Having gotten to know a few of you through the perverted little window that is LJ, I've thought a lot about my experiences in Beast. I thought perhaps I could help you to some great degree - be the wise Old Grad (a whole year ago now) whose littany of mistakes could somehow come in handy for you as you traverse the path from high school kid to young officer candidates. But I think now that Beast is something you own, and everyone's experience will be tailored to wear on them in the spots that need work.
I was a very egotistical but very scared New Cadet. In my mind, I was one of the best. There was nothing I couldn't do. Then the Beast bell rang and reality came out swinging. I discovered there were a multitude of things I was terrible at. From personal relationships to the APFT. I was sucking hard in a lot of areas. And for the life of me, I couldn't understand it. Three sport athlete, top of my class, accepted early. I thought I was going to be the poster child for West Point. I felt more like the dumb kid who had to be seatbelted on the school bus than a successful future officer.
You will fail too. You'll be told you're a screwup. Maybe your platoon leader will tell you your attitude sucks. Maybe the XO will give you some "special attention." Maybe all of that will happen to you, as it did for me. Take heart in knowing that it's a part of the system.
Despite my obviously skewed views on life, West Point, and the world in general, I thought I would nevertheless boil down the essence of Beast survival into three tips:
1. Never feel sorry for yourself. The number one killer of the mind in situations like that is self-pity. Ask anyone who's been to Ranger school. Self-pity leads to a whole nest of destructive thoughts. When you start to feel sorry for yourself, remember that 9 kids are working at Taco Bell this summer so you could have that slot. Remember that there are kids your age in Iraq for a 15-month tour. I advise you against these thoughts because self-pity was my forte.
2. Never fail your squadmates and your roommate. If one of you is screwed up, everyone else needs to screw themselves up to match, provided you can't fix the screwup on the one guy first. Don't ever leave your buddies dangling. Servant leadership starts with the idea that you are the last man on the totem pole by choice. Listen to the differences in people. Your squad will be a mix of race, religion, and origin. Love them all like brothers, even the ubiquitous idiot.
3. Never give in. Fight for every inch. Push yourself that much harder. Do everything you can to make your family and yourself proud. As Solzhenitsyn said, "the bitter doesn't last forever." It's true, so make it count.
Don't let your old life get in the way of your new one. I went to WP with a girlfriend of four years, very much in love. She's married now, and not to me. I went as a selfish teenager, but I think I left as a generous adult. Don't fear the change. Embrace it.
Hopefully I'll get up there this fall for a football game, and throw a tailgate for you guys.
It's been a pleasure getting to know you. Thanks for letting me invade your lives and bend your ears for awhile.
Endeavor to persevere, or "keep on keepin' on." You all have what it takes. And someday, you'll look back fondly...and laugh.