A bit of a personal post, today. Part of my subjective writer’s journey.
Why did I post the photo above, me wearing a pakhul at some lousy firebase?
Well, it’s because that was me at the height of my competency, before everything went downhill. Before I took a hit. Before the hospitals, the boards. Long before I got the idea to write. That’s me when I led men in combat, when I could still point at something and say, “this is what I do.”
On many days it still feels as if I am stuck there, in 2011, up in the mountains. As if I can’t escape. As if everything that’s happened since isn’t real.
I thought I would die there, and then it didn’t happen.
As if by magic, I came home and wrote. In the Valley, the first book of my trilogy, was the result.
Why am I talking about this today.
Well, a few things have happened, some of which I’m not going to touch in a public forum. What I will say is that I recently attended a gathering of soldiers, I struck up a conversation with some of them. One of them asked “what are you doing these days,” a pretty innocuous question. A pretty uncomfortable question, frankly.
How do I answer that? I’m medically retired, still relatively young. Looking at me, I seem to be able bodied. I stood there tongue-tied, unsure of what to say. Did I spill my guts and tell this soldier that I spend a lot of time at the VA? Did I mention that I tried regular employment and it didn’t work out? Did I say that I’m trying to atone for all the years gone, the pain, the loss?
Nope. I blurted out “I write books.” The statement felt lame, stupid, as it crossed my lips. Even though it’s the God’s truth.
The soldier changed the subject, we stopped speaking soon after.
Looking back on the conversation, I’m a little pissed about it. First, I know I did good time for God and country. Second, there’s nothing wrong with a medical retirement. It’s not as if the Army gave me a choice. They didn’t. I’m lucky to be alive. Finally, what the hell is wrong with being an author? Not a damn thing, as far as I’m concerned.
I’ve written a decent little trilogy. I’m up to my ears in collaborations. Just finished the rough draft of my fourth novel. I run this website, and it’s rewarding and fun.
So maybe the problem isn’t with the question, “what do you do these days,” but with my own perception. I’m not a soldier anymore. I’ll probably never face the enemy again. I no longer carry the sword.
It’s over. I write books.
If people want to give me funny looks about it, that’s their problem.
This is what I do.