by Kate McCreery Glynn, ’98
How many times have you heard some version of this? “You went to Annapolis? What was it like?”
Do you have a pat reply? “Challenging… Lots of engineering… I played rugby for a bit.”
The truth is, for me, it wasn’t great. The truth is, I spent a good portion of my time at USNA feeling lost and alone.
When I showed up on I-day, I didn’t know how to pledge allegiance to the flag. I almost failed chemistry. I was the plebe who visited grandma over spring break because I didn’t have any other plans; the second class who didn’t get invited to the ring dance booze cruise. It took until firstie year to find close girlfriends, and in the meantime I slept with people I shouldn’t have out of the sheer ache to be desired. I’m still not sure what the line of scrimmage is.
“You went to Annapolis? That’s AMAZING!”
Nope. The truth is, it wasn’t amazing. I wasn’t amazing. Parts of it were good: a senior seminar on the Divine Comedy; the Messiah in the chapel; running the seawall. But let’s talk about flight school, the fleet, my kids, grad school, or work. I spent too much energy reinventing myself to talk about Annapolis. “Great place to be from and terrible place to be, know what I mean?” Cue sarcastic detachment a la head tilt and raised brow.
So no surprise, I almost didn’t go to the 20th reunion. I’d avoided the 5th (What if someone remembers that time . . . ?); the 10th (I’m not flying all the way from Texas to have a crappy weekend.); and the 15th (I’m in touch with everyone I want to be in touch with anyway). It was my darling husband (98-1) who gave me the push: Screw it babe, if it sucks you can just drive home.
Thank goddess he did, dear Sisters, because I found you there. Somewhere during those four years by the bay, I had convinced myself that every other member of Great 98 had found their tribe, and I alone had not; that your bond with each other was so tight that there was no room left for me. But it turns out I wasn’t alone in feeling alone. You were there with memories of ill-fitting uniforms, rained out parades, and boring classes. Some of you hated football too, and some of you did fail chemistry. We all saw the easy fraternity of our male classmates, and knew it would never be ours, no matter how much of a cool girl we tried to be. We all had regrets about how we treated each other, wishes that we had reached out more, put down less, lent a hand more easily. It turns out it took a nudge, a drive, a football game and a cocktail party to realize you were there all along: the didn’t-ever-feel-quite-at-home-here-but-wasn’t-about-to-admit-it tribe of USNA.
So here is to the Severn, the insecure plebers that we were, the Jamaican beef patty, and the women we have become. You are my sisters, and I am so very glad you are.
High five sister!
Oh my goodness! This is exactly how I feel – the bonds are so tight – I could never fit in. I never built amazing bonds while there, but you’re right at the 15th reunion for my class I got to spend time with other women, intentionally because someone much smarter than me decided we should. It was lovely.
Kate, I am class of ‘90 and so enjoyed reading this. I have not made it back to a class reunion yet and have had so many of the same sentiments you shared—from the loneliness and challenges, to my response when asked about my time at Annapolis/and in the service, to wishing I had treated people differently. I did attend the Athena Conference a couple of years ago (I think that was the name—40 years of women at USNA). I was so blessed to meet many of my peers there—to have someone else express this strange sense of “angst” approaching the yard, to find out people missed me and remembered me, to hear of others who had similar and different challenges, to believe maybe I did belong to that tribe called class of ‘90. This past year I shared music that I started writing on my very first deployment (USS Abraham Lincoln—Flight School was part of my path as well)—finding courage to do more of that. I no longer react with the coldness I once did when asked about my time in the service. Grateful for that. Thank you for your beautifully written reflection.
Thank you, Heidi, for sharing! We are your tribe and look forward to traveling this journey with you.
Wow, I could have written that! Well said. Thank you!
Amazed, a bit saddened, empathetic – all these emotions as I read of sisters so many years later still experiencing the same issues. I think it is partly the “growing into adulthood” process; partly the environment we entered; yet I am hoping (and hearing) that future classes of sisters are reaching out, bonding, encouraging one another more quickly – from Day One. Thank you for sharing!
What an absolutely amazing reflection you have written! I identified with SO MUCH of what you shared but could never have found these perfect words that you did. Thank you for helping all your readers (including me) better understand ourselves and what we have felt about our time at USNA, especially our loneliness and feeling not a part of. Now we can know that whatever we felt….many other women felt or feel the same way, too! We are not alone anymore (and really never were). Thank you!
Thank you for sharing, Kate. You certainly are not alone in your emotional response to your years at USNA. The sisters in my class all shared similar stories during our 30th reunion, with the wonderful result of bringing us all closer.