I didn´t quite fully comprehend the significance of what I was doing by moving to Quito until I was done packing my belongings. Whatever was in those bags would see me through the next year in a foreign country! If you were to give me 3 letters to describe what was going through my head, they´d have to be "WTF!" WTF was I doing, moving away from the greatest city in the world? WTF was I doing going so far from my family and friends and WTF why Ecuador?!
Calm down, it´s ok, those same 3 letters with the same sense of urgency have crossed my mind before, twice. The first as an 18 year old, on the bus to Parris Island and the second prior to and during the invasion of Iraq.
Up until my fateful ride to boot camp, I had never been out of my element and thus never had the chance to know who I was and what I was capable of. The following thoughts traversed my mind as I saw civilization subside and swampland take over:
-Is the training going to be too tough for me to handle?
-I weigh 130lbs, how the eff am I going to do the things the other guys can do?
-WTF have you gotten yourself into Robert?!
Throughout boot camp, I kept 4 words in mind and lived by them, "I can do this." As a result, I was able to handle the training quite well, despite my size. Most importantly, I came out with the knowledge that I am capable of whatever it is that I want, if I put my mind (and hard work) into it (sorry for the cliche). I grew tremendously as a person because of the "WTF experience."
To be honest, I was scared out of my mind prior to and during most of the invasion of Iraq. I simply could not get the thought of dying out of my mind. I would think about the following:
-How I am going to die (shot with an AK-47 or friendly artillery shell)
-Where I am going to die (if I don´t die now, I´m surely going to die when we get to Baghdad since it´s going to be a bloodbath)
-WTF, it´s HOT
-What will happen to my family (my Mom will be so upset, but at least she will get the $250,000 life insurance policy, wait WTF I´m only worth 250K?! That´s BS!)
I felt so sorry for myself and my family and everyone else that loved me that my death nearly preoccupied my life. After a little (a LOT) of thought, I came to the conclusion that if I spent my life, whether it´s in a combat zone or a luxury resort, worrying about death, then maybe it´s not worth living! I swore to myself that I would stop thinking about death and start thinking about how to enjoy life. In addition, I gave myself the credit to do the right things when bad things happened (like combat) and decided to embrace everything I enjoyed about life (like my family and friends).
So why am I leaving behind such a wonderful group of family and friends to live in Ecuador? I truly believe that this "WTF experience" will help me grow as a person (in addition to learning a new language and culture) while helping people in a developing country. Besides, family will always be there and true friendship endures through distance and time. I don´t know what lies ahead of me this next year, but I will enjoy it as much as possible and trust that I will handle whatever challenges come my way.
I am updating this blog in order to raise awareness for my fundraiser¨"Race for the Fallen." Please visit the following link to read about why I am supporting this cause. Thank you.