For a time in my youth, I wasn’t a terribly good student. I was plenty smart and I remembered most of what I saw and heard, but much of the time I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t always pay attention, as my mind was usually occupied with other, more destructive (and thus enjoyable) considerations. Plus, when your mother is a whore and your stepfather a gang-banger, there’s probably no one holding you terribly accountable or helping with homework. I didn’t act out much—I knew better than to incite those consequences—but for several years, I did only just enough to get by while not drawing any unnecessary attention to myself. Simply, I didn’t care.
Until I did.
In middle school, I discovered there were some things worth learning. Biology in particular was exquisite fun. I was able to apply some of what I learned to my newfound animal diversions. (In case you are curious, live dissections are much more interesting and educational.) The appeal of science helped to inspire my participation and improved my overall grades by a full letter or more.
I had no ambitions to further my education until just prior to my junior year in high school. Everything came crystal clear to me then, all in one fortuitous moment. Suddenly I had a purpose—an objective. And in order to obtain it, college became a necessary modification to my plans. And really, that wasn’t so bad—by that time I knew that human anatomy, physiology and psychology were classes I would thoroughly enjoy and (of course) utilize in my future endeavors. But funding that undertaking would require considerably more than I could count on my mother for—which was precisely zero. I would need scholarships and student loans that I would never pay back. I took on a part time job. I’m not sure my mother even noticed.
College was an entertaining experience. I stayed for two years. In that time, I learned a great deal about the human body and mind. And in the time since, I’ve learned much, much more. Nothing can take the place of real-world experience. Nothing. If you wish to know how a heart works, crack and spread the ribs, tear open the pericardium and watch it beat. If you wish to know how much agony a brain can endure before shutting down, inflict it. The answers you’ll find in a book are rarely adequate replacements for audience participation.
Though I would not encourage most psychopaths to join the military that is exactly what I did after my brief dalliance with college. Many despised basic training, but it never bothered me. I grew stronger, faster, and sharper. I learned how to utilize a wide variety of weapons. In essence, I was being paid to learn how to kill. And as we well know, I am exceptional at that.
Given my knowledge of anatomy and physiology, becoming a medic was really a no-brainer. I served as part of the 113th Brigade Support Division in Afghanistan for a brief period in 2005. I can tell you now that I didn’t save all the soldiers I could have, preferring instead to watch them die suffering in front of me. That was not what led to my discharge, however. A family suspected of sheltering Taliban militants turned up mangled and mutilated when the 76th raided their cave. Someone (since deceased in a similar fashion) alerted our commanding officers that I’d slipped away for a time in the night preceding, and blood may or may not have been found on my belongings. No one was terribly keen to investigate thoroughly or to implicate the Army National Guard in the murders, nor were they prepared to discipline someone (me) for “taking care of their light work." Ultimately, the story was floated that the Taliban had butchered the family to keep them from sharing intel with the encroaching US troops. It was used as a bit of rather ingenious propaganda to dissuade the Afghanis from supporting the Taliban “barbarians”. In it’s way, my little evening escapade actually helped us win support critical to our success in the Middle East. Therefore my discharge was quiet (and laughably honorable) and I was soon sent home.
Which was all just as well. I never intended to stay in the military for long in any case, and its purpose had been served. I’d learned some necessary and enjoyable skills to pair with my education. The rest of my training has all been quite…hands-on. As I’ve said, there is no substitute for experimentation and experience. And of that, there have been unfathomable riches since.
We’ve not yet even scratched the surface…