“I decided that pulling triggers wasn’t a way to live.” When ISIS entered the area of Iraq where Steve was a military contractor, the former Marine quit his job, moved to Texas, his official residence during his years as an ex-pat, and enrolled in Texas Christian University to study mechanical engineering.
Steve has nothing but praise for TCU; the work is interesting and challenging, the classes small, the professors knowledgeable and approachable. Steve understands that at age 28 he is more focused than his fellow students, a majority of whom are involved in TCU’s extensive Greek system. “All my peers are ten years younger. There’s a disconnect when we do group work, but I work around it. I treat college as preparation for work.” TCU is also affordable because the school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, where the university and VA make up the difference between private school tuition and Steve’s service benefits.
During R&R’s Steve traveled the world. Over two summers he motor biked through Southeast Asia, exploring hinterlands of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. When he returned to the states and college, Steve’s focus took a decidedly inward direction. A chronic knee injury led him to explore alternative therapies, which led to bodywork, a regular yoga practice, and daily meditation. “Meditation allows me to monotask much better.” Steve believes the American passion for multitasking is not only misdirected, but also incorrect. “Studies have shown that when we perform tasks in sequence we complete them faster and quality is higher.”
These days Steve’s adventures are squeezed into school breaks. Most weekends he rides his motorcycle around the dirt paths of Lake Worth. On longer breaks he ventures further afield on adventures central to his individualism and identity. “We are hardwired to conform. It’s important to have something that differentiates.”
Steve anticipates that as virtual reality becomes more ‘real’ individuals in the same physical place and time will experience vastly different realities. “When I was young I played video games to go on adventures. Then real adventures took the place of games. Now, you can play a game on your phone that alters the reality around you. It’s crude, but it will improve in time.” Although Steve thinks this is cool, he understands the downside of blurring physical and virtual realities. “We love distractions, like TV and our Phones We have to be pulled out of them. The TV shows we watch appeal to our subconscious; part of us doesn’t accept that it’s fake.”
Steve’s adventures are still decidedly real. Two weeks ago, on a motorcycle ride up through Oklahoma and Arkansas, Steve took a turn too fast, reflexively stuck his foot to the ground and broke his toe. “I’m lucky nothing more serious happened. Actually, it turned out to be a good injury. I rode 45 minutes to the ED. While I was there I checked out local couchsurfers. I met good people. They were in a band and took me to their gig. We had a great time.”
The night I stayed with Steve, he and a bunch of his Marine buddies took me banana pedaling. “We used to run patrols with rifles in Iraq. Now we ride around downtown in banana suits.” I call that progress.
How will we live tomorrow?
“As an engineering student in bio-mechanics I am interested in exoskeletons. The answer to many physical disabilities is to augment our bodies with robotics. Some are powered; others are not. If I am injured in the future, I can augment my body and still be outside and go on adventures. I see a lot more augmentation happening. Technology is going to explode. One company I am trying to intern with is developing robotic legs for paraplegics that are less expensive than electronic wheelchairs. There are economic incentives. Studies show that prosthetics add ten times their cost in economic activity.”