The month I got out of the Navy, I had senioritis so bad I couldn’t help but fidget and pace at any point I had to physically be at work. The last month I was there, they revoked all of my responsibilities so I could focus on getting my life together before I moved. I celebrated my new- found free spirit by becoming this apathetic, fidgety mess, shirking responsibility and eating my nervousness because I’d been told so often that I was “making a mistake.” I drove to Washington, DC and took a job doing what I do now – editing a magazine. Most people take a long leave period and focus on the future. I didn’t take a break because I wasn’t sure what I would do with that much time off.
As I settled, I threw myself into work, and was pleasantly surprised to learn about all of the amazing benefits available to the military and veteran community. I was also surprised to know that most people I talk to still don’t know much about programs or interesting apps are out there. Admittedly, it took working at a veterans’ organization to figure that out. No one hands you a touristy brochure when you join the military, so finding what benefits or programs are available to you is a project for your free time. I’m not sure if it should continue to be this way.
You won’t catch me as a tweeting/sharing wallflower who can really only be relied on to be a mouthpiece for your strategy. I value the connections I share with other, like-minded professionals because networking is extremely important; the people you meet are valuable beyond belief. The first time I connected with someone, I was somewhat concerned at whether there would be more; my insecurities sometimes have louder voices than my own. I am psyched every day when the same people want to continue to talk to me, and new ones join in.
Noticeably, the demographic shift is strange as soon as age is the primary factor. I saw this much more in the military, but it is still a factor in most work places. Older professionals seem to be the ‘Golem’ of projects, skulking around their prey and shading prying eyes from their realms. Some go as far to erect giant, emotional walls around their workloads while Millennials love to collaborate, share connections, and grow together. Credit is not as important as putting something amazing together and asking for thanks later. And really, at the end, the thanks is seemingly unimportant — not to say we’re all out for thankless jobs, it’s just, well, we’re here to make things grow.
The Millennial Generation puts a project out there, lovingly tends to it, and waits to see what it will become. If it fails, that’s okay — there’s still a feel of “I did that.” It also grooms you to learn from your mistakes, and apply the knowledge you know have to a new project. In the military, there’s no, “I did that,” because it’s “the military did that.” The preachiness of “No ‘I’ in Team” is tattooed on your wrist when you check in to bootcamp, which is okay, because you joined the military to further the goals of, you guessed it, the military. The shock and awe of personal time, space, creativity, projects and hobbies — I’d forgotten those were things I enjoyed and needed.
In hindsight, which is always 20/20, I would have done things differently as I left, but I learned a lot about myself during transition. I forced myself into a harsh, quick version of what most people do when they leave the military. I chose not to take any time to figure my new self out, and I changed a lot of myself in just a few short weeks. I look back fondly on my choice to join and the incredible things I was a part of, but I regret not being more vocal about some of the things I experienced. I am lucky to be a part of such an amazing community, and I cherish the relationships I have. This is a cool place to be.