I enlisted in the Army -- but now I've changed my mind!

In a few days I'll be waking to a bugle call -- unless there is still a way out.

Published May 24, 2007 10:37AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

It is 2:21 in the morning, which is entirely too late for me to be awake, seeing as in a few days I will be waking up at 4:30 to a bugle.

I'm 18, I hail from a very tiny town in the Appalachians and I don't want to sound like a completely arrogant asshole but I'm one of the smartest people I know.

To trace the roots of my self-esteem problems would make this letter a book. To make a long story short, it got so bad that for most of high school people told me that I was mentally ill. To illustrate, when I was 16, I became engaged to a guy who told me he hung out in Long Beach, Calif., with the band Sublime when he was 12, had a modeling contract and had appeared in Mitsubishi commercials. Needless to say this was all complete bullshit, and I knew it, but I didn't think I deserved a relationship with someone who wasn't a psychopath, let alone a decent person. I wasn't depressed. I just needed someone to say, You are surrounded by people who aren't fucking normal.

I wanted so bad to be cool, and literary, and smart, and a feminist, but it just never happened. I never found friends who had heard of the bands I found on the Internet and I never found anyone who had read the books I liked. I thought those people were at least two to three hours away, until recently.

My grades were tragic and the only college that admitted me was the one located 10 minutes away, and I really thought I got a lucky break when I started attending last semester. I was thrilled to meet new and exciting people and listen to music and take the drugs I could never find at home. I got great grades and my professors wrote these really nice responses to the papers I turned in. Then things went to hell when the same problems that compelled me to fuck up my life in high school were still compelling me to fuck up my life. I dated an idiot and got upset over things I knew were really irrelevant. I dropped out, and, not wanting to go to a job at McDonald's, I joined the military.

So here's my problem: I think I finally got it. I think I finally got things, and life, and my personality figured out to the point where I can function and not be apologetic about everything to people who don't rule me and shouldn't anyway. In the months since I was processed I feel more capable and happy than ever. I feel like I don't need boot camp to instill confidence. I would feel comfortable getting a shit job for a few months and then skipping town. But I'm screwed. The government owns me.

How do I continue to justify this to myself? I hate war. I hate pushy people. I am worth two shits, maybe even three. I don't want to get blown up. I just need some advice on what to tell myself and do so I don't go nuts all over again thinking I made the biggest, worst mistake I could possibly make.

Spontaneous Objector

Dear Spontaneous Objector,

I wrote back to you privately asking for some details about your enlistment. I haven't heard back from you yet. But time is of the essence. So let me say this now:

I don't think you have to go.

But I am neither a lawyer nor an expert in these matters.

So you should call the G.I. Rights Hotline at 800-394-9544. They can advise you more specifically of your options.

The person I talked to at the G.I. Rights Hotline, who wished to remain anonymous, told me that she could envision almost no circumstance in which you would not be able to get out. She was very upbeat about your prospects.

She pointed me to this chart at the comprehensive and informative G.I. Discharges Web site, where it is possible to read for yourself the regulations that govern your situation. So I urge you, implore you, beg you: Call that number and look at the Web site and become fully informed of your options. Do not be browbeaten or intimidated or misinformed. The government does not own you. You are a free citizen. If you are anything like me, you love liberty. For liberty to remain strong, it must be exercised. So exercise your liberty. That's the patriotic thing to do.

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