Am I over military retirement? I asked this question around April 2019, a year after. I said I thought I should be by now. As far as now, now, the answer is a resounding yes, and no.
Just to be clear, I know that the proper term for active-duty military moving to the civilian workforce is ‘transitioning.’ Saying retirement implies that I no longer need to work. For a select group, that may be the case. The rest of us needed to continue working to take care of our families. I found out my wife was pregnant in July 2018, which meant the three months of sitting on my ass were over. Unfortunately, I had some trouble finding work then and now.
Was it because I was a veteran? Not according to the latest official numbers. Was it because of my age? Also, not according to current official stats. It’s been frustrating, to say the least. I suspected three things may have contributed to my transition woes at the year after mark.
- The well-intended but ill-conceived choice to change careers from manager to public relations/journalism/writing
- My foolish and detrimental aversion towards becoming a manager
- A misguided and ultimately self-defeating approach to seeking opportunities for employment
Much has changed three years later. But some attitudes have remained the same.
Military retirement woe #1: Writing Career
Here’s what I wrote regarding the first item
Yup, I wanted to be a writer. It’s why I have this blog. But I wanted to make money from it. Oh, silly me.
Now, I’m not knocking it as a career. I’d love to have it as a career. And technically, it’s not off the table. But it is obscured from my view, tucked squarely behind my shelves of parental responsibilities, educational obligations, and reality checks.
Well, here I am at the three-year mark, and, wow, I’m back to being a writer, well-intended but ill-conceived choice be damned.
The initial reason I resisted delving into writing stemmed from the starving artist trope. It was a concern I had some entries ago. Nevertheless, I’ve taken the plunge back to putting words on paper (or the internet) for money. It also has something to do with my aversion to having to tell people what to do.
Military retirement woe #2: Don’t talk to me. I’m not the manager.
Down below is what I wrote regarding being a manager.
As for the whole manager bit, well, it’s less of an aversion and more of a reluctance. I can do it. I just won’t if I don’t have to. Call it 10+ years as a glorified babysitter/secretary/punching bag. Like my’ retirement,’ I’m kinda over that, but I still get nightmares sometimes.
Do I feel this way still? Oh hell yes! Though I’m thankful for my service, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth when it came to any kind of leadership position. Although it did teach me how to lead, if given a choice, I’d pass. Then again, I’ve made questionable decisions that indicated otherwise.
Woe #3: Do you even wanna do this?
Let me tell you some decisions I regretted.
And how did I self-sabotage my job search? One, by turning to a modest but respectable student assistant job here in the local area because I wanted to be a writer instead (see above). And two, getting all dressed up and ready to go to some job fairs only to give in to fear, tuck tail, and run.
Although there was one that I did make that (might have) paid off.
I need to pay more attention to the total Vocational Rehabilitation (Voc Rehab) services the VA offers me because, if I had, I would have taken advantage of the VA Work-Study Program waaaaaay earlier. Under this program, I can do a Non-paid Work Experience initiative where participants (mostly other VA offices, but other government agencies) take eligible veterans in and provide them with training and practical job experience. I thought the ‘non-paid’ part meant free labor, which was for the employer. But you do get compensation from Voc Rehab, which is technically minimum wage, but it’s better than nothing. But, in my opinion, the best part isn’t the on-the-job training (although that is a huge part), but the network and connections that you develop within that office.
This path led me to intern for the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, State and Private Forestry Office. Indeed, I got paid a stipend through the VA for my “free labor” and built up a good amount of connections within the public sector. Plus, it might have paid off if it wasn’t for…
(Surprise) Woe #4: COVID
The plan was to use my internship to build connections within the Forest Service and eventually land a job internally. I had my sights set on Public Affairs because, again, it went well with my dreams as a writer. In the beginning, I did pretty well.
Three months later, a raging pandemic destroyed whatever progress I made.
It’d be easy for me to blame extenuating circumstances beyond my control. But I could also point to my difficulties in making informed choices. Ultimately, I ended up where I am, three years later, wondering if leaving the military in 2018 was worth it.
The answer is yes, primarily because of past events and for the sake of my physical and mental health. However, I wish I had been more informed and prepared. Maybe if I were, I would be seeing my departure from the service as a worthwhile but necessary event rather than a questionably regretful one.
Nevertheless, I am where I am. As long as I keep my family as my main reason to trudge on, I believe I’ll thrive.