‘expectations’ is Googled 1.5 million times per month globally.
For anyone who thrives on the expectations of others, the Academy is an excellent breeding ground for reaching your full potential because no one expects less than the best, the best in terms of a high communal standard that isn’t based on individual perception of excellence, but on an institutionalized standard of success that is tightly woven into a long history of Academy and American military life. After life at the Academy, it is hard to match the high of the camaraderie that is a natural product of living and breathing together with those whose goals are almost always the same—to meet the expectations of those who have the power to promote or demote.
Back in the academy days, when the sights of life were unending and my hope was bursting at the seams for what I could do to help my family, I was ever ready to take the calls of my mother, father, brothers, sisters and friends. I knew I couldn’t give them everything they wanted, but I wanted to do everything within my power to improve their lives at a distance. Helping my family has always felt deeper than an obligation and at times it was the idea of completing a divine assignment that kept me motivated to do more. The major frustration was the calls I would receive reporting that someone else in our family or circle of friends was sick again. The main pain was not in the fact that I may have not had money at the time to send but in the fact that I felt powerless to completely make someone well again. And then to put the cherry on top of feeling so far away from a sick loved one who was solely counting on me—sometimes I wasn’t sure if the reports were real. Toward the end of my school days in Colorado Springs, I started to get more frequent calls reporting that my mom was not doing well. I felt sad, mad and sometimes confused that perhaps my family was just stooping as low as they could go to convince me that I needed to complete another Western Union transaction.
“Was my mom really as sick as they reported her to be?” I would think.
“She was healthy when I left. How could her health deteriorate so fast?”
But ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I would send the money that was requested. Somehow, some way, if it was within my power, I would send what I could. My only regret is that sometimes, because of the numerous demands that would come in no logical sequence of order—I would not spare the harsh words that I’d hoped would slow the requests and at least filter the sincere from the insincere. When in reality, after my Academy graduation, upon my return to Cameroon, just as my family had told me—my mother was indeed quickly declining in health.
Just before graduation, in the heat of wondering whether I was really going to make it to the finish line or not—I got an unexpected call—telling me my resident father had passed away. I was probably in shock, even though upon my only leisure visit home during my tenure at the Academy, my father had shown me a growth that I now assume was cancer, growing in his stomach area, already the size of a baseball. I really didn’t know what to do then, and especially not after the call, when I realized there was nothing left to do. I knew the funeral would take money, at least fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars and I was certain there was no way I would be able to return home for the burial of my father, with the cost of a round-trip ticket to Cameroon being right around three thousand dollars at the time. From this point on, I was surprisingly overwhelmed by the concern of my classmates, who had never really had the chance to show me they cared. Everyone was so thoughtful and sensitive to my loss, even when I wasn’t able to immediately identify what it was that I’d be missing. The Academy’s kindness even extended to financing my trip home by way of funds that were available for such use at the discretion of the Air Force Academy chaplaincy. Within a day, I found myself on a plane back to Cameroon for the burial ceremony and all that followed. Little did I know that my mother would also be buried within less than a year from that time.