I wanted to write something about SWO Ship Selection, but just as there are times when I simply cannot stop myself from writing something, there are times when I cannot put words to paper (or virtual paper, in this case).
Don’t get me wrong. I loved Ship Selection. Several of my favorite Mids made their choices and even if I didn’t know the SWO (yes, that’s a rhyme), it was awesome to see them stroll across the stage and select their first ship. The smiles were broad and genuine and I loved it.
But I can’t lie, the Dark Ages have not been kind. Nothing tragic, so it’s all perspective, of course. Yet the gloom and doom of February has crept into the family’s consciousness.
First, there was the Mid and, without going into the details (to protect the innocent and the guilty), he kind of got the shaft on something. I’m usually pretty hard on the kid, but in this instance, he did everything he should have done (from what I could tell) and this should have been a slam dunk. But it didn’t happen.
“I’m kinda taking this one personally,” he said, fuming.
Honestly, I told him, I’m not sure how else you could take it. Now, he’ll bounce back and, in some ways, already has, as he’s on to several other items of interest. Yet, it was proof that while we all love the Academy and all that it stands for and all the great things it affords our kids, it is not Disney World. It’s not perfect.
Meanwhile, back at home … the Mid Sib’s excitement of a reception with our congressman to celebrate her nomination and the arrival of a second nomination has started to fade. There’s still plenty of time for her to get an appointment to the Air Force Academy (someone posted a breakdown online of when the appointments are distributed and it seems March is the big month), but she’s hearing from her peers who she met at the Summer Seminar, and it seems one by one, their appointments are rolling in. And I see on my Facebook feed that others are receiving their appointments to various academies.
We’re working through Plan B stuff, of course, including ROTC, but her mood matches the Dark Ages.
We were riding to church, making chit chat about her Plan B college, what she might major in there, how we’d work out travel (it’s in Colorado, too) and she got quiet for a minute.
“I didn’t know it would be this hard,” she said, her voice quivering.
I started prattling on about, “of course it’s hard, less than 10% of kids get in … blah, blah, blah.”
“No,” she said. shaking her head. “Just the waiting.”
Not getting in now, she explained, would be worse than if she had never gotten a nomination. Now that she had not one, but two nominations in hand, her dream of getting to an academy was, literally, “this close.” If she hadn’t gotten a nomination, she reasoned, she would have known it just wasn’t meant to be. But now, now that she was so close … this close.
I asked if she were worried about what her friends would say if she didn’t get an appointment since she had been talking about wanting to go to an academy for so long.
“No,” she said flatly. “It’s my dream, not theirs.”
I have no doubt she will bloom where she is planted, but that is a discussion for another day because right now, those words simply ring hollow. It’s totally out of her hands now – there are no more essays to write, no more tests to take, no more pull-ups to do, no more interviewers to impress. But I know what she’s doing, she’s going over all of that in her mind, wondering not, “what could I have done better?”, but instead thinking, “I could have done everything better.”
Now, I know that’s not true. You know that’s not true. And, deep in her heart, she knows it’s not true, either. But that’s the kind of thing that can happen during the Dark Ages.
I think about what I will say to her if and when that Thin White Envelope with the news she is dreading arrives. As of now, I don’t have the words. Maybe I’m in denial that it’s possible she won’t get in. Maybe I’m afraid if I think about it too much I will somehow jinx her. Maybe I’m just afraid to see my little girl get her heart broken.
But as sure as the Dark Ages start, they will end. Time at the Naval Academy, much like the tides, rolls on. And soon we will be at two crucial century marks.
On February 8, it will be 100 days until the Class of 2023 takes their place in USNA tradition with their Herndon Climb, still my favorite memory on The Yard. Just four days later, it will be 100 days until the Class of 2020 graduates, my son commissions, and my time as a Naval Academy father will end.
I know I should be relishing these final 100 days, but right now, all I can think about is how much I want the Dark Ages to end.