A Change in Perspective

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the true story of how I dealt with a huge event in my life, moving to Japan. It also give a little bit of my personal history of moving constantly for the Navy and how that changed me as a person.

Submitted: October 25, 2012

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Submitted: October 25, 2012

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The day I got the Japan news had been a normal day. I had gone to my morning classes, American Government and Chemistry, at Olympic College and I was sitting at the breakfast bar doing homework. It was nice outside so I had the windows open in the dining room. The sunshine streamed in and little dust motes floated in the air. The smell of pine needles warmed by the sun drifted in with the cool breeze. My head was bent over my latest history assignment, chapter seven review sheets. My dog, Zaire was at my feet, stretched out in a shaft of sunlight and snoring. Her ears flicked up at the sound of a car groaning to get up our steep driveway and she reluctantly opened her eyes at the sound of the sliding door of the van opening and then slamming shut. My mom was home. By the time her keys were in the door, Zaire was there, barking as if there were an intruder, even though she knew it was my mom. Her tail wagged and she wiggled her butt back and forth like she always did when she was excited. I looked up from my homework to see my mom stumbling through the door, her arms laden with her purse, portfolio, backpack, and camera gear. She was a student at the Art Institute of Seattle for photography. I looked up at the clock. It was only four.

“You’re home early,” I said.

“Your father asked me to be home early today. He said he had news,” she said, “Isn’t he home yet?”

As if on cue, the sound of the garage opening filled the downstairs of the house. My mother came into the dining room and set down her purse on the dining room table and put her backpack on the floor. She then carefully placed her portfolio on the floor leaning it against the railing that separated the dining room from the rec room, which was down half a level.

“God, what is taking him so long?” she said. My father is notorious for taking forever at getting out of his car. I’ve even witnessed it. He’ll sit there, while the car is still running and putz. Even having witnessed it, I’m not sure what he does that takes so long.

“What’s for dinner?” she asks me. I cook on days that she’s in the city for classes, which is every weekday, because she usually doesn’t get home until six or seven and my dad works until four-thirty, while I’m out of school at eleven in the morning.

“Spinach and cheese ravioli,” I said, “with some cherry tomatoes that I baked.”

“Sounds awesome,” she said smiling. My dad finally came inside, still wearing his blue camouflage uniform, which was strange. He usually showered and changed at work before coming home.

“Hey, Daddy!” I said, “How was work?” He sighs and asks us to sit down at the table. I glance at my mom and we share a confused look. So she doesn’t know what’s going on either. One of the cats, Coltrane is sitting in the dining room chair. I pull it out and he glares up at me, indignant that I would even think to disturb him. I pick him up, having to use both hands because my mother still feeds him kitten food, insisting that he needs the extra protein. What he doesn’t need, I think, is the extra calories. I drop him to the floor where he lands with a resounding thud. All of our cats have weight problems. My father sits down across from my mom and I and he looks tired as he takes his glasses off and rubs the bridge of his nose.

“I got a call from the detailer today,” he begins and my heart jumps into my throat and I feel queasy, the very words stirring the contents of my stomach in a sickening motion. I fight to keep the tears from welling up in my eyes.

“I don’t want to leave.” I say. “I won’t.” My father looks at me, looking even more tired than before. He knew this was going to be a struggle.

“It’s Japan, Monica.” He says. “I have to be there by July 31st.”

“That’s only three months, Nick!” My mother says.

“That’s all the notice they have to give us, ninety days.” He says. He gives her a pleading look.

“But, I just started school,” she says. “It’s a two year program, I won’t even get close.”

“And it’s my senior year next year. And you guys promised.” I said, looking back and forth between them.

“I’m sorry, Monica.” My dad said, as he’s said countless times before. “I don’t have a say in this.” That’s when the tears came, my throat constricted and it hurt to swallow. I stood up from the table and walked as fast as I could up the stairs to my room where I shut the door. My knees gave out beneath me and I sank down to the carpet.

Once I was cried out, my resolve began to harden. I wasn’t going to move. I was tired of giving up everything for my parents’ careers. The Navy had taken away any semblance of a normal childhood from me and I was tired of it. The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that I shouldn’t have to move, and so I wrote a list of reasons why this move would be bad for me. Most of the reasons were reasons I had used before in attempts to stay, but had never worked before. Now I was just using them as padding for my main argument, the argument of my education. I was enrolled in a program called Running Start, which was a dual enrollment program that allowed me to attend classes at a community college that would count for high school and could be transferred to a university when I graduated. The best part about it was that it was free. If I moved to Japan I would have to go back to high school and not only would that give me less time to further my education by getting as many free classes as possible, but because of the order I had taken my classes in, I wouldn’t be able to graduate on time because I hadn’t taken any foreign languages yet. So, Japan was a no go. It wasn’t an option for me to go, and it wasn’t an option for my dad to stay. The day we said goodbye to him at the airport, my will almost broke.

We drove the forty-five minutes to Sea-Tac and parked in the short-term lot. The morning sunshine glinted off of the hoods of the hundreds of cars, the good weather mocking our mood. We waited in the long line for the Military Airlift Command (MAC) flight and had lunch at one of the only restaurants that were open at six in the morning. It was awful, as airport food usually is, some semblance of a sandwich piled onto a stale bagel. Then we walked to an isolated terminal at the end of the airport where about a hundred other people waited. Some were dressed in Marine camis others were in civilian dress. Some of the younger men were alone or stood in groups talking to one another. Some slept on the uncomfortable seats with their luggage in their laps. Others, like us, stood next to their wives and kids, saying tearful goodbyes. Just the atmosphere in the terminal made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. I could barely look at my parents. I knew that this was going to be much harder for them than it was for me, but some nasty part of my subconscious was snarkily reminding me of all the times they had dragged me across country, away from a home I had just gotten settled into and away from friends who I was just beginning to get close to, so I hugged my dad goodbye and let them have their last few minutes together.

______

Nine months later, after living in a 750 square foot, one bedroom apartment with my mom, dog, and two cats, after constant fighting over the separation, after being diagnosed with an incurable disease and after the hardest breakup of my life, I found myself in that terminal once again, saying goodbye to my best friend, Ariel, whom I’d only just become best friends with three months prior. We arrived at the airport at two in the morning, seven hours early for our flight, and waited in line as I had done with my dad. Once we were checked in for our flights, we got crappy airport coffee and went into one of the bathrooms where we put our makeup on and straightened each other’s hair. We had been too tired to do it before we left. Then we played games on my iPod until it was time to say goodbye, and it was so cruel, to have finally found my best friend and then have to leave her, but that’s what I was being forced to do, because I had finished my high school requirements and was able to graduate early. So despite attempts at having a normal senior year, there I was, a month before prom, hugging my best friend while her tears stained my sweatshirt. I sniffled, trying to stifle my own tears and wiped my nose on my sleeve. By the time my own tears fell, my mom and I were well on our way to Japan.

A lot of times, when I told people how I missed my senior prom and walking across the stage at my high school graduation, I would feel bitter, but it didn’t take me long to realize that those things didn’t mean anything to me in the long run. What matters to me is my family, and having the experiences that have made my family a lot closer than most and have made me the person I am today. The longest I’ve ever lived in one place is five years. Most of the time, we stick around for a year or two and then are packed up and shipped out to a new duty station half way around the country or even half way around the world. I am eighteen years old and have lived in twelve different houses or apartments, been to thirteen different schools and have lived in two countries, three states and five different cities. I used to think that the Navy had taken my childhood away from me but now I realize that it gave me a unique perspective on life that not many people my age have and I can only be grateful for that. They say that hindsight is 20/20, and I can only agree. I spent so many years being angry for the wrong reasons and I can only hope to make up for it in the future. 


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