As I sit down to write this post I’m remembering all the times I got to post the next exciting thing coming up for me on this journey. I mean when I wrote about moving to Japan and then after that to Italy… there’s very few people who get to receive opportunities like this. The military has given me many things, a tough skin, a way to pave my own way, professional gratification, an idea that I can now pretty much enter any job with little to no experience and make it work and be successful. I mean if I can walk onboard a warship and drive it on the first day, I can do literally anything. But alas, my journey with the military is coming to an end. In fact, this past September I was given just six more months to figure it all out and get on with it.
I feel like after throwing that paragraph up on the page, there’s a few things that need to be explained for you to understand where I am at in my head right now. Back in 2015, I was truly living some of the best days of my life. Living in Europe, at work at 9am on a Thursday in Italy and having lunch around 14:00 in London that same day. While there, I was picked up for a new job as Foreign Area Officer, but this was during a time when they had just started accepting more junior people to the program. After finishing my tour in Italy I went to Monterey California to attend Naval Postgraduate School and get a Master’s degree and after that learn a language at the Defense Language Institute (also in Monterey) for this new job. When student is your main job in the military you do not receive performance evaluations. You essentially get a blank evaluation that annotates non observed because you are a student in school. I had three of these in a row, and I was sent to the promotion board early with no substantial evaluation. Then I was sent again the next year with the same scenario, I was still in school. You only get two tries. You can do the math.
When I found out the first time that I did not get the promotion, I did not react well to the news. I distinctly remember ugly crying on a bench outside of a hookah bar with a friend on the phone at 3 in the morning. I only mention this because the stress that I endured while waiting for an entire year to find out the future of my life was definitely very difficult. Actually it was worse really. The constant worrying, the feeling that you are definitely doomed. The stress of this decision. It was driving me crazy. Then, to top it off with the what if’s just back in my mind nagging me and nagging me and nagging me… There was no peace of mind. Not to mention, I was on the shopping block weekly at language school with 2 tutors and morning and evening extra study sessions. I couldn’t seem to settle down and I definitely couldn’t seem to get a grip on the language. My body was losing it. I was sick a lot. I didn’t interact with anyone except the people at the school house and my tutors. It was very unhealthy.
During this chaos, I randomly received orders to report to Hawaii as soon as the school finished. I say randomly because my community did not even give me a heads up or an option for this, I found out days after they were released from the admin office at the language school house. To add to the stress, was now passing all the final tests, talking to a woman on the phone for 30 minutes in fluent Indonesian, moving out of my house, trying to figure out what I was doing with my bird, and what the heck was happening with my future. I internalized it all. Did as best I could. Did not pass the listening portion of the exam, got the diploma regardless, and headed on my way.
After moving out of my house, driving down to Los Angeles to ship my car and flying back to my parents house to spend time with my family… the news arrived via a text message about a week into my “vacation”. I have never been broken up by text message, but I can imagine it being even worse than that. At least on the same plane. Life as I knew it was altered forever.
SHOCK & DENIAL
In the immediate moments after there really isn’t much to say. Luckily I was at home with my family and I was not forced to face the reality of this situation for at least another week and was able to just hang out with family and friends who did not truly understand the severity of the situation. I was contacted by very few people. In fact when you experience an extremely shocking, life altering situation, I have found that you embark on the pain part alone. It is the way of things. While everyone is happy and continuing on in their lives, all of a sudden this filter just slammed down over my life where I couldn’t see things the same way any longer. After I reported to my new job I didn’t feel like a part of the organization anymore. I felt completly detached. Like I couldn’t even be associated with the same people or things. Like there was no joy for me and I couldn’t wait to be rid of everything associated with this thing.
PAIN & GUILT
When I reported to my new command 10 days after this news broke, I literally knew I was walking into an office wearing the Scarlet letter. I mean… who wants someone to be taking up space and a three year billet that won’t even have time to settle in before they are heading straight out of the office never to be heard from again? Whether this part of the story is true or not, my perception of it is true and that is what we are discussing here.
As I was working through this complete divide in my brain of checking into a new command, being assigned this project and that project, I was at the same time wondering if I would even be in the office for the completion these projects, and scheduling the separation class and separation paperwork. While I was searching for an apartment to move into a place, I was literally scheduling to move out at the same time. It was quite confusing and hard to keep up with. In fact it was driving me completely mental. Also, can I mention how much money the Navy has wasted on my behalf. I just received a Master’s Degree and a Language certificate, I was moved out to Hawaii for only 6 months, I am receiving all the benefits when I leave (including 4 more years of schooling with the GI bill), and I get a severance package. When you look at it like that, I’m definitely not getting the worst deal in this whole thing…
Regardless of all this confusion I can say now that without a doubt I am much happier to have left Monterey. That is hands down something I know is very true. I would have sat there and done nothing for 6 months after the drama of the language school. I would not have thrived well there. Moving to Hawaii was a much better choice.
Then of course the pain comes in waves. Less than a month after I found out this news I got contacted out of the blue by someone from my first ship and he asked me how I was doing. Odd. He’s pretty old school so I just decided to tell him. He didn’t even wait for me to tell him the whole story on messenger he just replies, “yeahhhh… I just started school this week and I met some guy today, I don’t really remember who it was, but he was telling a group of us your whole story.” Instant bitch. slap. right across my face. Nobody has reached out to discuss it with me because they are “ohhh so very very busy” but they are surely out telling everyone and anyone my news. I didn’t receive that well and it makes me ansy to be done with all this so I can move forward with my life and stop being the topic of conversation.
ANGER & BARGAINING
As all this unravels, I lived through a most confusing set of circumstances I have encountered so far. I had moved out of my house. I had shipped my car. I was living out of a suitcase and had lugged my pet dove across the United States and was taking her for isolation at a veterinary clinic in two days in order to move to Hawaii. And I didn’t receive one phone call to be told what was going on. Nothing. I tried to call my community the next day. No answer. No answer. No answer. For 4 days in a row the guy didn’t answer the phone. I moved to Hawaii and was there for almost 10 days before I finally got ahold of this person. There’s much more to say but I will only leave here that I was beyond angry. Even if I am not qualified, or the lowest qualified person and did not deserve to continue on in my Naval Career, I absolutely deserved to be contacted on the phone and told in person. I hope to never see this person again because I can’t say I wouldn’t kick him straight in his dick.
“DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS
I have believed myself to be a true failure many a day through the past few months. Nobody seems to get it or understand, but they also have not been my constant companion these many years and I have truly poured my heart and soul into the job and what I have tried to accomplish here. I have been through multiple deployments, suffered arduous days at sea, been screamed at, received letters of reprimand, been kicked and stomped on basic training (definitely borderline hazing if we are discussing it), judged and been faced with hard decisions, crossed many straits and canals in this world, and have grown so much for it all to end so abruptly. Alas, I do not make the rules and I was not in the room when this decision was made it is what it is. Moving to Hawaii to start a new life for such a short time has prompted all the loneliness and time a girl could need. I have full conversations with myself these days and also talk to a bird more then I care to communicate with most people, but it has felt right to internalize the problem and work through it in my own way, far removed from prying eyes.
I have also reached out to (for the most part women) I have met through my Naval career. One such human answers my calls no matter the time of day. Another has been giving me advice as I get separated, and I have met one truly awesome lady in Hawaii and have hung out with her and her family as if we have been old friends all our lives. So although I struggle internally, mostly on my own, I have been very fortunate that there are plenty of lines at my disposal should I wish to let someone take some of the burden. Thanks ladies.
THE UPWARD TURN
After living in a dingy hotel for over 40 days and watching property brothers for over 8 hours straight at one point, I accepted my situation. I found an apartment. I moved in and started selling everything off. I dropped off 3 different car loads of shit at Good Will, andl it felt great. Next I happened to see a video on linkedin about Florent Groberg, a Medal of Honor receipient who was medically discharged from the Army and literally as soon as the movie was over I ceased all wallowing. There are so many people that have come before me and so many people that will come after me, I am not the only person to have transitioned from the military and for the most part I am still fully in tact. There is a new future out there for me.
Shortly after I got to Hawaii, I ran into someone I knew very well from my first ship while I was climbing KokoHead Crater, or rather while I was walking to the start point (what are the odds) and we had dinner and reminisced about the good old days onboard my first ship. It was exactly what I needed. No seriously, this helped me immensely.
Then, while I was outside of work making a phone call a couple weeks later, a complete blast from the past blew through Hawaii, an old roommate I used to have in Norfolk Virginia during my first tour. I went to dinner with him and his wife and we caught up and discussed my situation and our lives over the past 6 years. It has been a very long time since I last saw him.
Not even 2 weeks ago I found out that my Chief Engineer from my second ship was getting ready to transfer form a shore command out here so I drove over and found him and we talked for over 6 hours straight about the crazy times onboard the Germantown. We laughed so hard about all the things we would do prior to engineering inspections, and things about standing Engineering Officer of the Watch, I mean it was really crazy. Another reason I can feel validated in all that I have accomplished.
Just this last weekend I saw a post on social media that my first captain was in Hawaii for a few days so I reached out to him and met up with him to catch up. It was great to hear about his family and how good they are doing. We talked for a better part of the day and then the CSO from my first ship is stationed in Hawaii so he and his wife met us for some food later on. They hike often and I told them I would join them one time. It seems as if I am getting all the closure I need to leave this phase of my life with a light heart and focus on all the positives, rather than the negatives.
The kicker is that I met another officer in the Navy at my command who told me that I looked familiar to her. I tried to place where I would know her from but I couldn’t recall. Then she instantly gasped and told me that I was a main reason that she joined the military having not come from a military family, because she had found and read this very blog. She had read my stories about ship life on here and decided to join the military because of me. I mean this is the best moment that could have come my way. It felt like a validation for everything I have worked for and tried to be. Someone based a life decision on what I had to say about it. Wow.
RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH
Because I just can’t lay down and give up, I submitted a package detailing my entire situation to the personnel command to see if there was a way they would review it. There were two captains at my current command who helped me put it together and who read through my entire package that was presented to the board and were really shocked about my situation. The package was reviewed and sent back with an “unfortunately there’s nothing that can be done this is a law” stamp, however, they said they may be able to use my story to get the policy changed so hopefully starting this fiscal year people can opt out of being sent to a board too early, especially if they have circumstances similar to mine, like being a non observed student. My current command has looked out for me and done better for me then my community ever has. If I can save one person from being in the same position I am in right now, then I am very grateful to have played a small part in the continued success of their future.
After mixing and drinking an elixir made of (1) unicorn horn, pink and purple glitter, a vile of toad’s blood, and (1) dove feather, I have finally bewitched myself into thinking all is well. It has been quite the road to this point and what I have planned for after I get out of the military at midnight on the last day of the sixth month will be the next crazy adventure in my fucked up and truly unique life. If there is some peace I can take away from this, it is a peace that the Navy has made this decision for me and is pushing me to try my luck at achieving something through my own creative process. Something that I may have never taken an opportunity to do if I just stayed where I felt comfortable. I don’t know really what this means, but there are many ideas bubbling just under the surface and when I walk away from this current life into the unknown I am certainly going to try to see what all is there.
This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.