Hey, Naked Lady
Hey Naked Lady,
I need to get real with the “F” word. Not the lovely, colorful expletive we all know and love, but rather the dirty, harsh and honestly embarrassing word. FAILURE. My experience with said “F” word came at the end of last year when I attended a military school I ultimately did not graduate from. Yep. I failed. I said it. I’m not proud of it. Matter of fact, it still chaps my a$$ even though it’s been almost a year since my verdict was delivered. I still wallow in it.
In 2016, after almost 20 years in the military, I had an opportunity to do something different. At the time, I had no intention of essentially starting a new career but the chance to do it pretty much slapped me in the face. After some (maybe not so) gentle coercion from my teammates, I took the leap and did the damn thing. This thing involved a bunch of schools not typically offered to women and a chance to do some wicked cool deployment stuff. How could I turn that down? It’s not like I’m older, slower or any of that, right? I told myself all that but in a lot of ways I never really believed it. I went into the whole thing on a whim equipped with a small amount of hope and an even smaller amount of confidence.
My journey in the new career field started off all well and good. I went to a little two week course to get me started. I had no clue what I was doing and by the end I was a little rattled but still in the game. I enjoyed the work but I never felt like I was actually good at it. I looked around at my peers and saw a ton of confidence and creativity and when I looked at myself, I didn’t feel like I had much of that. Nonetheless, I kept on. I went through all the “positive self talk” and grasped at whatever other motivational tools I could find but every step of the way I felt grossly inadequate. Begrudgingly, I went to the next “big” course fully prepared to do the best I could but somewhere in the back of my mind I kept that little self doubt monster. Ultimately, I made it through that big course somehow. I worked hard. I struggled. I cried. I loved it. I hated it. I was all over the map of emotions, but I kind of felt like I got my groove back by the end. I was a good teammate. I had great teammates. I thought everything was going to be okay and I had a fair amount of confidence going into the last long course.
So there I was in the last course. The final, huge step in this new career of mine. The thing that was going to make it or break it for me. I went in there with my tiny bit of confidence and my bag of hope, very intent to take it all in and go one day at a time. I started out pretty strong and then the anxiety got the best of me. I struggled through a difficult portion and my confidence quickly went straight down the drain. By the time I got to the final few weeks, I could barely breathe and all I wanted to do was sequester myself in my room and watch mindless TV. I knew I should be working 24/7 to overcome my deficiencies but I couldn’t bring myself to go the extra mile. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to graduate, but I just didn’t have the energy.
I was offered the opportunity to recycle the course and initially I was all on board. No one gets to call me a quitter, right? That’s what I told myself. I went back to my unit and went back to training and waited until it was time to go back. When that time came, I walked into my bosses’s office and told him I was going to retire. At 22 years, I was well within my window to retire and I shouldn’t have felt the slightest bit bad about it but there I was feeling like crap. Going back to the course made me physically sick and leaving the military on a point of failure made me even sicker.
Here I am at the crossroads. I have a few short months left in the military. This is supposed to be the point in time where I should be excited about the next chapter in life, and I am, sometimes. I should feel relieved that I chose not to subject myself to the scrutiny of recycling the course, and I am, sometimes. I should be looking forward to doing all the things I never had time to do for the last 22 years. Sometimes I do some of those things. I should be doing backflips because I have an opportunity to go in a new direction on my terms, but I’m terrified. I should be doing a lot of things, but I’m not. I’m even further in the dark place I was when I was in the course. I spend a ton of time on my couch watching mindless TV. I’m truly in a funk.
Throw me a lifeline, Naked Lady.
Sincerely Yours, One Very Troubled Soul
Dear Troubled Soul,
Troubled Soul??? No way! You're just not seeing things through the right lens. But don't worry. I gotchu boo. What jumped out to me most when reading your letter was how many times you used the word "should" and "supposed to"....but only after you start talking about the failure part of the story. Interesting. I'll come back to that.
So what you just told me is that you have had a career full of ups and downs, a shit ton of hard work, a whole lot of success (I doubt that path would have been offered to someone that was mediocre) and also some failure. Well, would you look at that?? I dare say, you're human.
Friend, getting out of the military after 22 years on its own would cause for some major shifts, and a whole lot of turmoil on its own. Add in this perceived failure, and you have cooked yourself up a big old boiling pot of chaos and change. Our lovely little souls don't always do well with all of that. In fact, sometimes, we come to a total halt in the face of that much change. (Insert mindless TV at this point in the story.) Do NOT be so tough on yourself through that. We sometimes need to just sit in our shit and get to a place where it feels like we are ready to move to the next step. Something tells me you've not done a whole lot of just sitting with turmoil. Maybe I'm wrong. But there is some power in letting yourself be there for a bit. Maybe if you're still there in six months, then yeah....get concerned. This naked lady will show up at your house and drag your ass off the couch. But sometimes, a little pity party does the soul well. We put so much pressure on ourselves to "put our big girl pants on and suck it up" that often, we don't really ever process anything that's happening to us, and it all comes tumbling down later. Allow yourself to feel; to mourn the end of this chapter in your life. It didn't turn out as you'd expected. You're allowed to be sad, and to feel a little sorry for yourself. You're good there. Ok??
The next step is celebrating the journey of all of this, as opposed to constantly seeking the destination. Did you learn a lot about yourself from this process of the "F word"? Did anything come from this that has served you, taught you anything or given you growth? Look back at it and find those things. Guess what? THAT is the real destination. Think of it like a really tough run, or a hiking trip. Yeah, sure getting to the end is your "goal", but doesn't the magic actually happen during the run itself or walking through the woods and noticing everything around you? That's the real magic of life, dear. The freaking journey. I know I sound a little like an inspirational meme right now, but I want you to know that you haven't actually failed. You chose life. Real, living all the way, big, life. What a freaking huge win! Some people spend their entire lives playing it safe. They never push themselves to do something so scary for fear of that F word. They wake up, go to work, come home safely in the comfortable confines of mediocrity. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's easier, in fact. I often envy those people a little bit (a little bit, I said!).
But you. You have chosen the opposite of that. You're out there, making waves and really tearing shit up. So yeah, of course there would come some kinks in your plan at times, but that's part of living huge. Congratulations. You've made it.
One last thing....let's discuss this whole "should" thing. Who the f tells you how to live your life? "Should" according to who??? I have a feeling you haven't spent your life playing by anyone else's definition of what you should do, so why the hell are you starting now? You're a badass woman in a career field that is not chosen by many other women. There are people out there that would say you "should" have stayed home and had babies and raised a family....how does that sit with you? See what I mean? There's no road map. I think we've talked about your instruction manual before right?? So let's get rid of that word, shall we? It's not serving you one bit. To me, "should" is far worse of a word than "failure". Failure teaches us a whole lot. Should does nothing for anyone. Trust me on that.
Oh, and happy Veteran's Day. You're powerful, and so is your failure. Let it teach you things. Let it guide you. Also..tell me if you find any good shows on Netflix.