“Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete. The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life . It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.” Victor E. Frankl A Man’s Search for Meaning
I was reminded at church this morning that I am living out God’s story, not my own. Only when he is the center of our lives will we be fulfilled and enabled to live a focused, clearer and meaningful life. There have been many events that occurred in my life when at the time I was unsure why. I felt like I was being punished, or didn’t deserve to have such things happen to me. Looking back I am grateful for the suffering I have endured because of the courage and strength that was built in the fire of pain.
Life is full of choices and we have the choice to either fall victim to our circumstances or rise above them. I’d like to expand on a situation where I initially played the role of victim, and how I have accepted responsibility for my own actions and allowed that failure to mold me into the person I am today.
At the age of 19 I decided I wanted to follow in my Father and Grandfather’s footsteps of becoming a United States Marine. My father had worked closely with Veterans of the Wounded Warrior Project, and I got to witness first hand the sacrifices men and women were making for our Country.
I met an above the Knee amputee Marine named Spanky Gibson. His wife was the first female Marine I had ever met. I was immediately intrigued and asked her countless questions. That night was the first time I realized that I was capable of wearing the same uniform I grew up watching my Father and Grandfather wear.
After completing OCS, I finished my senior year of college. I did not walk at my graduation as I opted to compete for the first time as an individual athlete in the Central East Region of the CrossFit Games.
May of 2012 my Father read me the Oath at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky and I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
After graduation I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to train and serve as the head Coach for CrossFit Conjugate while waiting to leave for The Basic School (TBS) in April of 2013.
Upon arrival at TBS I continued to train on the weekends when liberty permitted. TBS is 6 months long, with the last 3 months training every other week in the field. My Command allowed me to take leave in order to fly back to Ohio to compete in the Central East Regionals once again as an individual.
Throughout TBS I had one question hanging over my head the entire time. The Marine Corps was conducting research studies to identify facts in order to conclude a decision on integration of women into Combat Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). I went back and fourth regularly on whether or not I was going to participate.
A week before TBS graduation my Platoon Commander asked why I wasn’t volunteering to go to Infantry Officer’s Course (IOC). I gave him my reasons and his reply was, “Taylor, you love this stuff, you are good at it, I would gladly welcome you into the brotherhood of the infantry any day, you should go.”
So I did.
I was in Marines Awaiting Training Platoon for roughly 2 winter months. There we hiked 10-15 miles a week, ran a 5 mile endurance course with a full load once a week, conducted Marine Corps Martial Arts (MCMAP) every morning, played Tactical Decision Games (TDG), prepared and briefed multiple operations orders, read one book a week on average, studied weapons and conducted disassembly and assembly, along with swimming, land navigation and call for fire practical applications. I felt mentally and physically prepared to complete the course and woke on the morning of the Combat Endurance Test (CET) with every intention of being the first female to pass the course.
But I didn’t. I felt like I let so many people down and I blamed everyone and everything except for myself.
I signed a document protecting the integrity of the course for the future Marines to be trained. The uncertainty of the training adds the “fog of war” factor that is very hard to replicate in order to prepare Marines for the real thing. I will not violate that by going into details of the course or reason for failure.
The bottom line here, is that I have now overcome the role of the victim, and blaming others for that failure, and I have accepted that the only person to blame was myself. I know that the training and hardships I went through during that time made me a better leader for the Marines I now lead.
That perspective didn’t come easily and it didn’t come quick. It took the help of a lot of individuals and it took me choosing to accept that suffering and use it to make me better rather than bring me down.
This life is a beautiful journey. I hope that anyone reading this can find purpose from their sufferings and allow those opportunities to add deeper meaning and value to your life.