This post is dedicated to my friend Erica.
Around 2:00 am this past Saturday morning, standing in my driveway, I said goodbye to a friend of mine. We had just completed a 12 hour odyssey to get home from Boston after a 2 day conference at Natick Labs to look at the improvements being made in body armor and also to ensure that people understood the impact body armor has on small statured Soldiers - principally women. Exhausted,we hugged and she quietly backed out of the driveway and drove away.
I first met her 2 years ago when her unit was the first to implement the marksmanship course. She was their Assistant S3 at the time, but still young, and still learning. She would go on to have her own Operations shop in Iraq later that year. Many injured Soldiers have passed through her hospital and she and her staff have cared for them as if they were their very own children. She carries the burden of those whom they could not save. At 26, she has seen the absolute best and the absolute worst of the human condition. She has grown a lot. She is wise beyond her years.
In an earlier post, I made mention of learning from the next generation. The idea that you had to understand how they see their world, how they process information, how they make decisions, in order to effectively make use of their talents. That the mentor/mentee relationship has to work on equal footing. Being older does not always imply being wiser. And, even if it does, if they can't hear you then the wisdom in your message may be lost anyway. She and I always worked that way, and I am better for it.
In this case, Erica taught me more than I ever taught her. She commented the other day that Millennials may be more comfortable dealing in ambiguity than Gen Xers. I prefer structure while she is comfortable with change and uncertainty. I prefer time to consider all points, she can work off of the 70% solution. No less effective, and possibly more because she keeps pace with her environment much better than I. Just another lesson from the kid. I'll spend hours mulling over the implication of that in Soldier training.
But she is more than a philosophical abstraction. She, LJ, and others have been good friends to me during a particularly difficult period in my life. I cannot express my gratitude enough for their patience and support. After hearing my stories and complaints and frustrations for the 10,000th time, she still listened, still cared and still offered me things to think about or a fresh perspective to consider. She has been kind and empathetic without allowing me to wallow. She has pushed me to be better because of this struggle. She allows me my passion and emotions but never ceases to bring me back to reason.
Good luck, EK. As we laughed about it the other night, the Army is actually a very small world. No doubt our paths will cross again. As Bruce said in the song driving home "Further up the road, Further up the road, I'll meet you further on up the road, When the way is dark and the night is cold, I'll meet you further on up the road....."