The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell is a breakdown of the common thread running through each hero movie we watch. From Star Wars, to The Matrix, to The Hobbit and everything in between, the simple story plays out. A protagonist from a normal (boring) life gets a "call to adventure" then meets a mentor who imparts some great wisdom. Our hero then passes tests and trials; faces challenges... and possibly sacrifice, only to succeed and come to terms with his new position, back in the old boring world he left to begin with... but himself forever changed.
This is the basis of many a soldier's delusion as they see themselves as the protagonist in their own hero's story. Many see the movies and stories of valour and sacrifice as their way to overcome that part of themselves that wants such a challenge and fill whatever they feel is missing in their own boring "regular" life. The military gives members the mentors and steps to follow that backs up their belief with trinkets and awards and to many like me, it was a powerful motivation to be something "bigger than yourself" and more than worth the "sacrifice".
The military is a big green machine as they say, and it runs on the energy of primarily young impressionable idealists who, for one reason or another are drawn to what they're almost assured is a "life of adventure" ...and in many ways it is. The military maintains momentum and loyalty by what amounts to dangling carrots in front of members. It provides enough variety to keep most feeling as though they're making progress in their particular field, thereby self selecting who's best suited for a particular trade... it's brilliant.
They are constantly dangling a more impressive prize in front of you to keep you moving forward.. and you can't collect them all, so you always feel like you missed something along the way and therefore will always feel as though you aren't "as good" in that particular area as someone with the t-shirt you'll never have. You're always aiming toward something even more impressive than you thought you wanted when you got the last thing... jump wings wicked! ...but they're cherry wings not white wings. Sure white wings are cool but they're not freefall... freefall seems cool then you need oxygen so you can constantly feel like you're not "less than" those with it... I've got approximately 300 jumps between static line and freefall and still have the ego that I'm "new" from guys with more jumps who were in junior high when I first got my wings.
From the "cool courses" to commander’s commendations and from medals to awards and accolades; it's all designed to bring out the already competitive nature of the soldiers they wish to cultivate... and it works.
The second you're content with the last thing you earned and the feeling of accomplishment subsides, you're back in the doldrums wishing for the next thing... there's always something else to tempt you with. It's fair to say they keep you bored on purpose in order to encourage activity when presented as a better option to the tedious days spent wishing for adventure.
The problem with organizations like the military is that those who are truly invested in their own story will never be satisfied without the movie ending they dream of... whatever it is. You think you'll be the hero of your own story and "roll credits". The real issue comes after those credits have rolled and the feeling of accomplishment and acceptance never feels like the movie ending you had dreamed of, and what if it never comes at all?
For me it never did. I, and many like myself were left without our end scene moment. I didn't fade off into the sunset or die in a shootout... I merely fell apart and couldn't mentally do the job anymore. I never even had a "mug out" as I merely faded into the medical system to be forgotten by those who feel it can't happen to them.
I get it... nobody thinks it can happen to them. In fact many have called me on comments I've made over the years in my hubris while ignoring the very warning signs I was going down the road towards burnout myself.
More often than not, even if people get their dream career, in most cases it wasn't "EVERYTHING" and less than everything isn't enough for many. I believe this is a major part of the recovery process that many have overlooked... the military preaches mental toughness but doesn't teach individuals how to accept the reality of their situations and move on without the military to support them.
They train us how to kill and accept death as normal, but don't teach us how to fit back into "normal" once you hang up your tools.
I believe we can do better.
Royce: the most genuine imposter. A jester or a knight when the situation is right, and the fortunate avatar to his soul on its journey. Dedicated to those things and people he cares for while seeking the light in a world that has shown him so much darkness.