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.

Edumucation

Education is important, or something. When I first went to school… I didn’t realize that. I was 5. One of my earliest memories is walking down the street to the grade school, that first day ever. Pretty sure I had an entourage; my mom, brother and sister were with me. It was playing out like some sort of action sequence in my head, because we were a formidable group, probably (not).

SCHOOL

The first few days, I was in one teacher’s class, but after that, I was in this new teacher’s class. This upset me, I remember. Even though this other teacher was nice. Also, she reminded me of some cartoon character-like, a street smart, male, cartoon dog-because that’s what my brain did back then. Later in the year, there was a Christmas gift exchange, and I got this teddy bear another kid had made himself, and I was like, “I don’t want this!” I was a very thoughtful little asshole, wasn’t I? This was also the year I burned my hand on my godmother’s stove at her old house, I remember. Took a while to heal.

Throughout grade school, we had these swimming lessons at the local high school. The first two groups swam exclusively in the shallow end, but in group three and on, you started swimming in the deep end. I was deathly afraid of swimming lessons, months before we actually had to go to swimming lessons.

DEEPEND

To my relief, when I was in group three, they decided I should move back down to group two. To my embarrassment, however, I moved down from group three to group two, as it made me feel inferior. I think mostly younger kids were still in group two… Also, there was something about a teacher having to help me put my underwear on, that supposedly another kid had a picture of… but we’re probably not talking about social anxiety/shaming in this blog.

Towards the end of Grade School, I was put in classes that consisted of kids in my grade and kids in the grade below. On a scale of E for Excellent, S for Satisfactory, and U for Unsatisfactory, I think I got mostly S’s. The way the other kids talked, too, made me feel less intelligent. I remember there was some state or national test thing that we took, and mine came back with the name “Iam  Mellman,” because whoever it was who graded it couldn’t read my handwriting correctly. Regardless, I remember scoring pretty low on that thing. I also remember making “animal signs” at the local weather reporter when he came in to film us, and getting crap for that for a few years, but yeah.

When I got to Middle School, my sole interest was video games and fantasy novels. Somehow, I didn’t seem to get in trouble with my grades during my first year there, but starting in seventh grade, I was getting low enough grades that my mom started noticing, and I started getting in trouble for it. Didn’t really change how I performed, however, until the next year; in my eighth grade science class, I basically did none of the work, and sat in class reading some MYTH-Adventure of Aahz and Skeeve.

FAILURE

Eventually, it caught up to me that I was getting an F in the class, and my mom grounded me from doing anything but school work until I caught up. There was some balloon project that I got in way late, but was given a C on, saving my grade. My mom said she was proud of me. I just remember thinking that it wasn’t High School yet, so it didn’t matter…

…but when High School came, I still didn’t particularly apply myself. I was getting decent enough grades for the most part-nothing lower than a C-through my first couple years. I even got placed in AP English my Sophomore year… A friend and I found a worksheet from that class, in which I got like no points, even though I wrote down all the correct answers. I guess I didn’t write them down the way the teacher wanted them to be written down (we found this because I had drawn one of my comics on the backside of this worksheet). So the next year, I was back in regular English class, getting A’s again. However, in my Spanish and Math classes, I wasn’t doing great. I generally blew off the Spanish class, and barely passed both the years I had to take it. It was more fun to goof off with my friends than actually put in the work, I suppose. So I got C’s in those two classes, and in most my science and math classes, but whatever math level I had my Junior year… I got a friggen’ D.

MATH

Not sure what happened there, but it totally messed up my GPA. Also, I never took the SAT’s… So, even though I mostly got straight A’s my senior year, it was too little, too late, and I ended up going to the local Community College.

Finally in a place where I had to spend some of my own money on my education, with other friends making it to Universities, I started to take this crap seriously. Somewhat. Did pretty good my first two terms, but then in Spring Term, I took macroeconomics, trigonometry, and a weekend physical fitness class, altogether. The weeks I had that weekend class sucked, and in general, that macroeconomics and trigonometry class sucked. The tests in that macroeconomics class were open book, but they kicked my ass anyway, because the instructor thought he ought to be teaching at the university level, or something. And the Trigonometry class… I was struggling with it, even when I was trying. When the final came, I could’ve done well enough to get an A in the class overall, maybe. However, I was so burnt out on it that I didn’t study at all, and I got forty out of one hundred and twenty points. I got two C’s that term, the only C’s I’ve gotten my entire college career. There was at least one biology class that I thought I was in danger of getting a C in, but I got a B instead, so yeah.  I was in the honor roll multiple times at that Community College… but big deal, it was a Community College.

Finishing up at the Community College level, I had an Associate of Arts Transfer Degree… that I had no idea what to do with.

FREEDOM

So the next few years, I just kinda existed. I remember, too, being happy when I was done with school. Why? There was no plan for what to do next. I worked in Yellowstone as a dorm custodian, I came back and worked at a gas station for a while, and then I started subbing as a custodian for the school district (there was other work here and there, as well as a few significant life events, but eh.) It just kind of felt like going nowhere a lot of the time, like I was accomplishing nothing. Other people were doing things with their lives, like advancing at their jobs or getting married, and there I was… a substitute custodian.

Eventually, I joined the Air Force, just so I wouldn’t be doing nothing for forever… and also because of a girl, but I’ve told that part of the story before. I’ve also talked about BMT in the past, although I suppose I haven’t talked about studying for the ASVAB (some kind of military placement test). Before I took that thing, I wasn’t sure if I was particularly smart. Then I took that thing, and I scored high enough to where I could go into any career field I wanted to, basically. For the final test at BMT (that went over all the information we learned in our classes), I got a 90 out of 100. Then I got to Tech School. If Tech School would’ve just been the school part, I would’ve been golden, because I scored in the 90’s in nearly all of the tests, there (but it wasn’t just the school part; it also involved marching and being around asshole MTLs all the time. One of whom accused me of lying, and backed me into a yes or no answer for a question that wasn’t a yes or no question. And then after that, he apparently totally forgot about it. But I didn’t.)

ENTRAPMENT

When I got to Little Rock, I was given my CDCs (Career Development Course). Essentially, five volumes of really friggen’ bland, horrible-to-read military textbooks. I was given a year to get through all of them, take pretests, and then take the actual test. When you first got to that office, that was your job, pretty much; studying that material. So once I got through all the material and answered all the questions at the end of each chapter, I started memorizing what the answer to each of the questions were, and there were a lot.

MEMORIZATION

I wouldn’t move on from a page until I memorized all the answers. Because the pretests were pretty much just those questions, I scored like a 92 on my first pretest, and then like a 96 or 97, I think. I think there were supposed to be three of those pretests, but after the second one, they just interviewed me and decided I was ready for the end of course exam. Which I got an 85 on, because not all of the questions on the exam were from the end of chapter questions in the CDCs, heh. Still, that was pretty good, but if I’d gotten a 90, I would’ve gotten a day off.

After that, I took some military tests that counted as college classes (forget what they’re called) so I could get my Air Force Associate’s. And then I had two Associate’s; one in Arts, and one in Applied Science. Not sure why I thought I needed that second degree, but it looks nice on top of my chested drawers, next to the other one, I suppose.

Anyway, at that point, I decided I should use military Tuition Assistance and apply to start taking online classes at Oregon State. It had always been my dream to be an OSU alumnus, for whatever reason. Maybe because of my brother and sister who graduated from there, maybe because of watching OSU sports all my life, maybe because I really like Corvallis, OR. For whatever reason, I was taking classes through them, and I was kinda nervous, because I hadn’t taken any real college courses for a long time… My first term, I got an A and an A-. Second term, A-. Third term, A and A- again. Fourth term, A and A-,  including my first ever A in a math class (though it was statistics).

Then, as I was getting ready to exit the military, I get this message from someone at the Tuition Assistance office, saying they audited me, and that I owe them over $2,000. Because I had gotten a message from the education center saying that they had to review my TA request the first time I put in one, and let it go through, I had assumed that I was doing it right (I had also been told by higher ranking individuals in my office that I could do it the way I did it; there was a waiver they could use). So I was like, “I was told there was a waiver,” and even forwarded the guy an email sent by my supervisor to the school, explaining that there was a waiver (he had been told the same thing by the same coworkers who had told me that). I also called the Education Center, and I probably wasn’t super nice in my tone, because I’d just been told I owed over $2000, and I was pissed off. Well, I was getting pissed off at a Master Sergeant, and as a Senior Airman, that’s not gonna be good for you. So she gets all pissy with me, tells me there’s no such waiver, tells me to talk to my first shirt, etc. And the guy also emails me back in this curt response saying that there’s no such email, I did it wrong, etc.

So the next day, I go in to the Education Center, because I was told they could help me use my GI Bill to pay off the debt. Well, the friggen’ guy there claims he doesn’t know how to do that or something, and also tells me I better not say that it was their fault that it went through, because I took the training and read the thing, etc., and that it’s my responsibility. I told him about the email, and he’s like “Oh, that’s not what that means! That means this other thing! Do you think we have time to do that for everyone?!” I was like “I guess I didn’t understand the scope of your review process, then.” So I’m just getting irritated with all of them, and I have the money in the bank, so I just pay the $2000+ off, thinking that would be the end of it.

Except it wasn’t. When I was getting signatures from all the different places as I was being discharged, having them sign off whether or not I owed them money, this asshole I talked to at the Education Center the other time looks at my file, and is like, “Oh no, it says you still owe $2000+.” I had paid the school, but the TA site apparently said I still owed that money to them or something, even though the guy in the email had told me I would pay the school. So I told this guy I already paid the school, and I don’t know how he got from point a to point b, but he starts accusing me of knowingly committing fraud. I told him I didn’t knowingly do anything, and he was like “Oh yes you did! You took the training, you read the thing!” And wrote down that I still owed $2000+.

FRAUD

I didn’t say anything else, but I was pissed, and if I hadn’t still been in the Air Force at that point, he might’ve found his ass on the floor. Luckily when I got to the office and talked to my Superintendent, she called the TA guy and advocated for me and my personal character, and made things better. The TA guy was also accusing me of fraud and talking shit about me, which she told me she didn’t like. I was very grateful to her, and have to note that she helped me out more than once during my time there. Of the good people I met in the Air Force, she was certainly one of the best.

So now, I’m back home, and taking classes this Summer. Of the two classes I’ve completed already this term, I have two A’s. So far on my online class (which is the whole term), I have 100%, so that’s probably going to be an A too, if not an A+. We’ll see how this last course goes… But boy oh boy, I’ve been kicking ass in all my classes at OSU thus far. If only I’d applied myself when I was in High School, my life probably would’ve been way different, and there probably wouldn’t have been that period between my community college years and my Air Force years where I did nothing.

Let that be a lesson, kids: apply yourselves, or you will have to clean toilets and get yelled at by a Training Instructor.