We all know Julian as the fun guy, a great laugh and the classmate with a nonchalant attitude. But did you know that Julian enrolled in the US marines to fund his education? Having been his LT mate for eight months, I asked him to meet me in the library cabins to have a small chat across the table, and it’s funny how much you learn about a person if you just ask. Here’s what he had to say:
“We were raised by a single mom. There was four of us. We still saw our dad a lot, but we lived with our mom. We lived in Ortigas and went to Southridge, an hour away. One time it was raining like this, we were stuck in the bus for 12 hours! My mom was furious at the school for not cancelling classes that we got a week off. That was awesome”
And then you went to the US?
“It wasn’t really the cushy life most people live here. I lived with my dad and step-mom and half-sister. We basically lived in an attic, the four of us. I had two jobs in my senior year. Six months and I got burnt out. I was like, it’s not worth it—minimum wage—so I dropped it “
And then military school?
“Yeah. I had two choices. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to an actual university just yet. So, it was either community college for two years and then transfer or military school. But maturity-wise, I don’t think I was ready yet. I thought I could do this and not do so well, wasting money and time or go to military school and they would fund my school. They do that, they call it the G.I. Bill. I chose to join the military, have some fun, see different places.
Boot camp is three months. I got there and my first reaction was what the f*** did I get myself into. First thought. You get there, they give you like thirty seconds to call your parents and tell them, “Hey, I got here. I’m alive” and that’s literally it. They shave your head, you don’t get to sleep for the first two days. You get to where you’re going to be living and you’re standing there going “Oh my god, this suucks” You can see that literally everyone is thinking the same thing!
It’s more mentally straining than physical. They mess with your head. They break you down to build you back up again. That’s the point of boot camp.
Then I went to my duty station, I was in logistics. They basically piloted the drones. We were then deployed in Iraq in an air base. We were housed in literally a cement building. You can see the weird foam they used instead of cement. It was liveable, there was the air conditioning which all you can ask for.”
Coming back from those conditions, doesn’t it make what other people usually complain about seem immaterial?
“True. What it changed the most was the way I look at people. You meet so many kinds of people in the military. It’s human nature to judge a person the moment you seem them, but what I learnt from the military is that… Don’t do that.
Well, then I graduated from Rutgers University. I then worked for 2 years. I didn’t want to live in the US anymore so I moved back here. I was so sick of being away from the family and just visiting once in a while. Nobody wants to be that uncle who their nieces and nephews just see once a year. So, I moved back here and my dad suggested AIM. I didn’t want a cubicle job again and it seemed like the right time so I took up his advice.”
And it’s been a year… How’s that been so far? I mean, apart from finding the love of your life…
“Shout out!!! Yeah, it’s definitely been challenging. I mean, I’m not used to working this hard. Nobody in my family is academically inclined, let’s put it like that. There’s a pattern here. I’m in a mood to a week or two weeks and then I get burnt out. You have to get used to that pattern if you want to not get that burnt out.”