Leave While You Still Love It

A funny thing happened to me yesterday.

Tiffany, my friend who is staying with me while she waits to EAOS, interrupted the intro to “The Last Ship” and asked me
“Do you miss the Navy?”
I replied “No… Why would you say that?” as I tucked my USNI membership card into my wallet.
I was sifting through my pile of mail that I had let build up which included two issues of Proceedings magazine.

“Well uh. It’s okay if you do. It’s just that everything you watch is Navy related and you listen to Navy podcasts.”
“Um. I was trying to get some frame of reference for my interview with Don’t Give Up The Ship.”
“Also…” She gestured at my wall behind the couch we were sitting on. “Those.”

It left an impression on me and got me thinking about it all day today.
DO I miss it?

Sure, I miss the parts I liked.
I miss the port visits and my Sailors. I miss that cliche of “being a part of something bigger than myself”. I miss the structure because part of the reason I joined is that I didn’t know WTF to do with my life and I needed somebody to give me orders. I actually miss the inspections, not the work-ups to them but the inspections themselves because it was a very high-op-tempo “get shit done” environment that really worked for my anxiety and probable ADHD.

What don’t I miss?
Fucking everything else.
You have to take the good with the bad and there was a lot of bad.
The toxic leadership, the weird floating high school culture, the working unreasonably late, the wild work-life imbalance, the constant feelings of inadequacy, the feeling every time I stepped onto the brow that I was walking into “The Upside Down” from Stranger Things

In short, everything that caused me to go LIMDU for mental health reasons.

In a previous post I had mentioned that there was a possibility that I could have gone back to sea. At the beginning of my LIMDU period I was very “Joe-Ann Navy” about going back.

But after a couple months or so I realized how nice it was to finally be home for my daughter who was 7 years old at the time. I had been at sea since she was 1 year old and I constantly felt like I wasn’t around enough for her. I had a big role-shift from being “GSE1 Mom” to just “Mom” and I loved it. I could finally go to all of her school performances, sign her up for ballet, be the team mom for softball, and make it to the Girl Scout meetings.

We also finally caught up on our Kiwi Crates! (affiliate link: 30% off with code Share30 )

I also finally had time to pursue my own interests.

Before I joined the Navy I wanted to go to this graphic design school. Fast forward about 11 years later and I’m finally going. The thing is, artists typically take inspiration from what they know.
For basically my whole adult life, the Navy has been the bulk of what I knew.

So I end up with shit like this…

So no, while I don’t actually miss the day-to-day being IN the Navy, I respect the fact that it was a huge part of my life and made me who I am today.
Do I still love the Navy? Fuck yeah I do, but it obviously needs some re-structuring.
Would I go back? Nope. Not unless they make me. (I’m TDRL, after all.)
Could I tone it down with the rating symbol clothing line? Probably.

All in all, if you take anything away from this post, let it be this:
Leave while you still love it.
Don’t fall into the trap of becoming the disgruntled senior Sailor with 17 years in, staying only because “it’s a good job with benefits if you put up with the bullshit” when you could have potentially gotten out earlier, found a career that resonates with your passion in life, had time to raise your own kids, and use the Navy for inspiration and be able to look back on the positive memories.

Become a force for good*.
Some of us are better veterans than we were Sailors.

(*not in the cheesy recruiting slogan way)

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