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How To Advance Your Career Through Marriage

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When I was five, my father died. I guess I kind of hid it well, but his death never stopped affecting me. I found a father figure in the man I secretly blamed for his death, and tried to do everything to please him, but it was never enough. Oh, it was enough for Captain Picard, but not enough for me. Secretly, I was far too restless to accept the fact that I could have been perfectly happy in my surrogate family. But I knew I never belonged on that ship. It was too limiting for a boy like me. I was a real wiz kid back then. Looking back, I can?t see how I didn?t bug the hell out of everyone on board. It must have been the captain. Even on a ship with a walking machine and a junior grade officer smart enough to talk his way into the chief engineer?s position with only wild ideas and a full set of self-confidence, I stuck out like a sore thumb. It?s easy to see why I made friends with both of them, and why they were the easiest to leave behind. Simply put, I didn?t need them. I had a harder time convincing myself that I no longer needed the captain?s approval. I didn?t need my mother?s at all. I think I blamed her more than anyone.

When I was fifteen, I met the man everyone ended up calling the Traveler. Even now, I don?t have a better name for him. He?s never tried to do anything but allow me to be myself. He recognized in an instant what everyone else tried their hardest to ignore, that I wasn?t part of anyone else?s journey but my own. He visited me infrequently over the course of seven years; I didn?t always tell anyone else when he appeared. Twice it couldn?t help but be noticed. The first time, he saved my mother, from a mistake I made myself. The second time, he saved me from a mistake I thought I was obligated to make. I was never cut out for Starfleet. How do you tell that to the only people you know, who consider Starfleet a legitimate and unavoidable fact of life? Geordi?s parents both served in it. From the moment he was reactivated, Data never questioned that his future would be defined by it. Picard had already spent a lifetime in it, and wouldn?t soon be leaving. My mother? Like my father, she had pledged her life to it, like everyone else. She didn?t care where it took her, what it demanded of her. She had already betrayed my father long before he was dead, and well after he died, before I could ever know, with Picard. No, I?m not rebelling, not justifying. But things need to be said.

Starfleet believed that it didn?t need me. I don?t care what the captain said, how many times it took him to gain admittance. On his recommendation alone, I should have entered the first year I was eligible. Instead, an archaic system told me and a roomful of other worthy candidates that we were lucky just to be applicants. This isn?t arrogance, it?s simple fact. Why turn away assets? I would have studied in the farthest satellite branch of the Academy. How do you say that you have too many explorers, too many bright minds in an age that has made a mockery of limitations, when an alien comes knocking to say, even in its highest state of perfection in history, that humanity is too limited to be allowed further existence?

The Traveler did me a favor, he gave me another way to explore my potential. I wouldn?t blame anyone for failing to understand any of it. Looking back, I was a little more than precocious, but even then, I should have known that I never fit in on that ship, that any opportunity that presented itself would have been just as much a solution as the Traveler turned out to be. The Academy certainly wasn?t. I wasted more time there than I?m willing to admit, even now. All I did there was get into trouble. I had no outlet there, only classrooms to sleep in and maneuvers to perform. What I did in my off-hours was far more useful. I filled notepads with equations and theories, but found no outlet in which to test them. A cynical observer might have suggested I had proven in the past that my idea of scientific progress had gotten me into more trouble than it was worth, but what?s progress when it?s docile, when it?s tame? What?s a little bit of living when all you do is play it safe?

I know it?ll sound silly coming from anyone who?s actually been around me, but I?m an adventurer. I come off a little nebbish, incapable of inspiring anyone with anything but my ideas. In person, I?m hard to take seriously, and would probably be a little hard to stand to read about. But my mind is always racing. I can?t help it. Most of the time, it?s in all the practical ways that no one else is capable of understanding, but would take for granted if it were an everyday, established sort of thing, the way transporters and warp fields are, even though three hundred years ago they would still have been science fiction. When I think about the way Cochran was, that?s sort of person who inspires me, the kind of person I want to be. Flippant, but genius, hard to take seriously but hard to ignore, hard-living but hard-thinking. It?s hard to see how any of that makes sense, but that?s what an apocalypse will do. He lived in an era that?s the polar opposite of the one I inhabit. War had devastated his world, one that had developed without anyone noticing. Nowadays, you have to travel clear to another quadrant of the galaxy to be surprised like that, like the Borg, or the Dominion. But the Borg are exactly the kind of thing I want to explore, not run away from, or fight. The one thing I admire about Picard is that he was assimilated and lived to tell about it. But there are other Borg like that now. I want a chance to get close to Annika Hansen, and it has nothing to do with her physiology. You won?t hear that from many heterosexual males of the modern age. I envy Vulcans. I want to understand Deltans. I wonder why Data wants so desperately to be human. I guess you could say I?m the least likely outsider there is. I rebelled just when it looked like I had gotten everything I wanted.

You want to know the weirdest part? I ended up going back to Starfleet. After years of exploring my potential on my own terms, seeing and doing countless wonders that no engineer could duplicate in a single lifetime, I decided to go back to where it all began. I sat in a classroom through to graduation, and was happy to do it. I knew what my goal was, finally. I wanted exactly what Picard had. All the years I sat listening to his stories, I never appreciated how closely his journey reflected what I so badly desired. He had started out just as angry and restless as I was inside, but never admitted to anyone. He made all the mistakes I did, but in ways that couldn?t be ignored. He got his heart stabbed through in a bar fight, and had to have it artificially replaced. He chose the replacement despite the fact that medical knowledge could have fixed the one he had, to remind himself. It required constant, embarrassing maintenance, and he lived with it. In a way, he dulled himself into the very direction his android friend would later try so hard to distance himself from. Some might have called it maturity. Me, I came to understand it as caution. He stopped trusting himself. Me, I was a reflection of everything he?d denied himself. He saw my chance to grow as his chance to live again. He made me his family, and was betrayed when I rejected him.

So I didn?t exactly try to rejoin his crew, even though he would have welcomed me warmly back, despite everything. It wouldn?t have been the same, but he wouldn?t have cared. Besides, I had nothing to offer him anymore. I had my own quest. In some ways, I could have entered security, offering Starfleet innovations they could never have dreamed of in that regard. I could have helped its offices begin their fledgling exploration of time, which would quickly become just as big a part of Starfleet?s mandate as space.

But the next time I saw that family, I was just visiting. It was the wedding everyone had thought would happen, but like my own life, had seemingly done everything to avoid. During the course of the ensuing days, the captain was confronted with a clone of himself, who represented everything he had tried to deny about himself. The android made the most calculated, inhuman decision of his life, gambling that he could sacrifice himself, yet continue living, some else?s life. I doubt anyone else could properly understand what happened, how fitting it all was, why I had to be there, but have almost nothing to do with it. I thought about the Traveler then, how he had done everything to continue his inconspicuous existence, except make a few comments here and there, which seemed harmless at the time, but would have their effect, in time. If you could have overheard my comments at the reception party, you would have heard me tell Data, ?Sometimes, it?s not so bad to be a little different.? You would have heard me tell the captain, ?Sometimes, it?s not so bad to be a little less remote.? It?s what they needed to hear, it?s what they already knew, but that doesn?t mean it was any less difficult to accept. How do you tell the people who seem to know everything that they still have plenty to learn?

Who?s going to listen to me, anyway? You wouldn?t believe what kind of man I became. I stopped trying to save the day in every emergency. In a way, I did become a little like Picard, I started to let others do the work. It wasn?t a matter of trust, it wasn?t that I couldn?t or didn?t want to do it myself. The captain had started doing a lot of it himself, long after he didn?t have to. He found that he liked doing it after all. He quit second-guessing himself, right after the last example he needed that he wasn?t perfect. Why should he bother pretending that he wasn?t? It just wasn?t worth it anymore.

I learned that lesson before he did. I never wanted to tell him that. I didn?t want to rub it in. I learned modesty by spending a lot of time by myself. I had no one else to talk to, so I told myself everything, and eventually grew quite satisfied with my audience. It was the only one I needed. The Traveler had long moved on, soon after the day I quit Starfleet. I could have joined the Maquis if I wanted, but I knew there wasn?t a point to their cause, anymore than wanting to preserve an Indian civilization four hundred years after it stopped being necessary. I was the next step to all of it. This isn?t hubris. But I began to see that even as the next step in the evolution of humanity, I had to work with the rest of it eventually, either to help it get there (impossible) or to temper myself (possible).

Why did I return to Starfleet? Because I wanted to see what I could do as an officer, what my choices might be in the same situations I had observed as a boy, a youth eager to please and innovate but never exactly challenge. Only after I had completely rejected my future was I free to embrace it.

When I was five, my father died, and I spent a lot of time ignoring that fact, pretending that it wouldn?t define me, and for a long time, nobody thought of his poor dead father when they heard the name Wesley Crusher. I can only imagine the name the Traveler used to have, but I can imagine to a greater degree that he was running away from something, too. I learned long ago that for his people, the designation Traveler is as common as any role in Starfleet. In a way, becoming an officer is exactly what I was meant to do, but not in any way that anyone else ad ever imagined. That?s what I was meant to do, do something common in an entirely uncommon way. To anyone else, certainly at that reception party, and everyone I once knew, I was just another member of Starfleet. But like the Traveler, I like to think I?m so much more than that. I?m seeing just what potential really means, and I?m not letting anyone tell me limit me anymore. Yeah, sure, my father died when I was very young. I never did get to know him, just little glimpses here and there, but that?s why it was so easy to accept the Traveler as my mentor. I never had anyone there to tell me what I did and did not have to do. I had to mature a little, but even at five, I knew that the basic fact of my existence wasn?t that my father died, but that I continued living. It?s not about being cold, detached, uncaring. It?s about knowing that there?s more to life than anyone else can tell you. Everyone else around me, on that ship, was always missing something. I stuck out because I wasn?t, even though for all the world I should have. That?s what made me who I am, long before I knew how to express it. I never had to justify myself to anyone, and that?s what I had to realize.

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