It was 41 years ago today…I Day at the Naval Academy

It can still remember the …smell of starch. We were in our “white works” uniforms with Dixie Cups…getting sworn into the Navy at the Naval Academy.

I remember being in Austin on July 4, 1977..feeling a bit of trepidation and anxiety as I watched the fireworks display with my family. My parents were understanding.

What brought on this memory: a classmate’s post. He used the hashtag “bestdecisionever”.

For me: well, I’d have to say that I am deeply ambivalent. Yes, I feel a tie to the place; it bubbled out unexpectedly when I went to the Armed Forces Bowl to watch Navy play.
But was it right for me? Probably not, at least from the Navy’s point of view.

The mission of the place is to “train Midshipmen mentally, morally and physically to be an officer in the Naval Service”. So in that respect, it was wrong for me. I really didn’t have it in me to be a good officer. I am disorganized, scatter brained and do not concentrate well. And I don’t “get” people; I am not a natural leader. And I am very slow to catch on to social cues..I don’t “fit in” at first. And I do NOT think on my feet very well.

So, much of the time I was miserable.

Academically: the training was very broad…but also somewhat shallow. Example: I knew what a Fourier Series was but I couldn’t tell you why term by term integration worked (reason: Lesbegue’s Dominated Convergence Theorem). When I got to graduate school in mathematics I got my ass handed to me.

BUT…in a certain way, the school taught me some big time humility. It seemed that EVERYONE there was better at SOMETHING that I was. I remember being discouraged at doing relatively poorly compared to many others in the physical education program. There were those, ok, a few, who better at academics, people who were good at so many things. And in military..oh boy.

BUT…in another way, I left there with a snarling contempt toward those who, well, were average or worse. I supposed that I pushed myself hard only to find myself average…in turn I found it hard to feel anything but contempt for the slackers who were good at nothing but still thought the world of themselves …

The best thing I got out was that I found that I could be uncomfortable and miserable for a long time and still get the job done. I learned some discipline that helped me get through graduate school. And I learned to get back up off of the canvas when I was knocked down; I learned to risk failure.

And no, I didn’t turn into a Republican, despite my contempt for underachievement. I felt that my country gave me a shot and I wanted others to have the same shot, even if by a different avenue. I am a big fan of “hand up” programs.

Still, I feel warped in ways that make it difficult for me to get along with people.

July 7, 2018 - Posted by | Personal Issues, social/political


  1. Ollie, you are an awesome man and I’m so happy and proud you are my friend. Every experience contributes to who we are, especially if we are wise enough to learn the lessons- and I think you do. We all take different paths to find our way to where we should be – and this was part of yours! Love you!

    Comment by lynndempsey100 | July 7, 2018 | Reply

    • Love you too, Lynn. I was just thinking about the days of old…and sometimes I wonder ..had I gone to Yale or Rice instead…I might not have been mature enough to make it without the discipline that I was forced to learn at Annapolis. Who knows? As you said, our paths are our paths.

      And I am honored to be your friend!

      Comment by blueollie | July 7, 2018 | Reply

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