Existing on different timelines

As a military academy parent, you either learn to embrace the ceaseless flow of time and change presented by the calendar or you are consumed by it. I’m in my seventh year and it continues to fascinate me.

First, it’s that relentless movement. Despite any drama or trauma, Spring classes end, Firsties graduate and commission, the rest of the Cadet Wing prepares for summer training, potential future cadets arrive for summer seminar and the next class arrives for BCT. It happens without fail.

But what’s truly intriguing to me is that while all the cadets will have a shared experience, they will do so on distinct timelines and that often epitomizes how two people can have very different reactions to the same event.

The Doolies went through Recognition this past weekend and for them, it was more than a big deal, it was The Deal. Their Recognition happened significantly later than recent classes, which will forever ignite a debate among classes of this era about who had the toughest Doolie year. But that change also provided the opportunity to heighten the stress surrounding this time-honored tradition. For the Doolies, this was it, the culmination of that grueling first year, the test of tests. I remember calls from my daughter leading up to her Recognition being filled with doubt, concern, stress, and yes, a few tears.

While the Doolies were putting on their game face, my daughter was all smiles. Amazing to me that in the same hallway filled with Doolies stressing about the event sat my C3C daughter smiling and talking about how excited he was for the Doolies and, in particular, preparing to decorate “her” Doolie’s room upon completion.

Side note: I know all the academies are different, but I do love the formality the Naval Academy puts around actually signing their 2 for 7s.

But that was only a part of our conversations in recent weeks. While I’m sure many Doolie parents had Recognition-centric conversations like I did with my daughter last year, Recognition has been just a small portion of our conversations these past few weeks. Instead, we’ve spent a lot more time talking about her summer training assignments. While Doolies maintained laser focus on the Recognition milestone, my C3C was wondering if her hopes for a foreign base assignment would materialize and also thinking about the impending 2 for 7s upon the end of her summer.

The 2 for 7 milestone is a formality for her but she does understand that it represents a turning point. No longer will the focus be “should I be here?” or “can I make it?” Instead the concerns are much bigger. Things like “will I get my first choice of service assignment?” (and what summer training sessions might aid in that) and “where will be stationed after commissioning?”

But it’s not just the Doolies and the C3Cs that are in different mindspaces right now. Mentally, most of the Firsties are focused on Commissioning Week and that first post-USAFA assignment while the C2Cs are grinding out those all-important third-year grades and taking a deep breath, preparing to take on the mantle of leadership for the Cadet Wing. Meanwhile, you have a class at the Prep School anxious to make the big step up to The Hill and about 1,000 high school seniors who will go from Senior Prom to graduation to I Day in short order.

We all follow the same calendar and in many ways are following the same path but many of us are on different timelines.

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