So a few things have happened since I last wrote.
Remember a while back when I told you about how the war in Afghanistan had basically turned the volume down on everything back home? Well, I came back, started back to work and inevitably succumbed to acting and feeling just like everyone else. (Something that I swore to myself I wouldn't do.) But I went and did it.
I started to bitch about my job. I started to feel burdened by my family and friends. I started to whine about not having enough money. I became lazy, complacent, and an overall slug.
This all happened pretty quickly given that I have been home for just two months.
But the transformation hadn't taken full and complete effect. The volume was still low enough that I could hear the things that I needed to hear. And I think that I may have gotten a little kick in the ass from the big guy upstairs. At least I hope that's what it was. Either that or it was a polite message of "quit yer bitchin!"
So I ride the CTA (Chicago transit authority) buses and trains to work. Which most people consider to be a pain in the ass. However, I consider parking in downtown Chicago to be an even larger pain in the ass. So I have selected the lesser of two evils.
Anyway, so I was standing at the bus stop waiting on the bus. When the guy next to me said, "Excuse me, but could you give me a hand getting on the bus?"
I looked over and saw a guy, probably mid twenties, good looking kid. Except for a few glaring items. He was in a wheelchair, and he was minus a left leg.
I told him that I'd help him, and what did he need me to do? He replied, just to watch the chair as he got on the bus. (Chicago has kneeling buses. The shocks compress so that the bus basically kneels down so that he can get on the bus.)
So we're sitting there waiting, and I can't help but ask. What happened?
He told me he lost his limbs in an IED blast in Afghanistan, not far from where I had been stomping around not more than 70 days ago. He his leg in 2002, when he was 18 years old.
So we swapped a few pleasantries, what unit we were each in, where we were, what we had done there and blah, blah, blah.
Then (while trying to ignore the elephant in our collective living room.) I asked what he had been up to since then.
(Here's where I got what I think is my message from God.)
He got home in 2002, had to rehab his injuries for a year. Then they sent him home. However, all the while he had been in the hospital he had been taking classes on the internet toward his bachelors degree. Now since he was 100% disabled he got a monthly check from the government that enabled him to keep on going to school. He was working on his masters in psychology, hoping to go on to get his PSY D. So that he could be a psychiatrist or psychologist or whatever.
I asked what he wanted to do with that, and he stated very matter of factly (like I should've known) that he wanted to work with Vets and help get them over PTSD.
We talked a bit more and I got a few other things out of him. Turns out he is an avid rock climber. (Yeah, only one leg and he decides to climb rocks.) On top of that, he runs 5 miles a day.
This one threw me off, I was like, "Dude, you're in a wheelchair. What gives?" Oh, he only uses the wheelchair for trips around the city. That way he doesn't have to wait in any lines, and its just easier to scoot a chair around than it is to deal with the prosthetic limb he's got, which he says hasn't been fitted exactly right yet so it still hurts over long distances. Not to mention people give him free stuff a lot.
That's a boy! Anyone who's ever been in the military will tell you that you take full advantage of every opportunity afforded you. And if a wheelchair will get you some free stuff every now and then and shoot you to the front of the line. So be it.
I couldn't resist. When we got to the train station I asked him if I could buy him a beer. He said sure, and then said, "See I already got a free beer out of this ride!"
So we sat down at the bar and ordered up a couple cold ones, and I started to pick his brain some more.
Do you work?
Yeah, I got a job at a mental hospital.
How much do you work?
40 a week.
Dude, and you go to school full time?
How do you pull that off?
I can sleep when I'm dead.
What's with all the running?
The running prosthetic I have is the only one that fits right, so I use it. Thinking about running a marathon too.
Of course, why wouldn't you? And I have a helluva time getting off my ass and going to the gym.
Well, (he looks down at where his leg should be) what the hell is your problem?
I don't know.
Do you ever get pissed about losing your leg?
I did, but then I just figured, what the fuck. Its a leg, its gone, and its not coming back. What's the use of sitting around being mad about it. Most guys in that hospital were mad about what happened to them. I fell in with them for a while, until I realized that I should be more happy than mad.
What the hell are you talking about?
I'm not dead...and given the fact that I'm not dead, means that I'm still alive.
Alright, Captain obvious, what are you talking about?
I'm not dead, sure I'm missing a leg, but I'm still breathing. And so long as I'm still breathing I can do something. Legs are a convenience. That's all. They make life easier. They don't make it possible. You don't need a leg to live. So fuck the leg. I'm gonna live. Embrace the suck, right?
I looked at him and laughed. Then explained to him this whole blog thing of mine.
We shot the shit for a few more minutes until his train was boarding and off he went.
I sat there, watching him roll away. And couldn't help but be ashamed of myself.
How dare I be pissed about...anything really. I've pretty much got it all. I've got a good job, all limbs attached and working, brain functional (for the most part), a family and friends that love me, and a million other things that are going for me.
But I manage to piss and moan and feel depressed about a few little things that if I were in Afghanistan wouldn't even register as problems.
This guy does more than I do, with less than I have.
So it turned into a little motivational shot in the arm. This is a guy who truly understands embracing the suck. Problems are only real if you let them stop you. Maybe things got altered a little bit for this guy, but he didn't stop. As a matter of fact he probably sped up!
This guy turned what most people would consider a big road block, into nothing more than an inconsequential speed bump in his life.
And here I am with the balls to complain about having to work 10 pm to 6 am.
Message received. Good talk. Hope to have another one again soon!
I love you Mom...