From the Editor-in-Chief

Matt Eidson, Editor-in-Chief

I recently celebrated an anniversary unlike any other: my discharge from the Marine Corps. I celebrated the day the same way I celebrated it the year before, which is to say I completely forgot about it. The realization that such an important day has gone by twice now without my noticing prompted me to wonder: why don’t I give the event more pomp and circumstance?

Three years ago – when I was still in the military – all I could dream about was being done with my time. I wanted to start growing my hair out, not shaving for days and heading off on some new adventure without worrying about whether my chain of command had been informed.

Since leaving the Marine Corps, I’ve faced several challenges. But of the obstacles I’ve encountered, the most difficult was one I never dreamed would actually be an issue: the transition.

As my time left in the military grew shorter, I was warned by Marines who had been there, done that: left the service and lived life as a “civilian.” Only in this case, they came back. The idea that someone would leave the military only to return was preposterous to me.

“People are crazy out there” or “civilians are irritating” were just two of 10,000 comments I heard. But the notion of freedom had infected me; it was all I could think about and all I needed for my life to be perfect. I couldn’t be convinced otherwise.

Ironically, when it comes time to leave the military, members are required to take transitional courses to prepare them for the “real world.” These classes cover a range of things: using your GI Bill, filling out a resume, etc. But unfortunately, these classes don’t cover everything.

They don’t tell you how awkward you’ll feel sitting in a hallway outside your first college course, watching kids ten years younger than you walk by and laugh with their friends. They don’t tell you about how people will ask you questions like, “you ever kill anyone?” after finding out you served. They certainly don’t tell you about how difficult your temper will be to control.

After I left the Marines, the slightest annoyance would give me tunnel vision. Sitting in my corner I would focus on that irritation and try to talk myself down. It was far from healthy, and within months of leaving the Marines, I started to wonder if I should go back. I started to think I couldn’t hack it on the outside.

These things may seem trivial, but I came to fear those sorts of interactions. I would become anxious in social settings and fold, closing myself off. Things like walking through a crowded Target suddenly became more strenuous than cardiovascular training: my heart rate spiking as I tried to pass someone walking too slow or trying to pick out an item someone was blocking me from.

In my experience, veterans seek each other out at times like these. The logic is sound; someone who knows what you experienced is able to understand your frustrations in ways few others can. However, in seeking out other veterans to get me through my college years, I found I only got worse.

Surrounding myself with vets only secluded me more. Though I still don’t understand why entirely, my best guess argues that surrounding myself with veterans outside of the military took the comradery I felt and replaced it with nostalgia. It’s the difference between being in the glory days as opposed to reminiscing about the glory days.

There’s the issue: I refuse to admit that my glory days are behind me. I’m only 29-years-old; I will not live in the past and define myself by something that, though I’m proud of, I’ve moved on from. While my time in the Marine Corps is certainly an entertaining chapter in my life, it’s not the title of my book.

My college experience became more enjoyable when I stopped surrounding myself with veterans. I started an internship with Studio One (a weekly live television show at the University of North Dakota) and started interacting with other students: students that hadn’t served in the military.

The internship was my last-ditch effort at trying to fit in at UND. I told myself if it didn’t work out, I’d start looking at going back to the Marines. Lucky for me, I not only did well during the internship, I rediscovered a passion that had laid dormant inside of me for so many years: journalism.

No longer beholden to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I realized that I had a voice; more than a voice, I had something to say. With that realization, I got to work.

Rather than sport the Marine Corps emblem on every t-shirt I own, or regale everyone I meet with stories about my time in, I take the lessons and experiences during my military career and apply them to my future. I take on new challenges and try my best to make this next chapter the best entry in the novel of my life. Because in the end, it’s not the t-shirt I care about, it’s the story.

Matt Eidson is the editor-in-chief for  The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]