At Army basic training, we were grilled with the phrase ‘Attention to Detail.’ They drilled it into our heads repeatedly. Over and over. Look around.See what you are doing. See what others are doing. Where are you walking? Where are others walking? How are they walking?
It all made sense in the long run. When you go to a war zone, you need to pay attention to everything. When you are carrying your loaded weapon, you have to be aware of where your muzzle is pointed, what your finger is doing near the trigger. Carelessness can kill you or your buddies.
However, this end picture was not given to us in the beginning. Or maybe I didn’t hear it. It was just lots of screaming. What are you doing? Why are you walking that way? What is that on your uniform?
One morning, we were woken up with a clamor and rushed to get dressed and into formation. Then we were scurried off to the fitness field in very cold weather. We were allowed to wear our thick field jackets over our fitness sweatshirts due to the cold. When it came time for me to remove my coat and perform my pushups, the drill sergeant started screaming at the top of his lunges. What! Is! THAT! What! Is! Wrong! With! YOU!
I stood there like a frozen deer in the road, staring at him. My mind was racing. What? What is wrong? What did I do? Suddenly, I look down and clipped onto the bottom of my sweat shirt was a hair clip. A big black shiny hair clip on my pale gray shirt.
I have long hair and it’s not at all acceptable to have your hair down in uniform. Ever. So, I would keep a hair clip on my bunk bed for instant oh-crap-they-are-coming moments. It wasn’t pretty, but I could throw my hair “up” for those moments until I could make it more official. That morning, I had done just that, but when fixing my hair into its more official position, I had put the clip on my sweatshirt to put away later. Unfortunately, I never put it away.
So here I was in uniform, with a silly clip on it, looking quite like a girl and not a Soldier. When I realized it, I tried to explain. I forgot. It was just a clip. I was sorry. This was NOT the excuse to tell a drill sergeant. No, not at all.
He proceeded to “tear me a new one” and tell me how careless I was. “It is not JUST a CLIP! It is careless. It is lack of attention to detail! It is no pride in your uniform. It is laziness! It is stuff like this that gets people killed!”
“Yes drill sergeant!” I screamed as that was the only smart response.
Back then, I laughed. Bring it down a notch dude. It is a freaking hair clip. Last time I checked, hair clips don’t kill anymore than spoons. My friends would tease me too after that. “Watch out! She has her hair clip! Everyone run!” We got a good laugh out of that incident.
But now, I see things a bit different. I finally see that wise drill sergeant’s point. He was trying to make me get it. Details DO matter. Carelessness can and does get people into trouble, complacency and sometimes, even killed.
This isn’t just a Soldier thing though. It applies to my life as a civilian too. And I kind of wish I had applied it sooner. For years, hyper awareness and details only came when I put on the uniform. My mistake and loss. Now, I am trying to be more aware of my life, my moments that I am blessed with. I try to look around and really be present in the moment. I don’t always achieve this, but I certainly am more alert now than I have been in years.
I try to watch people’s reactions and movements. It tells me if they are receiving my intended message, if they are upset or ill or distracted. I try to look around and really see the world around me. How does the sun feel on my skin? What are the lyrics to the song playing? What are details in these flowers in my front yard? (I had never noticed this beauty before!)
When I stop to breathe and take in the moment, I find that I am more at peace. I am more receptive to others. I am a better version of me. The hurried, oblivious me does not notice your sad eyes and need to talk. The numb me does not see the wonders of nature. This is the side of me I need to make dormant. I like the more-alert-more-passionate-love-the-world me better. I suppose this is personal enlightenment though and comes with age. It’s the whole wisdom with age philosophy thing I guess. So as nature evolves each season and year, so do I.
I finally get it drill sergeant.
I see the world now. I really see you. And never again will I let another hair clip kill.