This time the question took me by surprise. I hadn’t had time to queue up my ready-made responses. I was too busy looking at the menu I guess. “So Ty,” a friend asked after we were seated for lunch, “How did you end up in the Air Force?”I looked up and contemplated as though I were being asked for the first time. He tilted his eyebrows in a way that was meant to convey sincerity. I smiled and laughed a bit to buy some time.
As often as I have been asked this question, I still seem to bumble my way through an answer.
Over time, I’ve crafted a few typical responses. In one, I channel a deep sense of pride in country — something like, “Well, ever since I was a young’un growing up near the springs of Florida, I had conviction deep in my bones to one day wear the uniform and serve this great nation of ours.”
The second response is more practical—something akin to, “Well, ever since I was a young’un growing up near the orange groves of Florida, I just knew I had to latch onto the unparalleled educational opportunities inherent within our military complex.” While, in many ways, both statements are true (though a little inflated), most people actually end up hearing a hybrid of the two, they nod approvingly, applaud decorously and the conversation moves on.
Few people have ever heard the third. It simply says, “I don’t know… It seems that one day I was here and the next day I was there, so I tried this, throw in a few pushups … and voilà! Here I am.” In other words, this particular path wasn’t as direct as some might think. In many ways, there is still a sense of mystery about the journey that has led me here and the journey still ahead. As I consider what life has been like since college, I feel it is something similar to a test in which some questions I can answer now and some questions I must resolve to leave blank until later.
Life after undergrad has been a peculiar journey. Seemingly, it’s a space where you recognize that you’ve come too far to turn around… but the journey ahead seems a little further and perhaps more daunting than you imagined. For me, it has been a series of highs and lows, good decisions and bad decisions, falling
down and getting back up again—all in an attempt to bump into my best self.
I was commissioned into the Air Force a few days after I graduated from Howard University. With my degree in hand, I began the next chapter of my narrative. In short, it’s been a thrilling experience. Populated by vivid characters and fascinating experiences – I’ve seen and done things beyond my imagination.
There is a rush that comes with the feeling of being a part of something larger than yourself and, as one of nearly 700,000 total force Airmen, it is a privilege to be a part of the nation’s best service. From traveling abroad to unmatched leadership and career broadening opportunities, the Air Force has been a tremendous resource and partner in the pursuit of new and meaningful experiences.
That is not to say that it has been void of trials and difficulties. Certainly my limits have been stretched, my patience and principles tested, it seems my soul has grown weary from time to time of being so far away from family. But when I pause for a moment, I can see the ways in which I have grown and, perhaps more
importantly, the ways in which I still need to grow.
“Like a leaf in a windstorm…” that is what my grandmother always says when reflecting on the speckled and often fleeting nature of life. Those words, like so many of her words, chime louder now than ever before. It is true. Life after undergrad is rife with uncertainty. It has met me with all the excitement, ambiguity, and contemplation inherent with the start of something new. And though I cannot say what’s in store beyond tomorrow, I suppose it is in the nature of the searching, the questioning, and the risk taking that I’ll come to know what this journey is all about.
Give HOPE. Live HOPE.
About the Author
Ty Axson is a native of Florida and a graduate of Howard University’s School of Communications. While at Howard Axson participated in the ROTC program and upon graduation was commissioned as an officer in the United States Air Force.