If you spend three years with someone you expect to know certain things. I wouldn't expect to know everything, most people have skeletons they are uncomfortable sharing, even with those they love the most. And yet, I expected to at least be able to ferret out the dichotomous philosophies in such a long time.
Some of you may know, others probably don't, mostly because it wasn't relevant and I wasn't happy about sharing it. It is part of this story though so I'll say it. My girlfriend may be leaving me. Things have been going better lately, but they have done that before just before it got worse. This wouldn't be so complicated if we hadn't just bought a house this spring. This ain't no schoolyard crush, we've been living together for almost two years and I had always thought we were headed towards marriage and the happy hereafter. Long story short, she is under a lot of pressure as a senior in mechanical engineering, and she may not want me to be a part of her life anymore.
Her reasons are her own and she won't share them with me -surely one of the problems- and they aren't the focus of this writing. So, now that I have armed you with that small piece of information I will carry on.
We were in the car coming home from the University where we both work. We were talking about her grandfather, who she had just found out had been a manufacturing engineer. She thought it was weird and somehow prophetic that her grandsire had been involved in engineering as well.
I told her the following story about my own discovery of familial career choices:
I'm adopted on my father's side. My adopted father's proper Virginian parents weren't real pleased about their "good son" marrying "that single woman with the baby." My mother told me how in the first years of their marriage, when they visited my grandparents, they wouldn"t talk directly to her and often wouldn"t even set a place for her at the table.
They eventually seemed to warm to her, but it was clear to me from a very early age that my sister -my fathers natural child- was clearly the favorite. It wasn't until I was about thirteen and discovered my adoption that I finally understood their distance. They had always been nice to me, but never really gushed over me like grandparents normally do.
And so I was surprised to receive a letter from my grandfather one day. I had received mail from them in the past, but it was always a birthday card, this was a real letter. I think this may have been the first actual correspondence I had received from them.
I was in Basic Training at the time. I had left home at the tender age of seventeen to perform what I patriotically believed to be my duty. In the letter, my grandfather told me that he was proud of me. I was satisfying my duty to the country and to the name of my family. He revealed, that for as long as anybody could remember all the men in our family had served in the military. Every male, since time immemorial had fought to defend their land, they had all been warriors and now I was one of them!
I was accepted. Since that day I have felt none of the distance I recalled as a child. My time in the service had cemented my ties to my adopted family. They were proud of me!
When I told her this story my girlfriends reply was, "Oh, now we never can get married. I don't want any of my children in the military."
I was stunned. My jaw must have hung open. I couldn't believe that she felt this way. She continued, "I couldn't handle having children in the military, it would be too scary. They could die. It's okay for other people, but not me or my kids"
My voice failed me for several minutes. I finally worked out a reply, "I had no idea you were on of those people. Soldiering is a very noble profession; there is honor in service to your country. Do you mean to tell me that you wouldn't allow someone else to participate in the protection of your freedom?"
"I don't care, I don't want my children dying or getting hurt like that," was her only reply.
I was silent for the remainder of the short trip. She quickly let the episode pass, and I don't think she understands how fundamental of a difference this is. For the first time I seriously considered that maybe we shouldn't be together. It may seem like a silly point of pride to some of you, but I consider this a fairly serious matter.
It's beyond the scope of this already too lengthy write up, but I believe it's extremely important for an individual to participate in the preservation of their country. I wouldn't have everyone enlist during peace-time, but if the need arises for defense I would expect volunteers. If you are really interested, read Starship Troopers by Heinlein. See the movie if you want, but it is no substitute for the book. Heinlein outlines the philosophy for active preservation of the state much better than I can, and that philosophy was not in the film.
So were does this leave me? I love a woman that I have a fundamental difference with. This isn't a little thing like what color she wants the carpet to be, or how much time I should spend drinking with my friends.
This is a deal breaker.
And I don't know what to do, you see, I love her.