Alright you beautiful readers, do I have a treat for you today. It’s time I told y’all the story of my experience at the Naval Academy, or as I remember it, the first time I realized I wasn’t actually the greatest thing on Earth.
The story takes place during the summer before my senior year, but really started in the beginning of my junior year. I had decided that I wanted to go into the Navy. During my junior year, I applied for the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps – NROTC – Scholarship. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a national scholarship awarded to the best candidates wanting to enter the Navy as an officer after college. It’s a fantastic program that would have allowed me to go to my dream college – The University of Oklahoma, where I am currently a student – with a full tuition scholarship, and I would be getting paid by the Navy to do it. Now, there are some catches. You have to get a specific degree, and most of the degrees that qualified were engineering degrees. Then, every summer while you are a student you would do training with the Navy so that upon graduation you would come out an Officer. Finally, you owed four years service to the Navy to pay them back for your education. Seemed like a pretty fantastic deal to me, especially since I was planning on making a career as a Naval Aviator anyways. So I started the application as soon as it became available my junior year and was the first person in the country to turn it in. Keep in mind, this was a highly competitive scholarship offered to every student in the country willing to apply. I wrote something like five essays, filled out application questions, and had an interview with a Naval Officer. You would think that a small town kid from Kansas who’s graduating class only had 26 kids in it would have been a little nervous about whether or not he’d be accepted, but not this guy. There was no doubt in my mind that I was getting that scholarship. In fact, I was so confident that I decided to apply for a week long Summer-Seminar at the Naval Academy to see what Naval life was going to be for me and if I should go ahead and just go to the Academy instead. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.
We flew out for Annapolis, Maryland Saturday morning at the crack of dawn. The flight was fantastic. After landing, everything went downhill. The first bump in the road was that there were SO MANY OTHER KIDS. Now, I’m from a small town with roughly 2,000 people, and I’m pretty sure the amount of campers was somewhat close to that number. The next thing that hit me was the change in climate and atmosphere. There were trees, there was water, it was hot and humid. Not a fan, lemme tell ya. I was in a completely different world, surrounded by people who were both physically and mentally superior to me in just about every way. I couldn’t even begin to process what was going on. It blew my mind. I was nervous and timid, and if you knew me in high school you know that I didn’t have a nervous or timid bone in my body. I mean, I walked onto a stage in front of a crowd in a dress and heels. I’m not the kind of guy who is shaken up easily. But boy was I a wreck. Our first day there was pretty easy; we met our squads and leaders and learned about what would be going on. That was the only easy thing about that week.
Over the week, we got up every morning at 5:30 for PT (4:30 to my body, being from the midwest and all) and then spent the day in workshops showcasing the different types of classes we would be doing. If we weren’t in workshops, we were either marching or doing pushups. Or squats. Or flutter kicks. And, on top of it all, we had a sheet of Naval information to memorize before the final day (lol, good luck mate). I. Was. Dying. After the second day of PT I even told my squad leader I was calling my grandma to come pick me up; I told him I couldn’t do it. Now, thankfully he convinced me to stay. Which was good because the lesson I learned in Annapolis is one I won’t soon forget. So there I was, dying at the end of every PT session while countless others seemed to breeze through it with no problem. ONE KID EVEN DID IT IN ANKLE WEIGHTS. It was stupid ridiculous. And yeah, I wasn’t the only one dying, but I was definitely in the lower half of the candidates, and I had never been in the lower half of anything. The final day was eight hours of nothing but PT with lunch stuffed somewhere in the middle. Which was actually the only day I felt semi-adequate. It must have had something to do with my brain being to exhausted to process how terrible I felt. OH, and after the 8 hours of PT, we got quizzed on that sheet of paper I mentioned earlier. And the only reason I survived that was because I am an actor and could stand with a straight face while the guys next to me were getting screamed at, so I wasn’t targeted much.
My experience at the Naval Academy was definitely an eye opener. Before I had left, I honestly believed with every fiber of my being that I was the greatest thing to have ever walked the Earth. I didn’t care how many other people I could see that were better than me at something, or even if I had never done something. I believed I was the best. And if I wasn’t, it was only because I didn’t care enough to try to be. The Naval Academy Summer Seminar showed me that I was blind. It taught me to never be complacent; No matter how good you are at something, or how good you think you are at everything, if you don’t give 110% every single day, someone out there will pass you. There is always room for improvement. Before this trip, I had been blinded by my manic grandiosity. I didn’t care about qualifications for anything; I honestly believed I was the best applicant for any and everything, without working for it at all.