Monday, August 18, 2014

Biography

I was born.

Then some other things happened.

I read a lot of books. Mostly under the covers at night with flashlight in hand and one ear cocked for the creaky floorboards outside my door.

At an early stage I decided what I really wanted from life was to write.

I kept that desire secret. Maybe people would laugh. No... certainly some people would laugh. I drew maps, planned characters, plotted epic fantasies... and never started a single story.

The bios of my favourite authors spoke of madcap careers Army, professional juggler, rodeo clown... I don't remember all of them, but I was amazed at how many jobs my idols had gone through before finding writing.

What I needed to do, I decided, was to see the world in the most interesting way possible.

After High School, I registered to join the Canadian Army, with the intention of a career in the Infantry.

I wasn't offered a place in the Infantry. Too good at math. Electronics and Optics, that's where the big machine that read my test said I should go.

I took the offer.

Basic training was hard. I don't think a civilian can understand how hard it is. When you fail, they either choose to bump you back two weeks, where you enter a new platoon and try it all over again, or they discharge you... send you back home.

I failed. I could make a lot of excuses. There certainly were extenuating circumstances, but ultimately it was my failure.

They don't give third tries.

I failed again.

During my interview, I must have said something to impress the Captain. He noted that there were some irregularities in my training and gave me one... last... shot.

I screwed up again, but I made it.

In the second-to-last week of training, my punishment (for having a sweatshirt in the wrong part of my locker) was to carry a cement block weighing 20 kilos or so during the entire time. This week of training saw lots of un-burdened trainees fall out due to exhaustion, but I was more determined than ever.

I never came last on a run, in fact I made sure to be in the lead half of the platoon in everything we did, in spite of my extra load.

After basic it was all easy. After that all I had to do was be good at math and get through my electronics training.

When I joined my unit they were off in Cyprus on a Peacekeeping tour.

That's what I was there for, but I wasn't allowed to go. I had to wait in the empty barracks, doing simple tasks for months until they returned.

Several years later, when the chance to volunteer for Peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia came along, I jumped at the chance. They didn't have openings for me in my trade, but they needed drivers. Even though I wasn't going as a technician, I was thrilled at the chance. We trained hard for two months and flew over.

I won't go into all the details. We lost two good men. Cpl. Johnny Baichard, and my friend, Capt. Jim Decoste. The stories are heart-wrenchingly awful, especially Cpl. Baichard's death, so, suffice to say I'd seen enough. I got out of the Army.

I wandered.

Emotionally.

Career-wise.

I forgot all about writing.

I couldn't settle down. I did construction. Went to college, but couldn't stick with anything.

In retrospect, I probably had PTSD. Maybe I still do.

I found computer animation, and the creative outlet was good for me. Even working to the crazy demands of some clients was satisfying in its way.

A lull in work became a gap, then a chasm. I needed something to fill the time, and that's when I started to write again. At some point I realized I'd done just what I'd set out to do. See the world, experience life from all different angles.

Now all I had to do was put all that experience on the page somehow.

That's the hard part.

I'm still trying.

Maybe I'll get there one day.

2 comments:

Elliah A. Terry said...

What a great bio. Good luck in the contest!

Heather Truett said...

Good luck, Mark!