Old Stuff on a Shelf: Memories

That Run, Though — Nov 24

I visited a few old friends the other day.

It breaks my heart that I call them old.

Once, they were some of the most important people in my life. Calling them old is like saying they’re unimportant, just some old shit sitting on a shelf.

How did it ever get that way and why did I never really say goodbye? Why did I just make them old friends?

Why are they just old shit on a shelf to me?

It’s because they’re some of the most valuable things I own and no one can take them away from me.


They’re my memories.

I need to blow the lid off of something and now seems like the perfect time for me: For most, military deployments aren’t that hard. They suck. They’re not fun. But they’re usually not that hard for much of the military.

I did five in nine years. Yes, I decided to resign after that fifth. I did it because I was left staring at six and seven, consecutively, after only having been back for five months from the last one. I’m not the norm.

The American perception is that these deployments are demanding and the sacrifice is unimaginable. Well, it’s very imaginable. They’re really awfully boring and usually safer than you driving down the interstate.

What they really are, though, is emotionally draining. They’re crushing spiritually. And they lead to a lot of broken souls.

To get through it, you better hope you have something very, very important on that shelf.

My last deployment was my easiest. I had my own room on the ship. I even worked out of that room.

I worked out when I pleased. There was more food than I knew what to do with. I got paid for all of this, too.

I took naps when I wanted. I’d say needed, but that’d be a lie. I was bored and probably didn’t need half the sleep I got.

But it just seemed that this place, this ship I was deployed on, was hell-bent on crushing my soul right along with everyone else on the boat, on a daily basis.

They did crush a lot of souls, too. Being deployed on a ship is an emotionally and spiritually toxic environment. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it is.

Dudes don’t have to die out there on the Navy’s boats. It’s not an accident when they do, either. It’s a choice they made a long, long time ago.

Everyone is responsible for a certain portion of the ship. This is then translated into they own — they think they actually own — that part of the ship. This is great, until they go tribal. What it turns into are these little tribes forming throughout the ship and everyone’s tribal leader governs like Donald Trump.

It becomes an effing madhouse and you better hope you have someone that can get you through it.

I did and I’m eternally grateful. It’s a debt I’ll never be able to repay to them in full. I’ll try, though.

I’ll skip their virtues. I just want you to know that they’re the best people not in my family that I know and my life isn’t the same without them.

Yet they have to go. They have to go and sit on that shelf. Unfortunately, they have to become old shit.

It’s where they belong, though.

They can’t come with me. They have to go live their lives and I have to go live mine. To hold on to them would be like holding onto a life preserver that is taking on water. The relationship becomes untenable and you have to move on because you’re eventually going to be holding onto something that isn’t there to do what it once did anymore. The story always has to come to an end.

What you need to do when that time comes is to put them on that shelf.

Make sure the shelf is in a place you see often. You don’t need to look at it everyday, but it needs to be in a place where you’ll never forget that it’s there in your life. It needs to be an important place and it should be important to you.

It’s important because that’s where you need to store your best memories.

The ship I deployed on came home in May and everyone had to pack their stuff to get back out again in July for a training exercise — everyone except me. There was some guilt, but it typically dissipated whenever I looked at my newborn son. I still thought about those that were most valuable to me everyday, though.

It was then I signed up for the first ultra-marathon I would complete. I started training while they were gone. It was almost every run I thought about them: some story I wanted to tell them, some insane thought, or just something.

I missed them.

They came back, but things were never the same. I was getting ready to move my family to Japan right up until my career imploded because of that insane move to Japan. They had their lives, too — which, thankfully, weren’t imploding like mine.

We just went our separate ways and it never sat right with me. After 15 years in the Marine Corps, I know goodbyes never go the way I thought they would. This wasn’t goodbye, though. This was nothing. This was just moving on.

I forgot the most important part. I forgot to put them on my shelf. I totally forgot to make them old shit.

It’s about time I did.

One thing we had that we loved together was running.

Running in Singapore.

Running in Guam.

We ran to waterfalls and lagoons. We ran through the forest of the Pacific Northwest. Other times, we just ran.

Running in Duqm. By the way, if you don’t think we loved running together, look up Duqm, Oman in Google Maps. You gotta really love what you do to do it there.

We ran in Hawaii. We ran on treadmills. We even ran in 1/10 of a mile circles on the flight deck for miles on end.

We loved to run. More importantly, we loved being together and we created a lot of great memories that way.

I won’t think about them every day. I’ll think about them less as time goes on.

I’ll never forget them every time I’m on that run, though.

That’s where I keep my shelf. It’s where my heart is. It’s where they’ll be.

They’re some of the greatest things that ever happened to me. They never would’ve been without that run, though.

And just like the run, they’ll always be important.