When I have too much time to think

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When I have too much time to think… this happens.

What will be my legacy? What will I be remembered for? After 18 years in defence, am I a sailor, another guy in a uniform, am I just Kates dad? Or is the cold hard truth just that I am simply another person, insignificant and irrelevant. I have been awarded medals and been given recognition for some great things, I have put a massive smile on my daughters face and I am sure I have made a few people laugh over the years. But what is it that I will be remembered for?

After so long in the military I can happily say I have never taken a life, but I feel as though I have probably saved a few. I recently heard a Syrian man talking about humanitarian work in Syria and he simply said, “It is better to save a soul than to take one”. It rang so true. I look around and I feel like we are all blind. People walk around Sydney absorbed in their own worlds. People are aware of what is happening in Syria, a distant war with a distant people. Most people have a great idea of the poverty in Africa, they see pictures of widespread disease, hear stories of corruption or local warlords that have stolen a whole population of children from another town.

These are just news stories. People care. People are compassionate. But it’s not directly affecting us. It becomes another news story. Then it’s dismissed. And I am just as guilty. I worry about my internet connection. My biggest problem is my phone bill or why I am working next Saturday when its Stevo’s 35th birthday. My priorities change and I get absorbed into another immediate surrounding that becomes everything I care about.

Meanwhile there is a kid in Brazil that has just stolen someone’s phone because he will make more money from that than an honest weeks work. Another child has just died of cholera in South East Asia and a 36-year-old man, a soldier, has been crushed inside a building in another terrorist bombing in the Middle East.

I specifically say a 36-year-old soldier because it’s a strange concept for people to care about a stranger who is a soldier. Could be a father of two, an ex-university student with ideas and opinions that would shape his country if not for the devastation that has surrounded his life, his family, his country. This man is no less valuable that a 6-year-old girl, an elderly man or a pregnant woman, but again, human nature takes over and there is an image that can be used to get public attention. We see this all the time when a humanitarian project has a successful marketing campaign.

I hate that we need a successful marketing campaign to get a successful public drive to fix something in another country. Kony 2012 was a brilliant example. For a brief moment the spotlight was somewhere important, it was away from Hollywood and on a spot that mattered. But then it disappeared. Again. We don’t need marketing campaigns to raise awareness of things that are wrong in the world, and if people want to remain oblivious, then that’s fine too, we need to look after ourselves first.

So what will my legacy be? Will there be anything? I don’t think my thought processes were always great, but when I suffered a major head injury in a car accident as a teenager, maybe parts of me broke. I know they did when I lost my best friend from high school. More bits broke when I was beaten up badly and had my head jumped on. Lots of different parts of my heart and mind broke when I lost my baby boy. I have been told by doctors and psychologists that I have certain conditions and have been diagnosed with depression. I have also been told by other doctors and psychologists that I have none of these conditions and I’m fine.

Now, I am not going to pretend to understand the complexities of the human mind. With that many different neuron transmissions and pathways it’s clearly more complicated than I can even begin to pretend to understand. I know when I am in certain office environments I can struggle. I get anxiety in some restrained conditions. In other conditions, though, I excel. I heard once that dogs don’t get anxiety in the wild.

When on a deployment with the military; I work. It all comes together and I can help. I can do my job. And like so many soldiers, sailors, airmen, it’s when I am at my best. I watch doctors, youth workers, paramedics, volunteers, police, firemen, nurses and a plethora of amazing people pour their heart into their work. I know people who wear all kinds of uniforms, and even people who write the laws and policies that make this world a better place. I can see heroes – everywhere.

As I grow older I want to do something. I want to help. But, if I simply set off to a war-torn country, am I just getting in the way? If I stay in my current life, am I an insignificant number not really contributing anything?

I watch the guys and girls who become what they believe in, weather they take a whole community under their wing or just encourage a local footy team. There are not just people I want to help, there are entire communities. I wish I could do more, give more and thankfully I have had and still get these opportunities by volunteering with Menslink, Camp Quality, working with the Navy.

If I can get anything from writing or sharing this, it would just be to encourage others, anyone, someone, to find something you’re passionate about – research it, find out what you can do to make a difference.

I don’t know how I will be remembered – or even if I will – but for now, I am going to keep wearing my Navy uniform (because I am so proud of what those guys can do and have done), keep going to Camp Quality (because I can’t think of a better way to warm my heart), and try somehow to be a man that is good enough for my daughter to call “Dad”with pride.

Hopefully, one day, not too far from now, I can actually do something important. Something that matters.

I might even pay my phone bill and take next Saturday off, because, well, my localised world can still be important too!

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By Dave Finney, a recently retired Royal Australian Navy Petty Officer.

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