As I mentioned earlier, I spent this weekend at Camp Dawson, W.Va., with IUP’s ROTC students and four other journalists. We got the chance to experience the training that the Army goes through and learn first-hand what it’s like in the day of a solider, more or less. Sure, there were no real guns, the weather was absolutely beautiful and I had a warm bed to sleep in every night, but it was a life-changing experience.
The other journalists and I seem to have had a skewed view of the Army before we went on this trip. Personally, I always viewed the Army as being kind of intimidating. When I see an ROTC student walking around campus in uniform on a Thursday, I don’t know how to act. Now, I have a lot of respect for them and the things they do. I won’t be afraid to talk to one of them.
A normal day for me consists of eating three giant, greasy meals, sleeping every chance I can get, complaining about paper cuts, complaining about the rain, complaining about most things, actually, and sitting at one of my two desk-jobs.
A normal day this weekend consisted of waking up at 5 a.m., not showering, doing strenuous activities (more the cadets
than me, but I put in an effort), eating MREs (pre-packed military, rationed food that in real war they only get once or twice a day), walking around in the middle of the night without a flashlight, jumping in to pools blindfolded with a uniform on (again, I didn’t do that), and getting a good four hours of sleep before getting up to do it again the next day.
It’s amazing what these people go through. And amazing to hear stories about what it’s like serving in places like Afghanistan.
I learned a lot about myself this weekend too. About my strengths and weaknesses. About what makes me happy, and what makes me break.
Leaving on Friday, I thought that I would have a normal, technology-filled weekend, since I was sent as the “social media girl” of the group. I didn’t have service. I didn’t have wi-fi. The best part? I loved it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my jobs, I love working in social media, I love being surrounded by technology every day. Saturday night though, when I had no cell phone service and was out in the middle of nowhere with no light and just a few people I’d gotten to know, I remembered what it was like when I was younger and didn’t worry about tweeting or checking my email. It was like I was home with my friends in eighth grade again, just laying out in the middle of a field at night and looking at the millions of stars that you can only see when you’re out of civilization. I needed that.
I also needed a change of attitude. I went in to this trip excited to try everything, and as they would say “shit talking” about how excited I was about everything.
But I can’t do everything.
I can’t repel down a tower without smacking my face off of it. I can’t climb on top of buildings, because I’m afraid to come back down, even when there’s an entire group of men waiting at the bottom to catch me. I can’t expect people to take what I do seriously (they don’t, obviously). I can’t take a paintball to the leg without crying my eyes out.
Worst of all, I can’t handle being laughed at for all of these things without crying more. Which makes me a total wimp.
I need to stop being so full of myself.
The weekend was amazing. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t anything like this.
I’m changed by the stories I heard, about basic training, about being overseas or just on the other side of the country and being excited to get a four-day-late letter. I’m inspired to write so much, not necessarily about my experience, but about the people I met. I’m looking forward to writing my story for The Penn tomorrow, and it seems like I’m hardly ever motivated to write an article anymore.