If you’re anything like me, when you look back on your years in the military you’ll remember snapshots – specific events that stand out among all the other memories. These snapshots, when lined up sequentially, tend to define your career, and they document the important events that shaped your character into what it is today.
That’s what bees are to me.
Let me explain. Back before I had seen my first ship, we lived near the mountains, and we liked to explore the wonders of the Rockies. On one such outing, my brother found a hornet’s nest in the ground. I still remember the excitement in his voice as he announced his discovery: “Hey! Look at this! I found a AAAAAAAAGHHHHHHH!”
All I saw were glimpses of him as he ran through the trees, swatting at an unseen enemy and squealing like a stuck pig. When we caught up with him, he was back in the cabin and my mom was removing stingers from his arms and head. Apparently you’re not supposed to step on hornets’ nests.
That was a snapshot.
From that day on, any bee, wasp, hornet, yellow jacket – frankly anything that could possibly have a stinger – would send slugs of fear packets through my bloodstream. The most dangerous place on earth, if there were a bee in the area, was between me and a door.
Many years later, we decided it was time to confront our demons. My life had been shaped by a career in the military; my brother’s by hard work in America’s heartland. The boys in the Aspen grove had grown up, and it was time to take a stand.
There was a wasp nest in my yard and we were going to get rid of it.
The military had taught me to plan an operation and look at all the contingencies. My brother had learned to think through a problem and focus on solutions. After careful analysis, this was our plan:
They say battle plans are only good until the first shot is fired, so maybe it’s the same for wasps. The plan began to fall apart as soon as we crossed the point of no return. Namely, as soon as we had sprayed the nest and let them know we were there. In our panic we forgot to close the garage door, and my brother, a man who would do anything for me, the guy who chased away bullies and kept me safe all through adolescence, ran in the house and closed the door behind him – leaving me in an unclosed garage with a bunch of angry wasps.
It wasn’t our finest hour; let me put it that way.
Nevertheless, we had faced the beast and lived to tell the tale. For my brother, it was a chance to confront his deepest fears. For me, it was a practical application of some of the things I had learned in uniform. For both of us, our lifelong dread of stingers had been wrestled into submission. It became another snapshot in life’s photo album.
Nowadays, I look at life differently. I’m more confident. I don’t shy away from challenges. And I know that your fears can be conquered if you have the will to take them on.
But just to be safe, if there’s a bee in the area, you probably don’t want to stand between me and the door.