My younger brother is a very bright kid. He’s always excelled at his studies and he’s always been well ahead of his classmates. Needless to say we were all quite confused when, straight out of high school, he didn’t jump at the opportunity to go to college. He’d seen my struggles with completing school but that always had more to do with my wayward attitude towards life. But still, my brother performed far better academically than I did, he had resources available to him and my struggles were my own more than having to do anything with him. Maybe the reason he wasn’t totally gung-ho about college was from the fact that our high school was very big (the student body of Danbury High School totals hover around 3,000 students, grade 9-12), maybe it was the fact that, right around his graduation, he began eschewing his former self as a ‘computer geek’ and had found the guitar, maybe it was the fact that he’d just found out that he could earn money by working; maybe it was a combination of these things, maybe it was none of these things. However he didn’t jump at the opportunity to go to college and after loitering around my parent’s house for a few years, working odd dead-end jobs, he announced to the family that he’d joined the military! We were all shocked and couldn’t understand why this was. After several years past, I think I now see what my little brother saw; an anemic economy, no future in any of the dead-end jobs he’d held, real structure and security in a military experience (he was in the US Army Reserves; he served a tour of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq), and really just no other options.
Army Dead-End Jobs or Nothing: Complex College Experience: As the college experience gets more automated and rote, it’s very easy for those who were never all that thrilled about school to get pushed through the system or lost in the shuffle. Even easier for those who excel at school to be ignored. The latter seems to be the case with my little brother. “Alan Schmitt doesn’t need any help; he’ll have scores of schools calling on him.” And he may have. But the sheer ridiculousness of the college experience can really turn some people off.
Army Dead-End Jobs or Nothing: The Allure of Money: My brothers experience working was very varied; he did work in retail, food service, freelanced as a computer guy, and even worked in a jewelry store (exhibiting skills he still displays to this day). Finding the appeal of a weekly paycheck combined with the relative cost-free living with my parents at the time is hard to resist. Finding out that you too can make money can be intoxicating at the outset; however they’re called dead-end jobs for a reason.
Army Dead-End Jobs or Nothing: Army Life: In a surprising turn of events, my brothers US Army experience has really helped shape who he is today. He met his girlfriend in the Army. He’s utilized many of the perks afforded Army personnel and he’s made out quite well. I can’t imagine him being first brigadier general or anything like that, but I’m sure the appeal of the US Army for my brother and for other young people these days is very similar to the attitude of the Army folks at times of war. Growth is contracting, opportunities are not present, and the Army seems to be their only option.
Army Dead-End Jobs or Nothing: Conclusion: I’m sure that America will continue to be strong; despite this hiccough, in the future. There are too many people, too much infrastructure, and too many positives to outweigh the negatives of what the United States is all about. I’ve never been a nationalist and I know there’s a lot of ugliness in the American experience. However I also know that there are a lot worse places in other parts of the world and there is still limitless opportunity in the land of the free.