This past week, I was on a business trip to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD. This was not my first time at Aberdeen – the first time I was there, I was all of 19 years old and I was a fresh-faced and bright-eyed enlisted soldier entering Advanced Training for the summer after my freshman year at UCLA. I made a lot of memories that summer and I learned a lot about myself. That was 1996.
So, I was sad to discover that Aberdeen is no longer a training facility – all training has been moved to Virginia. I didn’t get to see any soldiers in formation or soldiers running and doing PT in the morning. I didn’t get to see road guards block the road so a platoon of soldiers can march to class or the field. I didn’t get to see soldiers in PT gear after hours just hanging out or walking back and forth to the PX.
Nope. I just saw civilians and government employees going to work and going home.
I was hoping to see enthusiasm and be reminded of what I once was, but instead, I saw what I remembered, but aged. I saw my old barracks and the CQ building for the 16th Ordnance Battalion – neither of which were maintained and the grass wasn’t mowed. I saw the old Ordnance museum and the tanks – which were no longer being kept presentable and the plants were growing uncontrollably.
It was sad, but at the same time, it was appropriate. Change is inevitable. I’m not the same person I was 15 years ago. I’ve grown up.
I was hoping to relive my past for a little bit, but, it’s probably better that I only got a glimpse into my past. Though I don’t live my life with any regrets, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I did things differently during my formative years. If I had worked harder at X instead of Y, would I be more Z? This is the question that I will always live with – what if?
I need to stop thinking of what if and thinking more about what’s next?