On Ambition, loss and the telling of stories.

Let's talk about ambition. Its a loaded word- People say "Oh, she's ambitious" or "His goals are ambitious" and I feel like its seldom in a positive connotation. Well, lets stomp on that. Most of the people that follow Cannon Publishing are writers. Most want to write good books, which people enjoy, and most of us want to be successful. I'd argue that writing is, in and of itself, ambitious. It's a HUGE deal to write a book, and even bigger to publish. Even more than that, the IDEAS behind science fiction are ambitious.


We don't create worlds for them to be dreary (Dystopian SF aside, I mean the dreariness of everyday life.) We don't create them for them to be JUST like real life. We don't create them for realism (Although our characters must be real and act real, or else it breaks the vision). We ambitiously create worlds and then attempt to tell the stories of these worlds. John with his weary scout teams in a shattered world, Pitor with his techno-espionage related dystopia, and my beleaguered hospital at war in Valkyrie.


What we want, and what we all should strive for is more- bigger, bolder and more ambitious.

I will freely admit, I want to write of Intergalactic Empire. The fall of Rome, the collapse of the Spanish Empire, the downfall of the Inca all call to me. Inspired by these and Asimov's grand vision of the Galactic Empire, slowly falling for centuries, pushes me to dream big. Eventually I'm going to write it, but I don't have the skill yet. Someday, I hope! See? Ambition!


I'll be honest, I'm ambitious in my work life, too. I am thinking of getting more education (God help me, what am I doing!?!) and using that education to do something important. Now, I'm aware that what I do daily is important. I'm a nurse practitioner, and I do things regularly that help people recover from illness and injury. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about doing things that *truly* make a difference. Making a tool for clinicians to use (Not a physical tool; a tool to assess a person or process. It's a medical thing!), or a designing a process to better address a systematic problem. Personally, I'd like to address the links between TBI, PTSD and suicide, because every veteran that loses that fight is another casualty of a war that they survived.


I want to research this for personal reasons, though. It's because, deep down, I feel like I didn't do enough with my service. I was activated once to WRAMC before they BRAC'D it, and I worked in a recovery room. I never went overseas. I never was in any danger. I never saw any bad guys or did anything particularly out of the ordinary. I sure as hell wasn't a hero. I didn't get any decorations other than the 'thanks for playing' ones everyone gets. I don't even display them- Probably won't, either. I don't feel like I earned them.

Know why? Because the job's not done. Soldiers and veterans are still hurting, and those of us that have the ability to continue the fight to protect and care for them MUST do so.


Let me tell you a story. Not about ambition, but it leads to that. It's about loss.


I met a young woman; Actually an Army chaplain- when I was at WRAMC. She's been getting ECT- Shock treatment for depression not responsive to medications. She'd get shocked and then due to anesthesia and the shock, have memory issues for a few hours. At first she was pleasant. Smiling, telling me her name, and just letting the anesthesia wear off. I'd reassess her periodically, and as she woke up, she got more alert. At one point, I asked her what her name was and she told me, then looked at me and said. "My name is XXXXX. I don't remember why I'm here, though." she paused, and then spoke softly. "Oh, wait. yeah I do. My assistant killed himself." A single tear began to slide down her cheek as her memory came back. She told me about the fighting. She told me about the losses. She told me how her twenty two year old assistant couldn't deal with the pain of seeing fellow soldiers dying and ended his own life in a porta-john in Iraq.


For those of you that don't know, the military chaplain and their assistant are responsible for the spiritual well being of their soldiers. A lot of this is mental health and counseling and things like that. For a chaplain to loose the person closest to her to the very thing she was fighting? It's the biggest hit a person can take. She was so focused on the soldiers health that she missed the one right next to her. It broke her, and seeing a woman who joined to minister to the soldiers spirits and psyches shattered broke my heart.


I think about her a lot. I hope she's conquered her demons, and that they haven't taken her, but I fear that they might have. I think about her, and the sergeant from the Tuscon unit who's hands shook every time a car backfired. I think about one of my best friends who is haunted by the men he couldn't save. I think of my patient from Walter Reed who rolled his wheelchair in front of the Metro at the Metro Center stop in DC. I think about them all.


See, I have ambitions. My ambition is to tell stories, and help veterans. I have the framework in place for the first. I need to build the structure for the second.

In the end, If my clinical work, teaching or research saves *one* person, I will have succeeded. If one person enjoys my stories, that's a success. But I don't want to just write one story for one person. I want to write for everyone. And, in that line, I don't want to help just one. I want to help as many as I can. If I make a difference in one life, save one soldier, prevent one veteran from making that fateful decision....


If, at the end of my career, I can stand up and say that I did my best for those that chose to wear this uniform, I will call it a win. What does my best entail? I'm not sure. I'm going to keep pushing as hard as I can until I hit a wall, but until I do....Well. Then I'll know.


Those guys and gals- Servicemen of these United States- deserve nothing less than everything I've got to give them, for as long as I can give it. The shooting may have stopped, but the Medical Department's war will never be over as long as soldiers bear the wounds of war.


((Edit- Sorry for the dark turn, but this had to be said. I'll talk about more SF related stuff in the future, I promise!))


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