Once upon a time I was a very good marksman. Woman. Man. Whatever.
I would stand at the starting line, pieces of a rifle lined up on the ground before me, 20 feet apart, and a target somewhere in the distance.
At the sound of the whistle, I would run, pick up the stock and barrel, fit the bolt, adjust the eye-piece, load the gun as I sprinted. At the end, I would drop to my stomach, sometimes so hard that the wind would get knocked out of me. But, there was always that target, that target that didn’t care whether I could breathe, see, or feel the shaking in my arms, whether my shoulders hurt, or whether the tiny rocks were digging into my thigh. And then the competition was always close on my heels.
And there was something powerful about having assembled it all, all the pieces having fit in just the right way, the gun loaded, heavy in my hands, and ready.
So, I would breathe a deep breath, shut out the world, close one eye, aim, and shoot.
And then I would dust off my shoulders. Literally, because this usually involved me having fully embraced the ground, my M1 to the shoulder, trying to beat the sun and the dust out of my eyes.
Oh, and I was 16.
Cue thoughts of grandeur, action, music playing in the backdrop, the romantic notion that I was, somehow, a real soldier.
These were my days as a member of the Women’s Guards for the National Cadet Corps in Pakistan, a program designed for college students to train as army reserves, our own R.O.T.C. Except we got an extra 20 points a year for doing this and if you know nothing else about Pakistani students, know this: we are point hoarders. That half point extra on math? Yes ma’am!
I suspect this wasn’t as exciting for the other girls in the squad. In fact, I know it wasn’t. Most were there because this was compulsory. The training awarded us the extra few points we all needed to apply to medical schools (yes, literally, 90% of us were going to be doctors) and really, the tea and brownies we brought as a treat post field-days were the real incentive, no? While the rest worried about getting a serious tan (more about the politics of sun-tanning later, too), breaking nails, and the achy arms from doing curls and lifts with the 20 pounds of gun, there may have been some talk of me taking it too seriously, loving the khaki uniform, glowing when one of our soldiers-in-charge called me a “jawan” (young one/soldier). It was obvious that this was not a hobby for me. Although the fact that I grew up as an army brat might have had something to do with. (Well, this and gender envy I still haven’t been able to shake completely, but that’s for a later time.)
But shooting for targets was a habit way before then. As a first grader, climbing highest on the monkey bars, being the first person to finish my lunch at recess, and , trying to beat the scores of the only boy in class who I deemed worthy of competition, the same boy who coincidentally got my feet stuck in the spokes of a bicycle after the midterm exams, leaving me unable to stride around the parking lot for days. I set goals and then I went after them, with dogged determination. There was not much room for doubt in my head. Of course, I could do it, and of course I could do it all with flair.
Some of that enthusiasm may have carried over to this blog here. It is possible that when I had the 2 am hare-brained idea to do this challenge somewhere back in January, that I was channeling not the logical 30-something I am, but the 4, 5, 6, heck 20 year old who wasn’t very capable of seeing the possibility of failure.
Well, things are not good, I tell you. This has been yet another week without a story. K.K and I are, as you may have read, nowhere near motivation city, and I have once again demoted myself from “writer” to “thinker” for the week because that is pretty much all I have done: think about writing. The pieces, so to speak, are scattered.
And if there is one thing I am learning about myself, is that listening to chaos will not do. This outside noise (well, mostly on the inside where the 16-year old me is doing her best to emulate that old Squad leader encouragement by way of shouting at the top of her lungs) is cutting through, making the goal much hazier than it needs to be. That 16-yer old would not have not have settled for failure. I know this. She would have taken the pieces, assembled that gun, and shot, no matter what else was happening, and not matter how far the target was. And felt like she was getting somewhere. And, all the while, loving that khaki shalwar kameez (that would be the outfit you see in pictures) with the makeshift sash as a nod to modesty, dammit, and this romantic notion that somehow, somewhere, I was a little bit like my father, in the trenches, determined and brave.
The founder of Pakistan had this motto: Work, work, and just work. Verb and noun.
I love the man, but the constant exposure to those words does feel like I have spent my whole life trying to live up to energizer bunny standards of intensity. And when the pace is slow, or damn near a stop, I am restless. Rest feels like failure, and a temporary wavering in my sight of the goal due to, let’s call it life, makes me uneasy. I think K.K is right on this…the issues this blog is bringing to light…Lord! Overachiever much?
But, I am a creature of habit. I would like to claim unpredictability and wild spontaneity, but let’s face it: I am still here, waiting at the line for the whistle to blow, the pieces laid out before me, wondering if I will still remember how to fit them against each other. And there, in the distance, is the target, the sun right behind it. I’ll be damned if I let that sucker beat me. Back to work, work, and just work.