Ask Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men Edition the Sixth, Part 2

Thursday, June 30, 2011
Today I'm posting Part 2 of the response to my platonic boyfriend Eric, who asked,
If it's not too personal to ask: I'd love to know more about your decision to join the Navy. (I hope that counts as a question, or set of questions.)

A related question or set of questions if it's not to personal: I'd also be interested in your decision to leave the Navy for the private sector.
I answered the first part of this question yesterday, and today I'll be tackling the much more complicated part 2, why I left active duty for the private sector.

On leaving active duty for the private sector, i.e., Part 2

The short answer here is that I was a dumb ass. The end. Not specific enough? Drat.

When I was a young adult, my life was categorized by two things: professionally, I had a rocket tied to my ass. And personally, my head was firmly lodged there, as well.

On a professional level, my Navy career was awesome. I made Chief (E-7) in nine years, I served in a variety of duty stations, earned several medals for outstanding service, earned my Surface Warfare Specialist designation, and was selected to serve as a Company Commander at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. I think it's fair to assume that had I continued, I would have ended up as a Master Chief or a Warrant Officer.

But personally - I was just a mess. I've mentioned before how awful my decision making skills were in those years. In fact, I can't think of one personal decision I made that would be considered an example of "good judgment." The contributing factors for this include (but aren't limited to) low self esteem, clinical depression, a deep seated need to please my father, poor impulse control, and subsuming who I was to what I thought I "ought" to be. Just a mess.

So about ten years into my service, my personal and professional lives collided. I don't particularly want to discuss the gory details here, but I made the decision to leave active duty and join the active reserves. I found a civilian job (paralegal at a law firm specializing in employment law), and joined my reserve unit.

A year later, my personal life fell apart once again and I moved back to Colorado, where I had grown up and my extended family lived. And this is where the real work began.

It took me a number of years, but during this time I did the self-examination and analysis that was necessary for me to figure out why I constantly made bad decisions in my personal relationships, why I subjugated my true self to what I thought I "ought" to be, why I had impulse control issues, why I felt the way I did. None of this was easy, and I choose not to share my insights - but suffice it to say that those years were the real crucible of my life. I got my depression under control. I determined who I really was, who I wanted to be and what I had to do to get there. I determined what I wanted from my relationships, and cut those people out of my life who missed the mark.

Simultaneously, I had also started work in my new civilian career (telecommunications). In spite of being dirt poor for the first several years, my military work ethic stood me in good stead, and I did what needed to be done in order to be successful.

Could I have done the work of my early thirties while still on active duty? I honestly don't know. It seems unlikely, though. One of the things I needed to fix was my tendency to identify myself in large part by my occupation, rather than who I was. Janiece, hot shot sailor, as opposed to just "Janiece." Having the courage to stand on my own as an individual, without the Navy to prop me up was an important step in my journey - and one which would have been infinitely more difficult had I stayed. Additionally, the institutional sexism and warrior culture of the Armed Forces isn't really conducive to the type of work I needed to do to repair my life.

So I guess the answer to the question is that I left active duty for the private sector to find myself, my true self. The journey's still ongoing of course, but I think the heavy lifting is over.

The unspoken question, of course, is "Was it worth it?" It depends on what day you ask me. Some days I'm very regretful about abandoning my Naval career. It's the culture in which I came of age and I loved it -being a Chief was one of the great joys of my life. I still have intense loyalty to my former shipmates and my branch of service. Most days, however, I look at my current life, and I think, of course it was worth it. I love my life, and I'm proud of how far I've come from a personal growth perspective. I certainly don't regret the place I ended up, here in the Big Yellow House with my Smart Man, and with decent relationships with my Smart Twins. I look at leaving the Navy as the price I had to pay for the outcome I wanted. The Navy, as much as I loved it, was not conducive to me becoming who I wanted - needed - to be.

Thanks for your question, Eric.

10 comments:

Phiala said...

You rock.

Anne C. said...

Phiala said it best.
<3

Eric said...

Thanks for your question, Eric.

No, thank you for your answer, Janiece.

And Phiala and Anne pretty well sum up anything I'd add to that.

-----

unonglon: the opposite of onglon.

filelalaine said...

A pleasure to read.

Dana Teel said...

Thanks for sharing, hope you have a great 4th of July weekend, Chief.

Dana Teel said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that your blog is a lot easier to read than Eric's, I have to have a dictionary handy to read Eric's.

Janiece said...

Dana, Eric is a pretty intellectual guy. It's one of the reasons he's my platonic boyfriend, in fact.

And it's actually "Senior Chief." I was promoted in the active reserves.

YOU TOO!

Eric said...

But I do use short words sometimes. They usually have four letters and start with "f"....

Dana Teel said...

Oh, I didn't know you were an even numbered chief, my bust.

Janiece said...

Dana, it's all good.