Celebrating someone else's success

Earlier this week, a soldier approached me at my cubicle, with me clearly busy, saying, “Sir! I did it!”

I looked confused, and in response, he handed me a piece of paper. He must’ve known I’d automatically gravitate to it, like initiating a high five, a fist bump or a cheers with a beer bottle.

The paper congratulated him on selection to Warrant Officer Candidate School.

The soldier was a specialist (E-4), just one rank below sergeant. I bump into him in the office, but we don’t often chat. In fact, prior to that moment, I remember only chatting with him once, while waiting outside my boss’s office.

The paper also didn’t say his name – just a general template, saying congratulations likely to an unnamed group of selectees.


Although I was busy, my work could wait. Plus, I now just stay in my immediate work area for lunch rather than come home; to save time and avoid the traffic coming back onto base. I had time.

It was important to him.

I could see it in him.

I sit near the copier. I was probably the first person he saw nearby after he printed the paper.

There were others in the office, others whom he likely knew better than me. But he chose me.

And I appreciate that he chose to express his excitement with me.

Therefore, I made the effort to take my hands off the keyboard, push my cell phone away, turn my seat to face him, and stand up to shake his hand.

He spoke for a bit. I asked questions. I was curious.


It seems systemic that once the military discovers what you want, it then gives you the opposite.

It’s also true that the military values persistence.

He’d been rejected just a few months before. This was his second attempt, and he did it.

His goal is to become a helicopter pilot.

Over the past couple years, he elected corrective eye surgery, and studied and scored well on a standardized test to screen for pilots.

He kept himself fit.

The fact that he wasn’t yet an NCO didn’t stop him either. (It confuses me as to why such a thing would matter to the military when it would look more favorably at a civilian applying for the same military position. A friend of mine, a Marine officer, says that the Marine Corps has a rule about limiting prior-enlisted Marines into its officer corps to under 20%, which means preference to civilians for the same position. Blank slates for proper indoctrination? Who knows…)

He also cited a motivational YouTube video put together by a Navy pilot who had wanted to become an Air Force pilot, and who took a couple years or more to achieve his dream.

I’m not religious but I like Tony Robbins’s view on this, that God’s delays are not God’s denials.

Or if you’re not religious like I’m not, then, “Delay doesn’t always mean denial.”


He felt great, and it looks like I needed. His enthusiasm made me feel enthusiastic.

Sometimes, I just got to stop what I’m doing to appreciate the people around me.


He’s a Yorkie, an old man, and he has that old man smell.

He can’t help it. And I know this. Yet, I’ve noticed that I pet him less these days.

On my workout playlist is “Happier” by Bastille. I hadn’t seen the music video until yesterday as I was driving and YouTube automatically picked the next song for me.

The song is a breakup song.

I saw enough during red lights to see that it’s about the breakup between a girl and her Golden Retriever, whom after years together she had to put to sleep.

It began to feel sad.

I had a Golden Retriever, Hazel, from 2007 (29 Palms, CA) to 2016 (Pittsburgh, PA). My girls picked her out of the litter. She was the only puppy with curly hair. And she was a girl. Toward the end of her life, her stomach had twisted. She suffered. She slept. Because of the difficulty between me and my ex, my kids didn’t tell me until months later.

She was my family, too.

The video got me feeling sad, but also reminded me to be grateful for those around me, even my stinky dog, Bill.

So this morning I gave him lots of attention, and even a bowl of wet dog food.