By JAMES RUSSELL
Ellis Horne is a young man imbued with genuine smiles and a subtly honest attitude, and one whose story many can relate to.
The eldest of three siblings, the now 24-year-old spends fleeting moments of free time communicating to the rest of his family over the soft crackle of a video feed from across the world. But life in the Australian Navy isn’t one he’d give up lightly, because although his training may plant him in the lap of pandemic-gripped America – it’s the second chance at a life he thought he’d never have.
“Yeah, you know, now I think about it… I am in a far better place,” he says.
Graduating in 2013 from Matthew Flinders Anglican College, society might say he was set up to succeed. But after taking residence in a low-end Brisbane apartment where, for the most part, he resided alone, the realities of life began to hit hard.
“I’d gone from family dinners, schoolwork and structure, to a soft drink diet, unemployment, and… whatever university was,” he says.
At the time, it seemed the natural choice – to study an IT degree at Central Queensland University. Ellis has a knack for problem solving and a love of computers, two qualities needed for any wondering aspirant. But the notion of a fulfilling career beyond formal tuition began to have worsening appeal to the then 18-year-old, who soon felt aimless and dejected at the prospect.
“It just didn’t feel ‘me’,” he says.
With a slowly souring disposition, it was not long before a string of failed classes, unsatisfactory living conditions, and an inability to tie down work led Ellis to the crossroads of a very troubled street. Yet it wasn’t until his long-time girlfriend broke up with him, that things truly became overwhelming. Ellis dropped his studies in higher learning, pulled up his stakes in the city, and returned home, a little broken by his first foray into the outside world.
“Truthfully, I felt just about as empty as a guy could get,” he says. “I mean, I’d done the thing they all tell you to do – leave school, attend university, everything will be all right. But I think there’s a hidden cost to everything. I didn’t know that back then, everything just seemed unfair. But you can’t be passive and just hope things work out, you just can’t.”
The next few years, as Ellis describes, had him “shuffling about the parents’ house with my eyes to the floor”. Still unable to secure work, he retreated within himself with no larger goal in mind.
“I tried looking at what I was good at, what I liked, and figuring out how they could work for me, but nothing really clicked,” he says. “Times change though, and as I fumbled about, I eventually figured the Navy would be my best shot. I could get a trade, earn a living – make a little something of myself.”
For the next couple of years he applied himself – not just physically, but mentally as well. Recruitment would soon come calling and Ellis would see himself ready.
Come 2020, and Ellis has seen a vast transformation from the boy that maturity ate. Finishing his first round of technician training in 2019 at the top bracket of his class, he is now stationed overseas within America for the second leg of his navy study.
Of course, with the rampant paranoia surrounding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, things in the US are obviously tense. Ellis, however, is greeting these new obstacles with a renewed sense of level-headedness.
“Wear your mask, do your job, stay away from people where you can – you’ll be right,” he says.
Ellis hopes to be fully qualified in his new vocation by the end of the year, garnering with it a sense of achievement a long time coming. But what then? The stars have certainly aligned for this one-time university drop-out, yet with a new lease on life he is certainly set to make them his, whatever they may hold.