I return tonight much too late to catch a good night's sleep. We did inventory at work, and my muscles are already tightening up in revolt against their earlier duties. I started the evening in a very good mood laughing with my co-workers, but somehow, time got away from us, and suddenly my mood shifted. I ended up having to scan some extremely difficult and tedious items, which my manager asked that I take my time on in order to be thorough. But as the clock pressed against midnight, I had another coworker asking me why I wasn't busy. I was angry at the accusation, and I wanted to be hateful. I had another associate nearly pushing me off of my ladder trying to do an audit count even though the shelves above hadn't been counted at all. Maneuvering was difficult, so I had to wait a minute. He was asking me all sorts of questions about items left out of their packaging. After a few strained answers, I realized I never counted that shelf and all of my answers weren't enough to rely on. I thought about explaining this to the inquiring associate, but he wasn't anyone I needed to answer. I decided that any energy I did have left should be focused on the task at hand. I'm not sure if he was kidding or just trying to give me a hard time, but either way, I could have killed him.

Another one of my coworkers, actually managers, worked beside me tonight. I didn't like her at first, but I always try to reserve my judgments of people. They are, invariably, way off course. I learned a few months ago that her boyfriend was in the army and stationed in Iraq. I asked her questions about him and her face revealed so much excitement and despair. My heart ached for her. I knew her combination of happiness and sadness so well, but I didn't want to lend too much from my own experience. I would ask her for a countdown from time to time. All she knew was that he would be home some time at the end of January or the beginning of February. So, now, finally, he is home. I was happy for her, probably more so because I knew exactly what she was feeling. I wondered how she was able to concentrate on inventory much less show up for work, if he were here, but he is already back at his post.

I have strange opinions on guys in the military. I grew up with a father in the Marine Corps, and so my first taste of it came from a man who controlled so much that I never thought I would truly love him. My life seemed like an endless stream of rules, many of which, no one had ever heard of before. To learn the value of electricity, I was a charged a dollar for leaving a room with a light on. If my anger got the best of me, and I decided to slam a door to indicate that, I was charged fifty dollars. On the weekends, when most teenagers just wanted to sleep in, I had to be dressed and showered before ten in the morning. I stayed up late at nights working on homework and developed a bad routine. I would have to take naps in the evening, but my father wouldn't let me. If he caught me sleeping, he would immediately wake me, and usually not in a gentle manner. Any grade below a B resulted in me being grounded for a semester. My first year in high school? That was spent grounded. Rooms were cleaned on Friday nights before I could go out. It was overwhelming and physically exhausting at times. I seriously didn't think I would make it out of high school alive.

I still wrestle with issues of control and authority. Anytime someone even remotely reminds me of that time period, sometimes just a simple phrase, my anger can boil over. Looking back, I can understand the upbringing and forgive most of it. One of the downsides to it, though, is that most people don't or can't understand it.

My second taste came from the first guy I fell in love with. I was a freshman in college, and he left to join the army. Unable to beg him not to go, I stood by and watched my heart leave on a jet with no concept of what this decision would ultimately do to me. For the first week, I don't think I stopped crying. He ended up being stationed in Colorado, where he slowly began to distance himself. My memory tells me that he asked me to come live with him or get married in the early months of his service, but I don't remember the conversation. I'm sure I told him that he was crazy. I knew that I had the freedom to do nothing unless my schooling was finished, and I am too pragmatic to make such a decision.

Three months seemed to be the longest we could make it without seeing one another, but after a year of distance, we broke up. Part of me blamed the army. He was surrounded by idiots—guys that had no choices in life because they had ruined every opportunity until they viewed the military as their last chance in life. They were all irresponsible and immature. The things they valued were the things I despised. Deep down, they all wanted to be something more—to be respected and loved, but none of them did anything worthy to earn it. I thought my boyfriend had fallen prey to their way of life, and I needed a scapegoat.

I think deep down, I just wanted to save him. It's a common misconception I have. I thought I could get him on his feet and possibly keep him there, but I'm not sure that's what he ever wanted. Just because he admired me for it, doesn't mean he ever desired it for himself. In the end, we are probably better people for the experience, yet it's hard for me to believe he ever puts the experience to good use. I know that he thinks I probably never respected his decision to join the military, and in part, he's right. I didn't think he decided to join for the right reasons, but I quickly realized that it was something he excelled at. He was proud of himself for it, and that secretly made me happy. I think the military has outstanding principals, but somehow, most of the men in the service don't seem to apply it to their lives outside of their job.

I'm not sure where I was going with this post tonight. My intention was to write about work and maybe about my manager, but, I guess somehow, I let some of myself show despite my intentions. I just have to remember that with each step I take, my past is that much farther behind. I needn't let it haunt me so.