Two years ago I embarked on a journey I never foresaw. I began college at West Point, a military academy in New York. During our basic training in my first summer, my entire world was turned on its head.
Amidst the chaos and stress of my first military training, I made what seemed at the time to be a fairly major life decision. I decided not to try out for the school's Division I softball team, despite over 12 years of a dedicated practice expected to culminate in college participation. Instead, I tried out for the Women's Rugby team.
There are countless lessons I learned from this decision as I gained innumerable opportunities, friendships, and blessings through my new team. One of those friendships in particular taught me more than I could imagine.
Maggie is a 5'2" bleach blonde from Philly. She has an accent and tattoos that accentuate the attitude of strength that oozes from her presence. In a profession where femininity doesn't seem to have a place, she embraced it where she could without apology. In a society where women are often limited, she exumberated independence and confidence. Maggie is practically my foil, standing out and standing up in ways and arenas I never could.
Two years into our time at the Academy, we all make a decision. If we stay into our third year, we legally dedicate the next seven years of our lives to the Army (2 at West Point; 5 in active duty service). To my dismay, I learned that Maggie will not be continuing.
Maggie was not a failure at the Academy. If she stayed, she would graduate. But Maggie has never once in my two years of knowing her done something just because it was easy or comfortable. She's always true to herself.
Last week, I said goodbye to Maggie, my first friend at West Point. Despite familial discouragement, questioning from classmates and mentors, and a world of ambiguity facing her, she moved forward with her decision, as she believes it is best for her.
With tears in my eyes, I handed Maggie my key, inscribed with the word "BRAVE." I can only hope one day to be so brave as to forego that which is conventional for the sake of my truth the way she always has and always will.