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When I watched my older brother get sworn into the Marine Corps, a little piece of me chipped off and floated away. I remember when I started to cry that day; I was overwhelmingly proud and nauseatingly nervous for his future. When I watched my brother leave, I thought about all of the people who told him, "You can't do that, you can't do this, you won't make it far enough to be happy."
I also remember the day my brother called us. It was the first time we'd heard his voice in months, and my whole family was in tears. His phone call to announce his success once again eroded away another piece of my steadfastness. He was set to graduate boot camp. He did it, proving any and all naysayers wrong. I am aware this was a day that ultimately changed his life, but piece by piece, my life, my path, and I as a person had begun to unravel.
I remember being selfish, deprecatingly inconsiderate and very tired. My nose would always be stuck in the air in complaint, or stuck in a book to tune out the world. I remember being hurt by friends, boys and the terribly painful, yet common, things life will throw at us in the worst of moments. However, at the heart of it all, I remember changing, and I remember the path I took.
Books have always been a hiding place for me; they are a world pre-made and spelled out. There is no guesswork, mistakes to be made or involvement besides turning pages. When my brother was deployed, I went with him. Starting with fiction novels on Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, I developed an appreciation for the Afghan people and knowledge of a horrible extremist group. Then, I read my way through nonfiction books on contemporary Afghanistan, its political structure and cultural norms. Of course, this is a land I will probably never see, but these novels began to open my mind to the expansiveness of the world.
When my brother returned from Afghanistan, a recent occurrence, more little pieces that had once shrouded me in worry slipped off of my shoulders and fell away. By this time, I had found myself exploring the staggering possibilities my life holds. Perhaps I should travel with the Peace Corps and do my part in this world, fly to Europe and fall in love, or even enlist by my own hand.
However, as I enumerate these possibilities, I realize where I want to stand for now. I want to become someone who uses her knowledge for the betterment of others. I don't want to live in my previous sheltered manner, where the only thing that mattered was me — I want to become a piece of the whole picture. Consequently, my path is pointing toward higher education, where I intend to work hard, gain perspective and begin on my path to learning about this world.
Thank you, Marine Corps. Thank you, Josh.