New Year’s Eve, 2016

For the past few years now, I’ve been writing a New Year’s Eve blog in reflection of the past year, and how it went for me. The furthest one back that I can see is from 2012, when I was still in Tech School for my Air Force job (though on “Exodus” back home for the holidays). I feel like I did one in 2011 as well, but whatevs. That year, writing that blog, I had no idea what was to come in the next 4 years… Or maybe I did. Or maybe I should have. Oh well. That was a long time ago, and I was a different person then than I am now. Am I different person now than I was this time a year ago? I dunno. One thing is for sure, however: my situation is drastically different than it was then. I don’t know that I’ve grown—in some ways, I feel I may have regressed—but I’m happier now than I have been in a bit over 3 years.

On December 31, 2015, I was here in Oregon, too—for one more week, anyway. It was the end of the longest vacation home I had had. It sucked extremely bad when I had to leave again… The last night I was home, I went out to eat with my parents, my sister, and her family. I’d been hoping we’d walk around downtown Corvallis for a little bit too, but they wanted to go home. So we went back to my parents’ house, I sat down in the bathroom, and instead of relieving myself, I was actually trying to regain my composure. I think a few tears trickled down my cheeks before I pulled it together. Even with taking my cat to Arkansas with me, I couldn’t feel much besides miserable. We got back to my apartment, and no one wanted to be there; her, or me. She walked around the apartment, growling, and then hid under the couch for quite a while; she didn’t eat, drink, or go poddy. Eventually, she adjusted, though.

I found out soon after that that results for a psychological interview had come back, and my counselors had diagnosed me with avoidant personality disorder. They didn’t necessarily feel it was an absolute fit for me, but felt it was close enough to call it as such. This meant that they would tell my Commander, and recommend Administrative Discharge based on a personality disorder incompatible with the Air Force. This is what I had wanted. I had struggled for the prior three or so years at that base to adjust, to get along, to function in this setting without freaking out. I often felt like these efforts, and my struggles, went unappreciated by my immediate leadership and coworkers; like I was making it up, or something. I was simply not equipped with the ability to function like a robot, like they apparently expected me to (and how a lot of the Air Force expects its airmen to respond). If you tell me to behave a certain way, but then don’t behave that way yourself and/or look the other way when one of my coworkers don’t behave that way, it’s going to bother me. A lot. Furthermore, if people repeatedly do/say things they know upset me, I’m not going to indefinitely ignore it. At some point, it is going to cause a reaction in me. In short, I have to feel like I’ve received the respect I am due, and am properly appreciated for my efforts, or I am going to get really, REALLY pissed off. Perhaps that is starting to sound less like having a personality disorder and more like being a normal human being, but I digress.

For the first few months that I began the process of winding down with my time in the Air Force, a couple newly-promoted supervisors made clear they didn’t necessarily believe I was getting out, and applied pressure and stress to my situation that I didn’t need. For example, I was made to go to Vital 90 (the PT sessions for people who failed their PT test), because a policy had come down that everyone had to be with at least one other person at PT, and no one else was available to go to PT with me. I hadn’t failed any PT tests and knew I wouldn’t likely be taking another one, so this pissed me off. Eventually, when it was clear I was separating, the two backed off a bit (perhaps due to some pressure from above, who found out I hadn’t been allowed to do any out-processing yet). Those last few weeks, I only occasionally did PT, and when I did, all I did was run until I was uncomfortable, then walked for a bit, then quit. Upon leaving the military, I’ve majorly slacked off on my exercise and my gut has grown much larger, but I just can’t be arsed right now to get a regular schedule in. I hate exercising so much right now…

It was very weird, the way the last few weeks went down. I could not be given a definitive date that I was exiting, so I could not make plans with anyone back home for my return. Day after day, I waited for the Commander to look at my package, and day after day, there was no news. What delayed things more was that it was apparently required that I be given a final Employee Performance Rating, even though it meant nothing at that point. Before the Commander could sign off on the discharge paperwork, he had to sign off on that, and a million other people had EPRs, not to mention his other duties. I started freaking out and getting impatient, frequently asking my first shirt and superintendent if they’d heard anything, to the point that they told me to stop asking them, heh… Eventually, the Commander signed it, his boss approved it… and two days later, I was out. The entire time, I was told I would be getting certain health benefits for the next 6 months, but it turned out I wasn’t, so I had to hurry up and get health insurance before my Tricare was cancelled. Also, because I was only given two days’ notice for my separation, it was 3 weeks before any moving people could come get my stuff. So I just sat in my apartment in North Little Rock for 3 weeks. I barely remember it, but it was weird.

There are times when I think that if I could go back to the end of 2011, before I went in and talked to that recruiter, that I would instead just be like, “nah, I’ll just stay here and be a janitor for the rest of my life.” There was a janitorial swing shift position at a hospital I took on in 2012 that maybe would’ve become a regular gig, had I been sticking around. I maybe wouldn’t have gone through all the hardships I did these past 4 years. Then again, I wouldn’t have grown as a person, at least not as much. The trials I endured, the mistakes I made, the tears I shed, all are valuable life lessons that make me the person I am today. There are a lot of things I didn’t know about the world, or myself, until my time spent in the Air Force. I also wouldn’t have this nifty GI Bill that’s paying for my tuition at Oregon State.

There were a few places I called for work here in Oregon while still having to stick around in Arkansas; a one or two called back, but then found out I had to stay in Arkansas another couple weeks. When I got back, I went back to subbing janitorial for the school district, and also took on a summer custodial position with them. It was to include me building an excel document for the district foreman and his assistant to monitor the school custodians, but it turned out that they didn’t quite know what they wanted with that, and I didn’t know how to deliver on the little guidance I was given. I worked on that for a couple weeks and then was put with a cleaning crew the rest of the Summer. I think that may have soured my relationship with the foreman and his assistant a bit, as they probably expected more, but I did my best. Anyway though, the first night I went back to cleaning a route at a school… man, I was sore. It was the first time in 4 years that I’d done manual labor for 8 hours. It was bad. It wasn’t as bad the second night, but still, it was kinda sad.

Meanwhile, I took my first three classes on Oregon State’s Corvallis campus. This was exciting to me, as I’d always wanted to go to school there; two of my siblings graduated there, and my dad worked there for 30-some years. Taking a full load of Summer classes and also working manual labor part time… turned out to be very taxing. I was tired both physically and mentally every day, and by the end of the Summer, I was only willing to work an hour a day, and even THAT was tough. I got 3 A’s that term… and one C+. The first grade below an A- that I had gotten at OSU (I had been taking classes online since Winter 2015). It wouldn’t have been so bad, except I had shown the instructor my work and asked her a lot of questions about it, and she told me that it looked good to her. There were only 3 assignments in the entire class, and we didn’t get grades for the first assignment until more than halfway through the class. My strategy is normally to figure out what the teacher’s expectations are with the first few assignments, and then adjust accordingly. I don’t feel like I was given the tools to get better than a C in this lady’s class, and certainly not after she told me my final assignment looked good, and then gave me the worst grade yet on it. So I was pissed. She received some negative feedback for her class.

For a brief period, between August and September, I also started practicing with the local rugby team that two of my friends are members of. I paid my dues, bought a ball, mouth guards, cleats, the whole shebang. I didn’t exactly want to do it, though, to be truthful. I mean, I wanted to, but I didn’t want to. I would enjoy aspects of the practice, like running around a park with a bunch of other guys and gals who were all friendly. Plus, I’d never played a team sport before, so it was exciting to say that I had. The time factor, getting tired, and being crap because I was a beginner, however, were aspects I didn’t like. I lasted a month of practices (missing a few here and there) and played one game. It was raining, we didn’t have enough players, and I had to play the entire game. There are no time outs except for halftime, and I was already pretty fat by that point, so even though I wasn’t really going at full speed, I got super tired within like 15 minutes of play. This may be because I was involved in every scrum that happened, and that put a lot of demand on my body, helping one group of men push against another group of men. When it was over, I didn’t move for like a half hour. I inevitably decided that I had enjoyed it, but then Fall term came… (There was also a coast trip and a camping trip in there, but yeah).

Initially for Fall term, it had been my intention to sub with the school district in between whatever classes I had. This plan changed when I signed up for 5 classes, and a total of 20 credits. My advisor had told me that I would be able to graduate by the Fall of 2017 if I took 5 classes every term. When I met with her again in the Fall, however, she realized that this wasn’t exactly plausible. I’ve conferred with my other two counselors (I have one for Education, Liberal Arts, and Political Science), and decided to take a smaller load here on out. However, the 20 credits weren’t the only challenges I took on; I also got a job with the school newspaper, something I’d always wanted to do. Also, I volunteered to talk to a high school class every other Friday about college, over Skype. I am a crazy person.

I really enjoyed writing for the paper; I love writing, and I enjoyed my coworkers. However, as the term wore on… I was taking 20 credits. I wasn’t studying as much as I should’ve been, because I was spending a lot of time and effort on my news stories. It didn’t help that I was only making $10 a story, which wouldn’t even cover gas. Eventually, I came to the realization that I was probably going to get more C’s, like the one I suffered this Summer, if I kept working there. So regretfully, I quit. I kept doing the volunteer thing, however. Regardless, at first, I was super pleased with all the extra time not working on news stories gave me. And then I realized that I still needed to devote several hours a day to my studies if I was to get the grades I wanted. In the end, my efforts got me 2 A’s and 3 A-‘s. Overall, I rather liked this term; my classes were all interesting, and I reconnected with on my teachers from High School. He was exactly like I remembered him, haha; he has always been high energy, with a lot to say, and a sense of humor to deliver it with. He is a lot of fun.

So, for December… I haven’t done much. The week after finals, I was sick all week, but the week before Christmas, I don’t feel like I did much of anything. I suppose I worked on my last blog, and I did some music. I also turned 32. So old. This past week, I stayed with my brother in Beaverton, while his family visited his in laws in Arizona. We observed that we hadn’t really been in contact all Fall, because I had my crazy term. At one point, we were gonna be a band, and practiced several times. Also, I used to call him every Saturday when I was doing my laundry, back in Arkansas. I also used to go to church every Saturday, in Arkansas, and I was part of a Bible Group with some really nice people. It seems like I’ve gotten a lot lazier since I’ve been back, and not just with exercise… My motivation is drained, and I stay up all night, when I used to get up at 5:15 every day. I attempted for a short period at the start of this break to find a job and applied at several places, but then I got sick, and I kinda just let it slide. I need more money than the GI Bill will give me to exist though. Lotsa bills in life. Still car payments to be made, still vet visits, still insurance, new tires needed soon, etc. What am I doing?

My book that I wrote last year is in the process of being edited, however, so I am happy about that. There’s like one fifth of the book yet to be edited at this point. And then… I will ask a friend, who is a better artist than me, to do some cover art for me. And then… I will try to find some book review blogs to submit it to. And then… I will announce a release date. We’ll see how that goes.

So that was my 2016. The first four and a half months seem like a different year to me altogether than the final seven and a half; I was in a different world, then. I was working a job I hated, far away from the majority of the people I loved. I was financially secure, but I don’t think my sanity would’ve lasted much longer there. In spite of all the uncertainty and stress I’ve experienced since being back, I really am much happier to be home. It is some to do with the familiar scenery, but it is mostly because of the old support system I had when I lived here before has been reestablished. I love my family and friends, so much. They are all very good to me; often times much more than I deserve. God has blessed me with their presence in my life, and I am forever thankful for that.

So I gotta say, I liked 2016 quite a bit. It was much better to me than the previous two years had been, at the very least. I got to go home, I got to pursue my educational goals, and I did a few things I had always wanted to do (regardless of how long I actually spent doing those things). I know the election of a certain billionaire blowhard to the White House has gotten a lot of people down, but consider this: the alternative was no better. She just has the capacity to hide her sins better. That’s not saying much, and a lot of people now see her and her husband for what they really are, even though the establishment in her party is determined to learn nothing from this defeat…

US politics are fucked.  The US government is evil, or at the very least corrupt. Same goes for our media. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on, either. If your only defense is that the other side did it too, that’s no defense at all. One thing you can count on, though: there are a lot of people who are tired of the bullshit. Say what you want about my generation, but we have a good bullshit radar, and we don’t like it. We will always question why, as much as it pisses you off; we aren’t going to mindlessly throw ourselves on a live grenade for you. In the coming decades, you will be gone or in nursing homes, and we will be in charge. It will be a different world than the one we live in now.

That world isn’t coming in 2017. Still, everyone needs to stay awake. Don’t stop questioning the answers. Don’t start accepting the bullshit. Keep fighting for the truth.

Author: Thomastine

Hello, I am Thomas Aaron Hellman, AKA Thomastine. I've graduated from: West Albany High School, Linn Benton Community College, and the Community College of the Air Force. I currently take classes at Oregon State University, the best school in the world. One time, I was in the Air Force. Now, I'm not. I like to draw, write, and make music. I also like beer. And coffee. Currently, I'm tired.

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