This returned to my mind recently as I've been stumbling through the start of my Navy career. Coming in as an officer with no prior military experience has felt like being a toddler all over again. It's a strange combination of not knowing even the basic things, like when to salute, yet you are already wearing the uniform and a rank so you're stumbling around trying on things for size like "Sirs" and "Ma'ams" and feeling half like an impostor and half ridiculously excited for this whole new world you've entered.
Thankfully, I've started forging friendships with some other brand new Ensigns and the number of times we've had to ask each other "do you know how to do this?..." is comical.
(And the things we've had to learn the hard way alone is even more comical. Like the first time I was ever saluted. I was driving onto a base in gym clothes and the guard saluted me, freaking me out to the point that I finally half-threw up my hand somewhere in the vicinity of my face, averted my eyes, and drove away hiding my embarrassed laughter. This, friends, is not proper protocol. Or another time, when one of the other new guys thought he was supposed to iron the creases out of his brand new dress uniform and spent the night before inspection cursing and pressing those stubborn lines until they were gone. Then he found out they were supposed to be there and in fact he was now out of regulation. #LifeLessons.)
One of those other newbies is a gigantic former athlete. To look at him, you'd think he has nothing to be worried about. He looks intimidating and comes from an impressive background. Yet I can't tell you the number of times he's told me he needed a "cry break." He was joking...but only sort of. He and I recently went through basically the equivalent of college orientation into the Navy reserves and as we stopped by each station in our building, getting weighed and stamped and signed and instructed, we both looked like lost bewildered cattle being shuffled through the barn. He told me he needed a drink at one point...it was during alcohol abuse training...
So yes, I'm very grateful to have others to go through this confusion with. And it's not that people weren't being nice to us, they absolutely were. In fact, I had an enlisted sailor patiently rebuild my entire medical record because for some reason it hadn't been transferred correctly. I sat there fishing out documents dating back to kindergarten as he painstakingly entered everything into one of the many systems that now control my military life. It took forty-five minutes. The Hoops and Yoyo Panic Button sitting on his desk was hit twice during my appointment. He eventually enlisted two other people to help with the mess (one of which saw me in the hallway later and whimpered "not again! not again!" as I approached. Yep. Starting off on the right foot, I am!).
Ironically, when I was finally done with Medical, I walked out to my car and saw this:
I somehow had cut my finger during the whole ordeal. Hope that doesn't need to be added to my record, that sailor will kill me... )
About a week ago, I was feeling a little overwhelmed and as if I wasn't really adding value to any of the different parts of my life at the time because I was too busy just trying to keep my head above water. Then, out of the blue, an old friend introduced me via email to a lady who was interested in joining the Navy. I knew this day would come (since the way I got through my application process was by talking to everyone who would pick up the phone and give me advice) but I didn't expect it so soon! Finally, I felt like I knew something again. I started downloading everything I could think of about the process I went through. Every time she replied, she was full of gratitude and excitement, echoing back the emotions I felt less than a year ago when I first decided to apply. It made my day. And it made me realize that maybe that's one of the big points in life. To just help show others the way. On days when I second-guess my skills, I know I can at least share what I've experienced and help illuminate someone else's path. And that's often more fulfilling than just moving "up" quickly. It's moving along in life feeling connected and excited by those other humans around you. It's getting more out of life than just efficiency - it's getting us all further.
Thank you to all the various people, some of which I've never met in person, who have "gone" with me.
|My Commissioning Ceremony. And a room full of people who have gone with me in some way.|