Damn, it feels good to be a gangster.

I don’t often allow myself to celebrate, well, myself. Ever since I was little, I took my accomplishments for granted – a part of life that led obviously to the next stage – and I spent little time patting myself on the back. Growing up with lawyers for parents and two sets of twins for siblings led to a lot of competition, especially academically. I was never the smartest, never read the most, never aced my SATs or ACTs (and yes, I took both), but I might have had the most heart.

As my basketball coach once told me, I’m like Rudy. I gave my all, all the time, despite – or because of – my lack of skill. (Did I ever tell you about the time I had a seizure during a game because I wouldn’t let go of the ball and was flipped upside down onto the court? Oh, yes.) And that tenacity has stuck with me into my adult life. Give me an impossible challenge… Game on. Full-ride college scholarship? Check. Study abroad in London? Check. Become a Marine? Check. Earn my Naval Aviator wings? Check. Deploy to a war zone as an attack helicopter pilot and fly in combat? Check, check, check.

The next obvious stage of my life was pursuing higher education. And as it was impractical to go into debt for a(nother) liberal arts degree, I used part of my Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and went for free. “Free.” Nothing in life is actually free.

I’m not sure how I want to use my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree. To write, certainly, but I’ve been tasked by my Alma mater to make a difference with my writing. I’m no stranger to the burdens placed upon me throughout my life, but I like them. I like being a knight of justice. I like having a mission. I like working toward something bigger than myself.

I spent eleven years brandishing a sword for my cause. Now is my time to wield a pen.

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