Brotherhood: Bound in Blood II

Brotherhood: Bound in Blood II

The second installment of a 4 part series: About how my brothers helped me through a rough time.
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“I just can't do this anymore…” my girlfriend told me in between sobs on the phone. “This is just too much for me.” Make that ex girlfriend…

Nearly every Rat at VMI who matriculates with a girlfriend (or boyfriend) has their heart broken at some point in the 6 months that is the Ratline. It's pretty much inevitable. Your sweetheart at home can only wait so long. The infrequent contact, the changes to the mind, body and spirit, the stress and the constant reliance for support proves to be too much for many college age young women. They are growing and changing in a much different way than their Rats at VMI. This is to be expected. However, mine came at the worst possible time.

My relationship with a girl I went to high school with ended over the phone after two years. I had snuck into JM Hall (the cadet chapel) right before exam week in December of my Rat year. I was at a really low point in my life. I was getting a D in Statistics and equally struggling in Chinese, was taking all kinds of abuse from my cadre and the Rat Disciplinary Committee daily, knocking out hundreds of push-ups a day, constantly screaming knowledge at the top of my lungs, eating horrible food and coming back to a roommate who I clashed with quite a bit. There were so many times that I told myself I was going to transfer after this semester and that this wasn't worth it. My life seemed like a nightmare and I've never felt so depressed and empty in my life. At least my brass and shoes were shiny and I could march well….

So it was not a fun time in Rat Forbes’ life, but I'm not trying to make you feel sorry for me. The truth is, my experience was not unique at all. My 470 classmates can tell you the same story. Some had parents die, others were in danger of flunking out, while some were more worried about making ends meet for their family. We all suffered. Together. And it is because of them that I was able to find the inner strength to stay and finish strong. Why? In a word: Love.

Everything at VMI is a team activity, and I mean everything. You're constantly relying on one another for support in the classroom, in the Ratline, on the sports field, in military exercises and most importantly, you rely on your Brother Rat for emotional support in one way or another. If you quit, or leave the Institute, you impact so much more than just yourself. You might have been someone's support, and didn't even know it. Or maybe carrying those sandbags and logs up the hill will be a little bit tougher without you there to help. Or perhaps the cadre will put more pressure on your roommates without you there to share the heat. If you quit the team, you're hurting so much more than yourself.

So you keep going. And sometimes it isn't for yourself. It's for your Brother Rat to the left or right of you. You just put one foot in front of the other. Keep. Moving. Forward. No matter how bleak things might seem, you just keep grinding. Because it is love that holds you together. It's love that makes a 20 mile ruck march doable. It's love that allows you to laugh with your roommates after a sweat party (Google that one) and commiserate together during Hell Week. It's all love.

So back to newly single Rat Forbes… I walked back to barracks and strained (also Google) my way to my best friend's room to tell him what happened. He was able to cheer me up like any good friend would. It was that night that it really sunk in. I lost a girlfriend that night, but I had 470+ brothers at my back. And nothing is ever going to change that.

So if you take anything away from this, know that you are loved. And no matter what life throws at you, no matter how hard it may seem, you will always have people around you to catch you when you fall.

Rah Virginia Mil’. 18...

Cover Image Credit: Tag Second

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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Odyssey, From A Creator's Point Of View

Writing for Odyssey is transitioning from the outside looking in, to the inside looking a million ways at once.

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It's 11:59 p.m. and I have two articles due tomorrow afternoon: two articles that are basically figments of my imagination at this point. When I was asked to write for Odyssey, I was ecstatic. I was a devout reader in high school and found every post so #relatable. During my short time as a "creator" for Odyssey, I've experienced what it's like to be on the other side of the articles.

Every post is not #relatable. This is a platform for anyone and everyone. I chose the articles I wanted to click on and read them, deemed them relatable, and clicked share. I, along with Odyssey's 700,000 something followers, did not go through and read every single article.

Being a creator has shown me that everyone has a voice, and by God, they're going to use it (rightfully so).

It can be disheartening at times to get what we think is a low number of page views when there are articles we don't necessarily agree with getting hundreds of Facebook shares. I don't crank out journalistic gold by any means, but being a writer isn't a walk in the park. It's stressful at times and even disappointing. Odyssey creators aren't paid, and even though it's liberating to be able to write about whatever our hearts desire, I'll be the first to admit that my life is just not that interesting.

When I first started writing for Odyssey, I vowed to never post anything basic like some things I have read in the past. If I'm going to dedicate the time it takes to write for a national platform, I'm going to publish things worth reading.

That vow is basically out the window now.

Simply stated, it's easy to write about things that are easy to write about. It's kind of like calling a Hail Mary play when it's the night before an article is due and there's been a topic in the back of your mind for days that you don't think is that great, but you think people might read. You just throw it out there and hope for the best. Being a creator gives you inside access to knowing what people are reading, what's popular, and what's working for other creators. Odyssey's demographic is not as diverse as it could or should be, so it's not hard to pick out something that the high school girl you once were will find relatable. Recently went through a breakup? Write about it. Watched a new show on Netflix? Write about it. When there's nothing holding you back, you have the freedom to literally put whatever you want online.

It's not easy coming out of your freshman year of college, one of the hardest years for any person, and being expected to whip up articles that everyone will love. Not everyone is going to love what I write. Heck, not everyone is going to like what I write. The First Amendment is a blessing and a curse. Not everyone is going to agree with you, and that's okay.

The beauty of Odyssey is that it highlights the fact that everyone DOES have a voice, and whether that voice coincides with your religious, political, or personal views isn't up to you.

You have the power to pick and choose what you want to read, relate to, and share. Remember that you have no way of knowing what every single person on the planet is going through and what they choose to write about reflects their own personal opinions, experiences, accomplishments, and hardships. Odyssey creators can spend weeks crafting articles they hope will break the Internet, but in return only get a few views. They can also pull all-nighters grasping at straws just trying to reach the minimum word requirement and end up writing the best thing since sliced bread.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that even though there are posts out there that are so easy for us to relate to, that's not always the goal for writers. We write what we feel, and if there's nothing to write about, we write what we think other people feel. The kicker is that we don't truly know what other people are feeling. You might hurt someone's feelings with your words. You might make someone cry with your story because they felt like they were alone and finally, finally, someone else feels the same way. You might trigger someone and get hateful comments. You might even change someone's life with your words.

The moral of the story is that words are pretty powerful, whether we choose to believe it or not.

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