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Living In a Whirlwind

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link   All Posts
  Mark Zanowicz My finger looms over the “Submit” button. The next two years of my life hang in limbo. Am I making the right decision? Should I have reconsidered the order of my billets? Is some weird glitch in this program going to screw up my submission and send me to some dismal corner of the frozen north? Too late for those worries now, I’ve clicked the mouse. The rest is out of my hands.

Such was my experience submitting my E-Resume – my “dream sheet” of desired billets – just over a week ago. Somehow I thought it would feel a little more significant. But really, it was just another click of the mouse. I’ve been here almost four years now; I’ve clicked this Logitech mouse hundreds of thousands of times. It’s weird to think that one tiny movement of my finger has decided my fate for the next two years.

And then, it’s back to the books.

I know I often talk about how crazy things can be here. This semester has been no different in that regard. There’s still plenty of studying to be done, military obligations to be met, and a lot of little things to take care of before graduation in May.

The real difference this semester comes from the fact that it is the last one. All the 1/c know that this is it, and there’s a certain mood in the air of impending change. And with that feeling comes a sense of reflection over the past few years.

I don’t think anyone can look back on their experience at the Academy and claim it was an entirely great time, but there is something to be said for the things that we’ll never be able to experience again. I think I’m going to miss having so many friends living right down the hall from me. I’m going to miss blasting thrash metal while scribbling through the homework I should have finished the night before. And oddly enough, I’m sure I’ll miss having mostly schoolwork to worry about instead of an endless barrage of paperwork and qualifications to complete. Hey, I might even miss New London.

Actually, I have my doubts about that last one.

Looking back now though, if there’s one thing about the Academy that is much clearer in hindsight, it’s that there are a huge amount of opportunities available here. Even beyond all the clubs, sports, and events you can participate in, there are plenty of people here who have had incredible experiences and can offer great insight not just about being an officer, but also about life in general. There are plenty of connections to be made, and if you do decide to enroll at the Academy, my best advice would be to make the most of it. It’s not going to be fun, but that’s no reason to hang your head and be miserable. I’m sure most people won’t come in here with that kind of attitude, but it’s very easy to get beaten down while you’re here. Don’t let it happen.

I guess the real lesson to be learned is that you shouldn’t just wait around for things to get better here. When I was in high school, all I could do my senior year was think about how much better things were going to be in college. And then Swab Summer came along, and I thought of how much better 4/c year would be when we didn’t have to scream all the time and go to calisthenics every morning. When 4/c year came along, I thought of how much better it would be to not have to square meals and brace up like a robot. And so on and so forth. Now I’m a 1/c with a car, shorts every weekend, and almost all the privileges I can possibly have as a cadet, and yet I’m still here waiting out the days until Graduation because I know that’s when things will really start getting better.

The truth is, you should do what you can in the present instead of waiting for the better times you know are coming. Sure, things do really improve as you go on. But at the same time, there’s always something you’ll be waiting for – be it the ability to walk out of the front gate in civilian clothes for the first time or finally packing out of Chase Hall and moving into your new apartment as a freshly commissioned Ensign.

Take full advantage of the opportunities available to you when you’re here. Don’t think of the four years at the Academy as a firestorm you must survive to receive your commission – instead, think of all the potential paths to follow and countless opportunities to pursue while you’re a cadet. Four years really does fly by. Even the smallest conversation might elicit an interest in something you had never thought of pursuing before.

I guess this entry really didn’t offer too much beyond some aimless rambling. For that, my apologies. As always, if you have any questions about Academy life, the Coast Guard, or what the best death metal bands are, feel free to shoot me an email at Mark.E.Zanowicz@uscga.edu. And if you’re one of the ones out there who’s waiting to hear back from Admissions, I wish you the very best of luck.

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