"The man who isn't a pessimist is a damned fool." - Mark Twain
"Pessimism is only the name that men of weak nerves give to wisdom." - Bernard De Voto
Sometimes the glass is neither half full nor half empty. Sometimes we just need to get more beer.
A friend did a post over the weekend about feeding your inner pessimist, and it got me to thinking. She's absolutely right when she says that a little bit of controlled pessimism is a good thing. We control only what we control, and sometimes--often, in fact--what we don't control doesn't turn out like we plan for it to. It's in those cases that an optimist wonders what to do next while a good healthy pessimist carries on with Plan B, right?
I learned the importance of Plan B early on. I was put in charge of my battalion's Hail and Farewell, a drinking event at which occasionally the officers welcome new arrivals and say farewell to departing comrades. The details from the previous event were explained, and I was to replicate it. Only problem was, after I picked up the keg and then went to pick up the key to the facility, they informed me that there was no drinking allowed on the premises. That pronouncement caused me to scurry back to battalion headquarters to ask someone else for a Plan B, a mistake that landed me on the battalion commander's official "Shit List," the top of which I kept all to myself till his own Hail and Farewell.
Got to have a Plan B. Be a pessimist. But do it like Carol described in the blog linked above, because nobody likes a real-life Eeyore.
West Point was my Plan B, to tell the truth. What got me into the military academies in the first place was my uncle's example. He was a retired Air Force missile officer who'd been around the world, had an exciting life, and told me all about how great it was. Thus, I set my sights on the beautiful campus near Colorado Springs.
"You should probably also apply to the other academies in case the Air Force Academy doesn't accept you," someone said. Dang pessimist. Okay, fine, I did, though not being accepted to the Air Force Academy seemed impossible.
Thank goodness for that pessimist, though. The USAFA did turn me down; they said my eyesight disqualified me from being a pilot, and they require something like 80% of their classes to be pilot qualified. West Point, on the other hand, didn't give a crap about my pilot qualification, though they did make me fix a tooth before I arrived to start my Army career.
So. Plan B. West Point. A holiday on the Hudson.
It's funny how things turn out sometimes, ain't it? West Point may not have been exactly what I wanted, but it ended up being exactly what I needed. I was a bit of a--well, I say maverick, others use different terms--and that was the version that was tempered by 200 years of tradition. The ever-watchful ghostly eyes of Thayer, MacArthur, Eisenhower, and so on are guides that you can actually feel sometimes when you're there. Who knows what I might've gotten into somewhere else? And the combination of academics and athleticism I found there on the banks of the Hudson River--I don't know exactly what it's like at USAFA, but what I got at West Point was perfectly suited for what I needed.
That, and I wouldn't trade the friends I met there for anything.
Honestly, the only downside I can see through my rear view mirror to having gone to USMA instead of USAFA is that watching my alma mater play football makes me cry.
Sometimes we should be thankful for Plan B.