When I left home at eighteen, I knew nothing about the world. Or about myself, for that matter. My education at that point consisted of 12 years of primary and secondary schooling and 18 years of my dad yelling at me. As far as I knew, my existence was fairly normal.
I volunteered for airborne school, a strange combination with the personnel clerk position I was to be trained for. But I ended up being assigned to a Special Forces unit.
The Army taught me to challenge myself. I got to experience things I’d never have the chance to do otherwise. As a personnel specialist with Airborne training assigned to a Special Forces unit in the 1980s, I had the privilege of spending a month in South Korea when the unit flew over for a field exercise.
One night, one of the senior ranking sergeants in my unit invited me to go to dinner with two soldiers from the South Korean army. One of them was older, like my senior sergeant, and the other was a young sergeant like me. The two older men led the way. As we walked down the pitch black street without a single lamp, myself unable to speak a word of Korean and my international counterpart likewise unable to speak English, my friend reached over and took my hand and smiled. As our fingers interlocked, I reminded myself not to do anything that might cause an international incident while thinking to myself how weird it felt to be in that predicament.
Years later, after completing college and spending some time making my living in the world, I decided to join the National Guard. I thought it might be a growth experience to attend officer candidate school. I was more right than I ever knew.
As events would happen, I ended up serving in Iraq in 2005. It was not a mission I’d have volunteered for, but I didn’t fight too hard to be relieved of it either. My life has largely been a series of me placing myself in odd circumstances just to experience something different. I never fully realized what the point of many of those experiences were until I found myself in a sweltering desert surrounded my people with whom I had little in common.
I once took a job as a hustler selling perfumes on 100% commission. I wasn’t good at it, but I learned what it was like to walk up to a total stranger and try to convince them to trust me on nothing more than a smile and a few fancy words.
Not knowing anything about real estate, I took a class and learned how to flip properties. I helped an older woman get out of a mortgage before she lost her house and helped a young couple buy their first home while pocketing a few bucks in the process. I then used what I learned about real estate to purchase my first property, a townhouse, and I have since converted it into a rental property.
Life is a series of unknowns. If we knew the script going in, we might decide to never walk out on the stage.
By forcing myself into experiences that likely would not have come my way on their own, I learned to overcome fear, remove self-doubt, and take each moment as it comes without anxiety. I’ve had to learn to embrace total darkness so that I might hope find the light. As a result, my life is full of bright lights.