From Career To College: A New Chapter

You may be thinking to yourself, why? Why would anyone go back to college after already forming a successful career.  You may be thinking, why would someone choose to leave structure, security and benefits to surround themselves with chaos, uncertainty, and doubt of the college lifestyle? Well, my name is James Davis and I’m here to explain to you my choice to part from Active Duty Coast Guard and start a new chapter at the University of Delaware.

Fresh out of Boot camp, 2011, assigned to Station Ponce de Leon Inlet, New Smyrna Beach Florida, awaiting my first voyage underway on a 47’ Motor Lifeboat.  The 47’ MLB is basically a huge floating fishing bobber on top of the water, which I was soon to find out. Our mission for the day was to travel down the eastern shore to watch the space shuttle launch out of Canaveral.  Extremely excited to see the shuttle launch for the first time and to be underway on a Coast Guard boat for the first time–not foreseeing how this trip would go so badly.  

The boat rocked back and forth and side to side with the unsteady slosh of the ocean waves.  I then began to yawn, then I started to burp. “Oh no! I am getting sea sick” I thought to myself. I had never been seasick before because I had never been out at sea before.  So there I was, brand new, surrounded by seasoned Coasties, about to blow chunks all over the place. How embarrassing it would be to chum for sharks my very first time underway.  But at this time it was pretty much inevitable. Three, two, one… Shuttle launch! I quickly made my way to the bow (front) of the boat, barely keeping down my breakfast. Within 5 minutes the launch was complete and I made my way straight to the taft rail on the stern(back) of the boat. Chunks Away! It was at this time I found out that the ocean and I were not going to be very good friends. Unfortunately for me I was already sealed in for 4 years of service. What a long, sea sick, shark chum filled four years it was.  

Oh just blowing chunks on the aft(rear deck) of the 47' motor life boat.  But I never miss a photo op.

Not only were those four years filled with over-the-rail-hailing and fetal-position-life questioning moments, but also lengthy periods of time away from family and loved ones.  Four years and a thousand miles from home, I missed a lot. Birthdays, babies being born, holidays, opening days, weddings, first days of school, etc.. Being so far away, I was lucky to get to see everyone maybe three to four times a year. Losing friends is another casualty of military life. Everyone is constantly shifting, moving, just like the ocean sometimes you just want to put your feet back on solid ground and regrow some roots.  

Solid ground is something not easily found in active duty lifestyle.  Now out of Florida and newly stationed to Station New York my job was about to change. Ferry escorts, ferry escorts, ferry escorts, every day for hours upon hours at a time.  I was a bow gunner on the 29’ Response Boat Small. It was a new boat that was recently introduced into the Coast Guard. Riding in the 29’ RBS was like riding in a flat bottom aluminum Jon(fishing) boat on 4 foot seas.  It was named by some as the back breaker, or spine compressor. I see now that I am going to be stuck doing the same job, day in and day out for three more exhausting years on this horrible boat platform.  This is when anxiety started to kick in.

I remember the first time I got anxiety on a boat  The feeling of being trapped, unable to do what you want, which for me was to get back on solid ground. This is when I decided to complete my active duty tour as soon as my contract was over.  Approaching eight years of duty, I needed to find a new path to follow, on solid ground, with some roots. 

So why would someone leave security and structure for the uncertainty and chaos of the college world?  In my case, it was sickness. Physical and emotional. This is why I chose College–why I chose education and why I chose to study wildlife.  I felt this was ultimately the best way to achieve my new goal in life, to establish a new career to develop new roots on solid ground.


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