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“The girl has to kill the rabbit.”

Everyone stared at me. It was my second day of Survival Training, a program that’s meant to teach you how to stay alive in case you’re shot down behind enemy lines.

I had resisted peer pressure before. In high school, I refused to style my hair or wear make-up, despite classmates who told me I could be so pretty if I just tried. I stuck to my guns, even when my mother had to beg her colleagues to offer their sons as dates to dances.

This shouldn’t have been any different. I am a huge animal lover. I have nothing against hunting for food, especially in a survival scenario. But this wasn’t a wild rabbit we’d caught. It was supplied. It was trusting and tame.

And I absolutely did not want to swing a stick like a baseball bat to break the creature’s neck.

This time, however, I felt a need to prove myself, to show those boys I was every bit as qualified to be a military officer as they were. I wanted them to know I was brave and tough. I accepted the gauntlet as the natural fate of a woman in the armed services.

They had found my weakness. 

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PETA thinks I’m cruel.

According to them, all cats should be indoor cats. They call on owners to protect their loved ones from the “not-so-great outdoors.”

Why? They might get kitty AIDS. There are bad people who will sell them to laboratories or light them on fire. There are even other cats, and make no mistake, those cats are mean.

It’s not that these things aren’t true, even if the selling them to laboratories sounds a bit like an urban myth. It’s a dangerous world out there and you will likely extend your cat’s life span by keeping them inside.

But it’s also a pretty one-sided story. Yes, it can be a big, bad world, but there are plenty of insidious dangers inside the house: boredom, aggression, depression.

Just because your pet can’t vocalize what they’re feeling doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering. When a heat wave hit London and we were desperate to at least crack open some windows, one of our cats wouldn’t stop making escape attempts. No matter how clever we tried to be, she would find a way to wriggle out, forcing me to track her down and drag her back to her prison cell, I mean, loving home.

Until one day I looked in her eyes and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I love this animal like a part of my family and here I was denying her the one thing she wanted, and all I could think about was keeping her safe.

So I opened the window and let her go.

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A lot of people tell me they’re looking for freedom.

I completely understand, because much of my life has been a crazy courtship of the concept. I just didn’t understand the cost until recently.

After high school, I joined the military to escape a totalitarian father, which even I have to admit is funny. It’s true that, by comparison, the military was a picnic. The upperclassmen at the Air Force Academy nicknamed me Cadet Happy Camper because even when they were yelling in my face or making me do iron mikes, I couldn’t help but smile.

The military culture convinced me I was willing to die for freedom, the kind that belonged to someone else. But I struggled to take even the tiniest risks to grant me my own.