Internal sunshine of a shrouded mind

You know that slick Navy commercial that flashes scenes of high-tech warships cruising the high seas ending with a deep voice confidently growling, “Navy: Accelerate your life?”

If this is true, I wonder how long it would take me to finish college if I didn’t first pledge my life to the Navy as a submarine sonar technician. Soon I will earn my journalism degree, only seven years and five months after my honorable discharge. I wonder how long it would have taken if my life wasn’t “accelerated.”

No, four years of listening to whales’ haunting songs and pining for sunlight failed to hasten my academic career en route to an eventual nine to five. During those endless hours sifting through the ocean’s orchestra of white noise in a narrow, dimly lit room known as the sonar shack, I daydreamed of college. I’d be blissfully reading a textbook, separated from my long-lost friend the sun not by hundreds of feet of saltwater, but by the shade of my imaginary campus’s oldest oak tree. And of course, there were hot girls everywhere, lots of them.

Back then my utopia was shallow and simple, so my first couple years out were spent indulging shallow and simple pursuits. After serving my country in classified “missions vital to national security,” I thought I earned a nice little place on Easy Street.

After a fleeting hero’s welcome, I was greeted by reality and unemployment. Turns out there’s not a lot of need for sonar techs in Ohio.

Clouds quickly shrouded my sunny outlook on my new life. On a whim, I ditched Cleveland for an Arizona community college. Homesick and broke, this prodigal vet came home to attend another community college. It was cheap, unchallenging and left me plenty of leftover G.I. Bill money to aimlessly squander on drinking and drugs. The only things accelerating in my life were inner feelings of self-loathing and the deforestation of my once lush cellular grove of healthy synapses.

One day, an epiphany (a girl) spurred me to realize that even though I now lived back on the surface, my ambitions could excavate a deeper existence than smoking weed and playing video games.

So I veered off the scenic route and came to Kent State, determined to make a difference. I decided to become a journalist. Before the Navy, I was editor of my high school’s news magazine but quit after a disagreement with my adviser. More running, in retrospect. Maybe the whole “living in a nuclear-powered tube out in the ocean” thing was also an escape, though one I don’t regret.

Searching for redemption, I worked my way to the top spot at The Burr, Kent State’s nationally lauded student magazine. With my self-inflicted wounds healed, I felt compelled to pay it forward via this semester’s issue. Our team strived to give our audience tangible examples of healing and rebirth, like the Cleveland Cavaliers’ ongoing quest to win a championship and our own students’ compassion for strangers displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

After reading, you may still be skeptical of acupuncture, and you’ll still probably throw your empty beer cans in the garbage, even after learning how to recycle. (Just don’t throw them at cops, OK?) But I hope that something within The Burr’s pages inspires you to accelerate through your problems instead of parking on Easy Street.

John Hitch is a senior magazine journalism major and editor of The Burr.