July 26, 2011
By Jacey Eckhart
Navy captains disappoint me. The first one I ever saw on the deck of a warship was clad in nothing but a striped Speedo and a couple of straggly white chest hairs.
It was not as sexy as it sounds. Consequently, the chick who expected someone in command to be Adonis Straddling the Globe and, say, to be wearing pants while straddling, was vastly disappointed.
Sometimes I’m still disappointed in Navy captains. Last week the Navy fired the 15th commanding officer from duty this year for crappy behavior. This one was the commanding officer of a recruiting district relieved for “bad conduct” and “unprofessional behavior.” The CO fired two days before that had an alcohol incident. And the week before that the executive officer of an aircraft carrier was fired for adultery.
What is it with these guys? Granted, I’m a grown up now. I don’t expect godlike behavior from commanding officers any more than I expect it from other bright, accomplished people who know the rules—like members of Congress or governors or golf stars. I tend to expect human behavior from human beings. Yet there is something about these military folks failing spectacularly on the front page of the paper that gets me. Why do they risk everything they have worked so hard to get?
I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if these military dudes can’t see—or can’t allow themselves to see--that command itself is, well, kind of a disappointment. Just like when someone gets promoted to chief (or opens the door of their first business, or has a hit record, or buys their dream home, or becomes partner in the firm, or has a baby after years of infertility, etc.) I wonder if these commanding officers experience a very human moment of Is This All There Is? Is this what I skipped Christmas and stood the watch to get? Is this really the highlight of my life and it all goes downhill from here???
If those were my thoughts, I might be scrambling for something to fill the splitting crevasse, too. I hope I would not reach for the thrilling stranger, the sophomoric video, the ample sailor. I especially hope tequila would not be filler of choice. Jose Cuervo is no friend of mine. Instead, I would hope that I would notice the crack in my beliefs and confide in someone who loved me and trusted me and could stand for me to have a bit of raging self-doubt. A spouse would be ideal. A parent. A friend.
Because I don’t think the creep of disappointment when you get what you wanted most in life is a flaw. To me, disappointment is an acceptable part of the process of achievement. Instead of looking at that disappointment as a sign that you don’t appreciate what you have, or that you were a fool to want that one thing with such focus to begin with, I say that we need to look at that disappointment as a split in the levee of our character. Instead of scrambling to fill it with something, anything, I wonder if we ought to let that levee crumble. We could take that disappointment as the sign that the skills we needed to get the job (or the business, or the baby, or the house, or the partnership) are not what we need to stand at this level. We should let the levee crumble knowing that this is the sign that achievement means that we are required to split open, examine the new terrain, and build again and again and again.
Jacey Eckhart is a military life consultant in Washington, DC. She is the author of "The Homefront Club" and the voice behind the award-winning CD "These Boots." Facebook Jacey or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.