Task and Purpose (and the lack there of)
I am a Student Naval Flight Officer Waiting to begin Advanced Training in the T-45. This is the Navy’s training jet aircraft, and has been not operational since April 2017 due to ongoing problems with the oxygen generation system onboard. Now common sense tells us that a stoppage at any point in a linear system will create a build up in the earlier parts of the system. Since April, the pool of students to begin training has grown significantly. Today marks the first day, of the first week, of the first month, of what will could (will) be a six month wait to begin Advance.
To be honest, I face this time with dread and anxiety. For the next six months, I will drive the direction of my day. Wait, Michelle you can do (almost) whatever you want with your time?! Yes, I muster at 0830 and thats it. Sounds lovely, I know. I can imagine my brother right now reading this. He would tell me to shut up and enjoy the six month vacation. And I’ll be the first to admit, this hardly sounds like a dilemma. But for someone whose self actualization directly correlates to the completion of tasks… this will be a real struggle. The extravert in me gains so much energy from the daily interactions with friends, classmates, and instructors. I know that I find significant affirmation from performance in school and work. A good challenge is perhaps the greatest source of joy in my life.
In the next six months, I will learn to find purpose and challenge outside the professional or education setting. I will need to plan days and weeks so that I won’t feel bored, worthless, and constantly wishing time away. This will require creativity, motivation, and persistence. Frankly, I do not expect to build a start-up or anything else cosmic in the down time. Most likely I will read, workout, take up some new hobbies, volunteer, spend time with friends…all pretty standard activities. But what I really hope will happen is with practice, I won’t need to rely on outside factors for happiness and fulfillment. When the circumstances of life are in our favor, happiness is easy and effortless. But finding peace and fulfillment when there are no outside factors to drive the positive feelings, this requires a lot more of something… and it is that something what I want to find. (Fully aware that numerous philosophical volumes exist on this very topic. I’m sure I’ll check those out too).
To wrap this up: my vision is to write an entry a week during this “off time.” It is not a diary to mundanely recount the events of my week, write about a great recipe, or complain about being a cog in a large bureaucratic organization. Dually serving as a self imposed accountability mechanism, these entires will be a series of reflections as I investigate what finding purpose looks like as a 23 year old without having someone there to put a shiny star on my chest every time I do something well. I want to find out ways to challenge myself without having anyone there to direct, encourage, or measure my progress. A quote in my favorite book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior sums it up best, “ A fool is ‘happy’ when his cravings are satisfied. A warrior is happy without reason. That’s what makes happiness the ultimate discipline.” So here is to dedicating the next six months to the ultimate discipline.