Getting Out? Ask Yourself A Few Things…
Getting out of the military is an emotional roller coaster. You’re excited because you’re taking off the shackles, yet putting on the uniform for the last 4-6 years has become ingrained in your daily life. So much pride goes into that uniform and everything you’ve done in it.
The greatest thing about being a veteran is that the status never goes away. No one can ever take away your experiences, skills, and the comradery you gained while in. With that being said, relax and enjoy the good feelings! You deserve it, and Lord knows the pride you take in your country. Getting out of the military is one of the most euphoric things you can experience. So many opportunities await you on the outside. The possibilities. . .
And keeping on that thought, try not to get overwhelmed with thinking you need to know exactly what you’re going be doing for the rest of your life now. That is simply unrealistic and unfair for you to do that to yourself. BUT, there are some questions you do need to ask yourself both before you get out and as you’re embarking on your new journey. Here are some things you should ask yourself through this process:
1) What Kind Of Lifestyle Am I Seeking?
Before getting out of the military, ask yourself this: What is my main goal? Is money my motivator? Time? What about structure and order? Maybe I’m ok with a minimalistic lifestyle after all bills are caught up?
As someone who is getting out and making strides towards complete independence, it’s wise to have answers for at least a few of the above. You don’t need to have your ten-year plan calculated down to a Prison Break-like schematic, but you should at least have an idea of how you’re going to start out making a living on your own.
It’s important to keep in mind that your plans will frequently change. The key is just to have a plan or two. Not to mention having some money saved up can really come in handy when you least expect it. When I first separated from the Air Force, I had about $6,000 in savings and a USAA credit card with about $3,000 credit left on it; I wound up using all but about $2,000 of it ($1,000 savings, $1,000 credit card). In other words, expect the unexpected. You never know how long it will take to land a job. And this, of course, depends on the kind of job you’re looking for. Not to mention other expenses such as moving and personal issues in the form of vehicle problems or hospital treatment. You never think it will happen to you until lo and behold, it does.
Whatever your motive or goal is when you separate, just make sure it’s sturdy and smooth. Even if your initial plans fall through, at least you have an idea of where your next paycheck is coming from.
2) Do I Have A Strong Support System?
I can’t stress the importance of having a strong support system when getting out of the military. No matter which route you take, if you don’t have anyone to share your experiences with, both the ups and downs, the joys and the fears, it could do you a lot of harm in the long run.
When I got out, my heart was set on moving to California. As an Arizonan (a Yuma, Arizonan to be exact) and living so close to Cali, I frequently visited there. I immediately fell in love with the scenery, the weather, and the vibes. My awe of the state inspired me to vow to live there one day. With the GI Bill covering my out-of-state tuition for many California community colleges, I found my golden ticket to the Golden State. Two of my military buddies, one of them happening to get out of the military the same time as me, were from California. We all decided to room together to ease rent. While it was a great time, with both some good and bad times, they were the only people I knew moving there. There were times where we just sort of got tired of one another’s company and did our own thing. That wasn’t a bad thing always until I wanted some human interaction again.
I wound up joining a veteran’s cohort program at Pasadena City College, a program geared toward helping veterans from all branches find transition smoothly into student life while having a support system of veterans who are going through the same thing they are at the same time. This decision proved to be one of the best decisions I made throughout my college years, as I found some people in that group I can call brothers to this day.
Your plans may sound great and look flawless on paper, but when things get tough and life starts throwing curve balls at you (and it’s not a matter of if but when), you’re going to need people who understand you and know where you’re coming from. This may be family, close childhoods friends, former military co-workers who are now civilians, or people you just met through a community event or group. What’s more important, when Plan A involuntarily turns to Plan B, you’re going to need the kind of company around you who support your decisions, not push you towards something you may not want to do just because it sounds like the “natural” path.
3) Am I Willing To Press Reset Again If Necessary?
Finally, as a single man or woman with no dependents newly separated from the military, are you willing to reset if necessary? I want to put emphasis on this point because it is one that is often overlooked. Why? Because no one likes to admit restarting because it’s equated to failure. Many see it this way: they hyped up their plans to all their former co-workers in the military and bragged about how good they were going to have it on the other side, so if things don’t go according to plan, they feel ashamed or embarrassed.
But why? Understand that you’re still young. There are many successful businessmen/women and entrepreneurs who started out trying to do one thing, failed at it, then came back at it with something else. Since getting out of the military in 2012, I’ve held six different jobs, switched my major once (adding two years to my plate), and enrolled in a year-long course that wound up changing my life in more ways than all four of my years at Arizona State University combined. I went from nearly being engaged after a three-year relationship in my mid-20’s and moving up the ladder in a plush corporate job in Phoenix to living with my mother and brother in Tacoma, Washington, a state none of us had ever lived. My new occupation(s)?: certified Holistic Health Coach and Produce Clerk at Safeway, a job I take so much pride in because of my direct involvement with healthy foods. One year before I took this job, I never would’ve considered this position within my pay range.
You never know what your heart has in store for you when you allow yourself to really explore what you like and what you want. At one point you may be focused on racking up the Benjamins (as I initially was), until you realize the things you wanted to do with that money, you could do for a lot less or even free. It’s always important as a single man or woman with no dependents that you take advantage of the golden opportunity your veteran status gives you. You can explore and try so many things. Not to mention there are companies literally looking to hire veterans!
You’re Young And Now A Civilian: No Need For Clear-cut Answers
If you ask yourself these three things and even vaguely dwell on them so you know exactly where you stand in terms of your immediate future, you’ve already set yourself up for success. It’s important to note that these questions are all very broad, open-ended questions with no right or wrong answer. They’re just questions to ask yourself and to give you basic guidance in what you both need and want.
As you’re getting out of the military and dipping your toe into civilian waters for the first time, recognize that the kind of lifestyle you want (and more than likely a major factor in your decision to get out of the military), the support you have around you, and the ability to roll with life’s punches and be willing to start over again are extremely critical in determining how soon you reach you find your calling!
For information regarding my Holistic Health Coaching services to veterans, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, check out more articles like this one geared toward helping veterans smoothly transition into civilian life here on anthonyjrichard.com!
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