Monday, August 16, 2010

The Challenges of my Summer

Where do I start?

I really don't think there's any way I could convey my summer in one blog post. Or 100 for that matter.

Have you ever gone through something so challenging that when someone asks about it, literally all you can say is "It was pretty tough." or "It was really hard." It's not that you don't want to share about your challenge and how you overcame it, it's that you're not sure what words you can use to convey the heartbreak, the extreme emotions, the physical challenges, or whatever proved difficult for you.

That's exactly where I find myself. I can tell story after story of how difficult and awesome Beast was this summer, but I'm barely scraping the surface of what it actually was. It's like the difference between watching the Sharks special on the Discovery Channel versus actually going out and swimming with those sharks.

My squad: Delta Co, 2nd Platoon, 4th Squad
The hardest part of Beast for me was acknowledging when I completely lost sight of who I am.
Let me put it in perspective:
West Point brings together some of the smartest and most physically fit kids in America. Just looking at the facts, I don't compare very well: I'm a homeschooler from Boise, Idaho who graduated from a co-op with 9 other people. I don't come from a big city, I didn't take 6 AP classes last year, and I'm not an All American recruited athlete. Sure, I was chosen to represent Idaho at USMA, but how does that stack up against the kids from Texas or New York who were picked from a far larger pool?

These were the types of statements I found myself making and the types of questions I found myself asking. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty depressing. I'm used to doing well at what I set my mind to, and let me tell you: I was not exactly a star at Beast. Not to say I did poorly, I just did about average. I didn't stand out like I wanted to or (almost) expected to at the start of Beast.

The rules of Beast are situated such that for about the first week you don't communicate verbally very often with your peers. Because of that, every word that came out of any of our mouths was quickly used by the rest to judge. Not necessarily in a bad way, it's just that we weren't aloud to talk very often, so when we did everybody listened and used those words to define the speaker in their head. Let's just say I asked a couple dumb questions and made a couple dumb statements during the first week or so of Beast, and because of that I wasn't viewed as the brightest light bulb in the shed. It wore on me: this wasn't who I am! I am not dumb, or lame, or foolish. And yet I felt like all of these things, definitely at the beginning of Beast, but also all throughout it at different moments.

It became necessary for me to hold myself to my Focus contract and mission:
I am a peaceful, free, and stupendous man and my mission is to influence, restore, and improvise honor and wisdom in myself and others.
The letters from my parents, sister, girlfriend, friends, and family gave me the sustaining encouragement I needed when I needed it most.

But most of all, there to help me whenever I cried out, was Papa. I was put in a situation where I could either try to get through Beast by myself (like a lot of kids do) and change who I am, or I could trust Papa to get me through it one day at a time and come out intact at the end.

I'm still here. It's still me, Colin Mansfield. There are differences, I'm sure, and I know a whole ton more then I did going into Beast. I know more about military, the Army, weapons, gas masks, tactical movement, and so, so much more. But this point remains key to me: Papa kept me safe this summer, both physically and mentally. I haven't lost myself, and I easily could have.

Beast lasted 6 weeks, and they are 6 weeks that I will never forget. I'm sure that as I write more, some of my specific Beast stories will make it up here.

Today is my first school day. All of this summer and this last week (Reorganization week) have been leading up to the school year. I have learned how to be a soldier, and now I will learn how to be a student.

My classes? Math Modeling/Intro to Calc, Psychology, Advanced History of the US, Chemistry, and Composition. I have half of those today, and the other half tomorrow (think block schedule). I expect to be pushed to my limits, just as I was this summer. I expect to bend under the pressure, but this summer has shown me that I don't have to break and that God will sustain me.

Please pray for me: that I will continue to be encouraged and that this school year, although stressful and difficult, will also be fun. Pray that Papa will continue to reveal to me who He is, and who I am.

A huge thanks to everyone that has supported me coming to USMA, and to those that sent me letters this Summer.

4th Class Cadet Mansfield