Veterans Problems


There are days I really hate being a vet. Let me tell you a story.

I work as the Campus Life editor for my college newspaper. I was brought in midway through the semester to shore up a hole left by a shuffled editorial staff. It wasn’t easy, because for some reason few policies are written and the was little on-the-job training. I was more or less thrown in and told to figure it out as I went. To be fair, it was a turnover year and all of the other editors were new. Also, with the exception of the layout editor and her assistant (the most adorably pregnant person ever), I’m the oldest on staff at 25. My editor-in-chief only turned 19 in October.

Rewind to my military days. I saw very young people do amazing things. 18 and 19 year-old infantrymen stood toe to toe and went blow-for-blow with some of the most experienced guerrillas in the world. I saw recent college grads (the butter bar LTs) shape local politics and heal broken countries. Needless to say, in my world, the exceptional was the norm. It was normal for a kid right out of high school to be dependable and more or less responsible. Many would study, fight, or man their position for long hours with relatively few complaints because they knew others relied on them to do it (also the pay). Because of this, I developed a set of expectations about how people my age can and should act.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really work for me in the civilian world. Last night (the 14th) was our layout night, when the entire editorial staff meets to print the paper as it should look and make any necessary final edits. Needless to say from the tone above, it left me a little burnt out.

My day began at 0830 that morning for my job as a tutor, and then I went into the paper office at 1600 when I got out of tutoring. I didn’t get home until 0330 this morning. As the night dragged later, the more many of the younger crowd complained. I’m not quite sure why, but it really bothered me. I think it’s because I expected more of them. I was used to young people making commitments (and much larger ones to boot) and seeing them through without having to be reminded that yes, they did in fact sign up for this. Worse still was that many of my colleagues would inadvertently make the night slower by fooling around and distracting those working at the moment. I’m not saying no one is barred from having fun at work, but you shouldn’t complain about a holdup after causing one.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to lower my standards. Part of me thinks doing so would make me happier, but at the same time, it would be a great disservice to everyone around me, especially my peers. The reason society sucks so much is the we’re lowering our thresholds for what’s considered acceptable because the normal disseminators of standards–tradition, religion, families–are being altered, warped, or done away with altogether. Maybe I just need to get over it and accept that most people will never live up tithe standards set by my past experiences. I tell you what though, that’s one reason it really sucks being a vet.

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5 comments on “Veterans Problems

  1. Conor O'Bryan Warren says:

    College kids just aren’t generally mature. That’s why many colleges make incoming students live in the dorms for a year, because the vast majority of them are not mature enough to live on their own, and from my experiences in a dorm thats true. Most of them simply don’t have the skills to make an immediate and complete transition from their parent’s house to the dorms. They behave rudely, are inconsiderate of their peers, and leave the commons area a disaster.

    Middle class kids just in general aren’t very good at handling themselves or accepting responsibility for their own actions. I grew up poor and I learned a certain degree of self-reliance that I was surprised I didn’t see in other people when I got to college. I can’t say it is to the same degree as you experience it (because it isn’t) but I do get what you are talking about.

    For me, I don’t see it as having standards for anyone I see it as a cultural disconnect, and when you think about it, it is. I just solve the issue of being annoyed by others by not being involved with college life.

    Also, whether you lower or raise or maintain standards for your peers doesn’t matter. Chances are they aren’t looking to you and fawning over your approval and affection, nor will not meeting your standards result in physical, psychological, or emotional pain. Standards which they can’t meet are just going to cause them to resent you and you to resent them. That being said, ultimately I think you are unlikely to alter them, so I’d look forward to resenting your colleagues if I were you.

  2. juliaergane says:

    I’m a veteran as well. You are an adult and can commit to something. I’ve seen so-called “adults” who cannot commit to anything — this is THE major problem in our society today. Parents do not even commit to raising their children — and I see the end result in the rapid growth of sociopathy. Almost two years ago a group of teen-agers (high school students) murdered a man on the lawn in front of St Mary’s Church in New London because they were “bored.” BORED! I tell you, I still see red whenever I think about that. I would love to kick the butts of the students on the staff of that college paper, too. If only you could bring your platoon in to show them what real people are capable of doing…….

  3. Kullervo says:

    Ugh tell me about it. One of these days I’ll tell you about how I came back from Fort Benning and wound up sort of getting kicked out of Florida State.

  4. Amanda says:

    You noticed it too, huh?

    I’m experiencing this phenomenon from a different perspective: I teach biology at a community college. It’s different from a big university, because I have a lot more nontraditional students (older people, maybe even older than me, who are going back to college), but I also have veterans (it’s in a big military town), and the fresh-out-of-high-school kids.

    I gotta say, the veterans are my best students (followed closely by the older/nontraditional students). The veterans are hardworking and respectful and don’t complain. They say “yes m’am” to me, which I don’t require of my students but it sure is nice (I’m a very young looking 32 years old, so a lot of my students seem to view me as a peer rather than an authority figure. I really like it that the veterans respect my authority).

    Meanwhile, the straight out of high school kids can be so spoiled and immature! (Not all, of course, but some.) They whine about the class being too hard (hey, this is science, it’s a hard subject!), but they don’t want to put the work in to learn the material. They get all upset if they’re making a B and think they deserve an A, because “I always made A’s in high school.” I’ve even had students’ parents call me a couple of times on their son or daughter’s behalf. I refuse to talk to parents (and my department chair has my back on this, thank goodness), because my students are adults, and they don’t need their mommies or daddies to get involved.

    I hope you don’t lower your standards! They’ll resent you, but you’ll be doing them a favor. I’m sure a lot of 18 year old kids who are new to the military aren’t very mature when they first show up, but they are forced to be mature real quick. For those that go to college instead, college should be that experience for them.

    Whenever I’m tempted to lower my standards for my students, I just remember that a lot of them are wanting to go into some sort of medical field, and do I want someone who can’t even pass this class to be working on me in a hospital some day?

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