason.

It is my service and my experience of service, not my personal opinions of the Army, that makes me ask, Why do you want to be an infantry soldier? And in particular, why a Ranger?

Because these are answers you need to figure out. You may even have them figured out, but you need to be able to clearly articulate them. If you can't state them clearly to some strangers on an internet forum, you're never going to be able to clearly articulate them to your dad.

Do you want to be in combat? Do you want to "Be the best"? What is your reasoning? If we don't know, we can't help you.
posted by corb at 4:40 AM on September 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I enlisted in the Army when I was 17, and served as an officer as well, here's my advice I'd offer after a couple decades of additional life experience.

If you're going to enlist and try to get in to the more elite echelons of the infantry, I'd recommend the Marines over the Rangers for a couple of reasons. First, if you join the Marines and make it through the training you are a Marine, it's pretty binary. If you join the Army to join the Rangers, then first you join the Army, and then you try for the Rangers. If you make it through Army basic, but don't make it through Ranger school, your not a Ranger, but you're still in the Army. The second reason is more subjective. The Marines have their culture nailed, and in my opinion, the Army does not. In the Army the culture is much more determined by the command climate and it can differ quite widely from command to command. Also, related to this, as a Ranger, you are Army first, Ranger second. Contrast this to Marines, Marines are part of the Navy, but the Navy as an entity is much more removed from them as a controlling agent. Ok, enough of the culture wars, you can take it or leave it as you see fit.

If you're going to enlist I would recommend one of two options. You can think of one as dipping your toe in to see if you like it, and the other is jumping into the deep end straight away. If you want to get a sense of military life without going whole hog enlist in the reserves. You will get the same basic training as the Regular force, but you only are committed to working some weekends and a couple weeks a year.
If you're committed and know this is what you want to do, enlist for the absolute minimum (2 years I think?). Do NOT enlist for any more than that, regardless of any enticements (and those enticements better be in writing). If you end up liking it you can re-enlist later and they have a whole set of enticements for re-enlisting, so you won't be missing out on anything.

My final advice is that you should consider going to OCS to become an officer. The best way for someone in college to get a sense of the military is to join ROTC. There's no commitment and you get a sense of the discipline and culture, but it doesn't sound like that's an option for you at this point.

A final note based on my experience. It's very difficult to pre-judge whether someone will fit into the military. I know people who were all gung-ho and into it before hand who hated it and wanted out at the earliest opportunity, and I know college graduates who did it because it gave them a job who ended up loving it, and everything between. I've met people in it who loved the thought or war, and those that abhorred it and viewed it as an option of last resort. So even if you think it's the life for you, it's really a crap shoot. Regardless of the personality though, the people that enjoyed their service took pride in it and enjoyed the big and small challenges. Things like forcing yourself to wake up and get moving at 4am in an unheated tent in the middle of winter. Those that could not find a way to self-motivate and wanted or needed external motivation tended to enjoy their time a lot less. They got plenty of external motivation, make no mistake, but at some point, if you don't want to be miserable, that external motivation needs to be internalized (basically the whole point of basic training is to start that process).

Best of luck in whatever path you decide to choose.
posted by forforf at 4:58 AM on September 19, 2013 [13 favorites]



I'm about 5 years older than you, and if I thought someone had a cockamamie idea, even I would not be more impressed by it just because they delivered it to me with a straight back and a strong handshake. That particular idea, to me, is kind of saying "Deliver it to him 'Like A Man' and he'll respect you and your wishes." But you have to realize someone your father's age might have a very different idea of what it means to do something "like a man" than someone 24 and a half year old does. I certainly have a different idea of what it means, and like I said, I'm nowhere near your father's age. For someone older, a lot of the time, the surfacey stuff ceases to be impressive, and you're looking for something a lot more substantive.


Well...I am his father's age most likely. If there is one thing in life I have learned, it is that my vision of how someone's life should be is just that, my vision. What I want for my three children is for them to be happy and pursue what it is they want in life. Knowing my three children as I do, when my son told me he was applying to the Naval Academy and if he didn't get in he was going for an ROTC scholarship, he did do it while looking me in the eye and he told me in a firm non wavering voice. I knew right then, not for all the years he talked about it as a kid, but right then that that was what he really wanted. I could not be happier that he was pursuing a passion despite the fact that it was not how I envisioned his life going.

If it were me, I am not sure I would trade the college life I had for the structure and rigor of going to a service academy. But this is clearly something he wants. He is exposed to all sorts of other points of view too. His sister is in college and believe me if you follow her Twitter and Instagram accounts, you would think no work was being done. His brother plays in a band and has long hair. They are polar opposites yet great friends.

The discussion with his father is not about the military, it is about what he wants to do with his life. I would hope that his father, his mother and all parents everywhere want their child to be happy and to try to pursue their dreams. Heck, the asker has been working out already starting his pursuit. That alone is demonstration of his commitment.

As someone your Dad's age, as someone who can well afford to have my son pursue anything he wants, I most want to see that my son has matured and has a sense of direction, a path, a passion. Gosh, I cannot think of anything worse than preventing my son from pursuing his dreams.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:02 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


At age 26 I was in a similar position as you. Even though I paid for my schooling, my family was (and still is) a very important part of my life. I decided I wanted to join the Navy and was worried what my family would think. As an aside, joining the Navy was the best decision I ever made, but the part that I'd like to share is...

They all begged me not to join. I joined anyway. Flash forward 10 years and I was thinking about getting out. They begged me not to get out.

It's your life, and you owe nothing to no one but yourself. Go find your destiny, and never say 'shoulda woulda coulda'.
posted by matty at 5:22 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


My husband is your age and a US Army officer and we are very proud of him. If you'd like to talk to either one of us about what it's like to join feel free to memail me. He's currently away at training but has evenings and weekends free to talk.

As for telling your Dad I would talk to a recruiter about going to OCS (since you have a degree you could be an officer- better pay and much more freedom but also greater responsibility) and then relay that information to your father. If you started as a 2LT you'd make 45k+ your first year, have free medical and dental, housing paid for and training that can open a lot of career paths to you.

I know the military is not viewed well on metafilter but military service is something to be proud of and can open a lot of doors. If this is something you really want to do be proud when you tell your father, not apologetic.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 5:23 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also... some of the military's greatest leaders throughout American history were both quite intellectual and quite wealthy.

I have a friend that I went to flight school with... comes from a family of millionaires. They have a lovely estate down in Florida. But he's always said 'my parents are rich, not me'. Anyways, he's a hard worker and a great guy. He also happens to be brilliant.

Where he is now? Training with NASA for a stint on the International Space Station next year.

Being intellectual and wealthy are not barriers to serving in the military. Nobody cares about your money, but they sure will appreciate your mind.
posted by matty at 5:32 AM on September 19, 2013


I've worked with the senior officers who do special forces training group at Fort Bragg (the elite who train the elite). One of the most surprising things that I learned from these officers was that many of them lost contact with their families because of their decision to join the army. One told me that his father didn't speak to him for 10 years and another said that his family moved but didn't tell him where they went.

At the same time, not one of them regretted the decision to enlist, to attend West Point, or to join up through ROTC.

There is no "right way" to tell your father that you're going to do something he disapproves of. There's also no guarantee he will want you in his life if you make this decision. But, if you really want to join the army, you should be courageous enough in your conviction that you can be honest to your father and respectful enough to listen to his opinion.
posted by eisenkr at 5:35 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


One more thing: if you join, there is no guarantee that you'll be sent to infantry if you don't make the grade in ranger school. If the army thinks you'll be better working on the equivalent of HR paperwork, that's what you'll be doing. The army is about putting the collective first, and the army needs a lot more people in support roles than they need infantry.
posted by eisenkr at 5:46 AM on September 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's an emotion

Let's try and give this some more detail. Based on what you've said, you've had everything done for you and it's made you feel untested. You want to be able to show your dad that you're capable of doing well for yourself. Not just well as a burger flipper, but as the best you can be. It's the antithesis of being taken care of and it is about life and death. You feel trapped in your dad's world--trapped by feelings of obligation and not wanting to disappoint. The army represents freedom.

They know this and market it this way. "Be all you can be." It will make you a man, etc. But, as I'm sure you know, there's always a difference between an advertisement and the product. The solution to your emotional longing is unlikely to be solved by becoming a soldier or, frankly, by anything that is mainly external. You need to understand the inner need behind it. Maybe joining the army will a necessary step in that understanding, but I think telling your dad (and yourself) how you feel is the real first step. Rejecting all that support that enslaves you may appear ungrateful, but, as eisenkr says above: you should be courageous enough in your conviction that you can be honest to your father and respectful enough to listen to his opinion. Facing your father and your emotions is the real challenge.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:34 AM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is all true, however I take minor offense with the way you have mischaracterized it. I didn't go to school to flip burgers, not that I have anything against that, in fact I'm fairly certain I could work my way up in a burger chain with enough time and live a very moderate life as a manager or something, but come on, my dad would probably just as soon hire me at his own company for double pay, just to refuse to see me go that way. I have nothing against bitch work. Let me make that very clear, in fact I'm the guy who if nobody wants to, I'll be the one to plunge the toilet that nobody will own up to clogging, I'll be the one to sweep up broken glass and in general do what needs to be done to make other work possible. Yes, the army is appealing to me for all the reasons you listed, and yes I want to be a special snowflake like every other scrub that joins the Army and wants to be a Ranger, but I also know I can work harder than the 50% of kids who quit. Because I won't quit, they will have to take me out on a stretcher. Anyways I appreciate this post it gives me some incite into why the Army is attractive to me, but you have tried to convince me it is not attractive which is hilarious. Do you really think I would be prepared to go risk my life, go through the hell of RASP, etc. and then suddenly read a stranger's post on the internet and change my entire mind? Please be more considerate.

If you take this general attitude into the Army, you are gonna get smacked down so hard it'll make your ears ring. Over and over again.

You want a life experience that will test you and make you into a man. Why not join the Peace Corps?
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:34 AM on September 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


I asked a question regarding the military a couple of months ago on behalf of my son and got great answers but the best advice was - talk to soldiers from all branches and make sure completely you know what you're signing up. I made my kid read all the answers I got here and made sure he knew what he was doing. After that I left it up to him. He's decided to do ROTC for the Army. He told us in no uncertain terms this was his decision and we left it at that. I'm sure your father may not be happy but you're an adult and I suspect military service will help mature you.
posted by lasamana at 8:39 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


My son did this exact thing. He broke the news to me not very gently with a phone call, "Guess what Mom, I joined the Army!" His education permitted him to join as an officer, he chose to enlist as infantry as opposed to OCS.

My stomach dropped, then I felt like I was going to throw up. Enlisting in the Army was not on the list of 10,000 things I would have liked to see him do. My reply to his news was thus, "I can't honestly say I am happy you did this, but I love you, will be there for you and where do I send the cookies?" His father felt the same way.

It has been 7 years since that conversation. He served one tour of duty in Iraq. This experience has changed him for the better.

Your father will not be happy and may never be "happy" that you joined the Army. But hopefully he will be supportive and love you just the same.
posted by JujuB at 8:47 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


The best thing you can do to prepare for the conversation where you tell your dad about your decision is to put yourself in a strong a position as possible to understand the thoughts and feelings your dad will have when he hears the news. I have relatives and friends currently serving in each of the branches of the U.S. military, including some in Afghanistan and some in elite fighting forces like the Rangers. I have had extensive conversations with some of them about their experiences. I also have a sibling who talked for years about enlisting in the Marines in spite of being on track to finish his undergraduate education at the top of his class and being accepted into a top graduate program and a dad who was drafted during the Vietnam War and did not think that was a very good idea. With that in mind (as sort of a "trust me, I know what I'm talking about" preface), here are a few thoughts about what to consider when you break the news:

1. Your dad loves you unconditionally. Everyone expresses and shows love in their own ways, and some people express love in sub-optimal ways. But he's going to love you no matter what, even if he reacts in a way you don't like. Whatever his response is, there's love there underneath it all, and motivating much or all of his response.

2. When my dad is asked what he did before grad school, he almost always responds that he was trained to be a professional killer for the U.S. Government. He's not joking. When you break the news to your dad, part of what he's going to hear is you saying that you have decided that you want to become a professional killer - and that what you really want to be - a Ranger - is a professional killer who is even more of a stone cold killer than the other killers and who is sent to kill people more often than the others and who does so without the slightest hint of hesitation or remorse. What your dad won't know (and what we don't know in this thread, either, no matter what you tell us) is whether you have made that decision understanding that that is truly the case and really grasping the implications of it.

But regardless of whether you grasp that you're telling your dad you want to be a stone cold professional killer of humans, please understand that your dad will be right when he thinks that's what you're telling him - and that his emotional response will be rightly colored by his understanding that this is what you have decided: By joining the Army during a time of war, you will literally be a professional killer, and saying you want to be a Ranger is - whether you realize it or not - saying you want to be the most stone-cold people killing machine that exists on the face of God's green earth. I'm not going to ask you whether you really fully realize this or whether you've internalized it and are not only OK with it but whether it's actually what you want to do - whether you want to kill people. That's not the point of this thread or your question. I'm telling you this because this is what your dad is going to understand and it's going to be part of his emotional and rational response. You need to be prepared for this before you talk to him.

Now, it's probably also a good idea to be prepared yourself for the fact that you're signing up to have your psyche transformed so that you will kill without hesitation or remorse and that you will then be actually killing lots of humans up close as a Ranger. War is hell, as they say, and you're signing up to go to and through hell. You are asking the government to force you to become a killing machine and to put you in circumstances where you will see your closest friends' brains blown out and watch innocent children suffer and die before your very eyes and, very probably, at your own hand as collateral damage. This is a big deal, and it will be in the forefront of your dad's mind. The follow-up comments you've made here suggest that you are wanting to be a Ranger for reasons completely unrelated to any desire on your part to become a cold-blooded killing machine and be in the most emotionally-scarring situations imaginable, and you haven't mentioned those issues at all. So just be prepared for those issues to come up in your conversation with your dad - or, if they don't come up, for them to be in his mind though he does not mention them. Make sense?

3. Your dad will be worried about you being killed or having life-altering physical injuries, such as amputations, paralysis, blindness, disfiguring burns, etc. You may be fully willing to suffer these things for your country, conscience, or whatever. But you will be telling your dad that you have, without consulting with him, decided that he must be willing to lose the most precious thing he has ever had in his life in these ways, as well. Because that's what you are to him. Put yourself in his shoes. Imagine you have a son - let's say he's five years old - who wants to jump from the top of a play structure at the park, head-first. You say "no, son, you'll get hurt - you could even be killed." He responds "that's OK, dad! I know that could happen, but I've decided to do it anyway, because it's really what I want to do!" You can say that's a bad analogy because you're an adult and whatnot. But that's what's going to be going through your dad's mind when you tell him. Please internalize that. Unless you have children of your own, you have absolutely no ability to understand the depth and significance of the bond and love your dad feels for you, nor the ability to understand the emotional depth of what he will feel when you tell him you are going to war.

4. Your dad will be worried that, even if you're not killed or maimed, you will inevitable and most certainly have permanent psychological injury, including, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder. Your dad will be right: Everyone I know who has served a tour in Afghanistan has it. They're all messed up in one way or another. There will be positive effects on your personality, as well. You will mature and learn a lot. But you will absolutely, without exception, be permanently scarred by the experience and it will haunt you forever. I know a couple of people who are snipers in the special forces of various branches and they are the toughest, bravest, most amazing people I know. And they are incredibly messed up by singling out and killing their victims over and over again. I know people who are low-level Army infantry in Afghanistan and they are messed up, as well. All this will be going through your dad's mind, and no amount of you explaining that you're a tough, hard worker who doesn't mind cleaning toilets will have any effect on it at all.

5. Your dad is going to be imagining you being transformed into a guy shouting at a car full of women and children to stop before you kill them all and then, when they don't understand what you're saying and keep driving, opening fire on the car with a .50 cal. machine gun and killing every one of them. And he's not going to care that you're cool with cleaning toilets or that you're tough enough to make it through training. He doesn't want you to be that guy or to have that experience, and he's not going to be able to wrap his head around the idea that you being hard-working and tough means you'll be totally fine with killing that car full of children or that your motivations for joining up - whatever they are - are genuinely strong enough that you would consciously and knowingly decide they outweigh your personal desire not to open fire with a .50 cal machine gun on a car full of children. When you tell him you totally understand what you're getting yourself into and your reasons for doing it outweigh the horrific hell that certainly awaits you, your dad will not believe you. And that's what you need to know before you talk to him.

You need to remember that your dad will hear you telling him you've decided that you want to go through the worst hell you can imagine because you really don't mind cleaning toilets, and he will not believe you. He will think you don't understand. He will think your reasons are inadequate. He will think that you would never make that decision if you really got what it was you were signing up for. He will think you're throwing away not an expensive education, but your innocence, your purity, and your very self. And he will think he's going to lose you - either to death or injury or at the very least to the life-changing inhumanity that is war.

So stand up straight. Give him a firm handshake. Look him in the eye. Do all that. But don't just do that. You give him a hug and tell him you love him - and you mean it. Because hearing your son tell you he is going to sacrifice himself to be a professional killer in a foreign land is harder than the hardest thing you, his son, have ever faced. And accept his response, whatever it is. Because no matter how badly he responds, it's coming from a place of love for you, which means your dad's response is nowhere near as hard a thing to face than what you're going to face when you're in Afghanistan or wherever and you're taking fire from the family of friends of some guy you just shot.
posted by The World Famous at 10:18 AM on September 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


I don't know if this is an answer to your question (also not sure if it ever came up in other questions you've asked about career ideas), but I hope the mods will bear with me.

Have you considered something like the Peace Corps? It really seems like it would be a good fit for you:

- It would offer work experience in the structured "outsource your life choices" kind of way you seem to be looking for in the military, but without most of the downsides (shorter term, less authoritarian, more ability to take on a leadership role and think creatively about problems).

- You have an economics degree. Economic development is a huge part of the Peace Corps' mission.

- You are well-educated. This is definitely a plus with the Peace Corps rather than a liability, and the overall structure of the Peace Corps and other volunteers you will meet will mesh well with your "intellectual" side. That said, you will also be mixing with local people in country who do not have your advantages, so it's not an ivory tower, either.

- You stand a chance of actually making a change in the world, which is something that seems important to you. Your time in the Peace Corps would be a lot more meaningful than slinging lattes and working on your novel, or whatever the other "overeducated twentysomething" alternatives are.

- You are the prime age to join the Peace Corps, whereas you are 5+ years older than the typical Army recruit.

- Creative thinking is encouraged rather than seen as undesirable. You are there to solve problems, and there's not a ton of hierarchy on the ground with you telling you how to accomplish your goals within the community.

- In previous questions you claim to love travel and proposed several career paths for yourself that involve international travel.

- The fact that you dread telling your father you plan to join the Army implies to me that he'd probably be happy to hear that you plan put the education he paid for to good use helping people in the developing world.
posted by Sara C. at 10:22 AM on September 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


When I was enlisted in the Army I worked in satellite communications. I worked in the U.S. and in several other countries during my 38 month enlistment (I extended two months for this job). I also played tourist and visited MANY more... I took one foreign language in school and was trained on two more.

I was deployed to some third world countries where we came in and setup medical clinics in schools and churches. It was very inspiring and sad at the same time to see hundreds of people, or even over a thousand, lined up for tetanus shots, dental extractions, etc. Basic care. For some people it, was the only medical care they had ever received.

We were a special unit. Most people have something similar to this:
Team/squad->platoon->company->battalion->brigade->corps->army->Commander In Chief
Ours went like this:
team->platoon->detachment->Joint Chiefs of Staff

There are some units out there that may mix some of the military needs with humanitarian needs. A kind of "mini Peace Corps" within the military.

Hopefully your education and test scores will help you get a great job. Just because you want to be a Ranger, does not mean you need to be in an infantry unit. You can be, but you don't have to be. I think you are also a great candidate for OCS. I know one person who did and thought it was the best decision of his life.

Good luck.

p.s. When I enlisted my Dad was happy and my Grandfather was overjoyed. He even drove me to the reception center on the day I had to report for duty.
posted by Leenie at 10:44 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're looking for a national service commitment I would also recommend Americorps VISTA in addition to the Peace Corps. There's a high demand for people with your level of education and financial independence, not to mention the work placements are extremely flexible: you could do anything from managing wilderness preserves to helping inner-city kids get financial aid for college. You also have a lot more choice than the Peace Corps in terms of where you want to go and what you want to do.

This would also be an extremely valuable life experience in that, like the Peace Corps, it would give you work experience that you cannot imagine and put you in contact with populations you would otherwise never encounter (I can't understate how eye-opening it is to regularly interact with people from a different socioeconomic or racial background, elite colleges and film festivals don't tend to be very diverse places).

I suggest VISTA in particular because the work is capacity-building, administrative, and organizational, as opposed to manual tedium. You say you could clean toilets or sweep glass 8 hours a day, but have you ever tried this? And not just one day, but every day for years on end? A job at McDonald's, or work as a janitor, something extremely tedious for an extended period of time? If those options are distasteful to you, try working at a WWOOF site for a month; if you can't handle a single month of farm work then an army enlistment is going to destroy you.
posted by Ndwright at 10:48 AM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


How do you tell him? By telling him, and dealing with the fallout.

You sound like you have a huge chip on your shoulder. One way or another it sounds like it is time to man up, STFU, and act, if only because that seems like you are the kind of person who thinks that is what a young man has to do, and you don't sound like you will be able to see anything else until then.

(And honestly, your choice of best answer sounds like a scene from a cheesy movie.)
posted by Good Brain at 11:13 AM on September 19, 2013 [20 favorites]


I think you are right to be speaking with your uncle; that is clearly the next indicated thing. Looking at your posting history, you appear to have a case of cart-before-the horse-itis. That is, you are getting paralyzed by things that are either way down the road or not that relevant, like the conversation with your father in this instance. It sounds kind of corny to say "Just keep doing the next indicated thing." It also is kind of annoying to hear at at age when you are looking for the next indicated thing to be revealed, career-wise. But you seem to be spinning here more than you need to be.

Let's say you're not going to go into the military. Maybe you are. It surprises me a little that no one has suggested the Coast Guard yet; someone always seems to around here. But let's say you're not. Honestly, I think you might want to ask your father for help. You don't say whether your family is truly mega-rich and influential but for whatever reason, you seem to see their position as a negative at this point, and it doesn't have to be. You have a degree in economics; your father owns a business or something. This is usually the kind of thing that can get you in the door into a decent entry-level job. Accepting help on this level is way different from being on your family's payroll forever. This is not a binary choice between letting your family support you and rejecting them completely (which is suggested by the whole idea that your father "despises" your uncle and his job). Go ask your father what kind of job he thinks you can do. He may just offer you some help of the empowering sort.
posted by BibiRose at 11:46 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Army is only a lifelong career for a select few. Even if you're in uniform for 20 years you'll be 45 when you retire. You'll still have 20+ productive years before you retire-retire. It might be worth being prepared to talk about that half of your adulthood and how you see the Army fitting in to it. That is if you've thought about the next phase of your life. And if you haven't, do. The decades start to fly by...
posted by the christopher hundreds at 3:04 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Choosing a potential career path can be daunting. I empathize, with your struggle and with the sense that choosing something, anything, feels less painful than spinning one's wheels. To answer your question, I think that if you tell your dad that you want to join the Army, he'd like to know why. Just as if you told your dad you wanted to go to business school or take an EMT course he might like to know why.

Were I in your shoes, I would closely examine why your decision-making process landed here so that I could answer that question. You're obviously ambitious, smart, and imaginative, someone who ponders important things deeply. As someone so creative, try to imagine what your day-to-day life looks like in the Army, as infantry or a Ranger. Disengage from imagining what you are; focus instead on what you do. Read about this, or ask your uncle, then imagine yourself doing these things. What does an average week during your first year on this career path look like? How about in five years? Imagine what the end product of your ambition, intelligence, focus, and talents is. Whether it's worth the risk.

If you want to tell your dad that you want to join the Army, he may be curious as to why his son has chosen this day-to-day life of following orders and cleaning boots, and this end product of pulling a trigger because of some analyst's decision, instead of a day-to-day life that incorporates intelligent debate, or the end product of a perfectly planned exhibit at a science museum.

Think about the kinds of things you'd like to do for 8, 9, 10 hours a day, not about the job title you want. You might want to talk to a career counsellor, close family members, or a psychologist about how hard these decisions are. They may have good advice that doesn't yet exist in your decision-making toolkit. While you're bulking up your decision-making toolkit it may be useful to get a random job. Who knows - the random job may help narrow down what you do and don't want to do next year.

(As a tangent: have you read The Shooter?)
posted by nicodine at 3:25 PM on September 19, 2013


I have a very limited perspective on this, so please use as much salt as necessary. Through circumstance, in the last couple years I have become fairly to very close friends with a group of veterans and civilian adjuncts who are your age and are all out or just getting out of their first 6-year tour. Every one of them is a bright and personable individual. Every one of them could not wait to get out. Of that group, which includes servicemembers from all branches and many roles, the only people staying "in" are the civilian contractors.

I've only known one lifer, who was a tank commander turned recruiter and a regular at my local gaming store. I'd flirted with the idea of joining up briefly, so I asked him to tell me what he would say to me if he thought he could get me and what he'd say to me now, knowing that he couldn't. The first speech was basically all of the things you're saying: independence, manhood, pressure, prove yourself, etc. The second was a swig of beer, an intense stare, and: "Don't. You didn't hear that from me."

Every young veteran I know has a lot of doors open for them. I don't know a single one who doesn't regret signing up or at least wouldn't ever go back. That's across a variety of political viewpoints. The one thing all of them have in common is that they all announce their veteran status gladly and none of them would do it again.

By the way, my best friend in that group, in whose wedding I'm going to be a groomsman next year? He just moved to Salt Lake City to take a job with his wealthy father's company which is about seven-ten years beyond his current skillset, whose influence he joined the Navy to escape. Just a datapoint.
posted by Errant at 6:22 PM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


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