What is it that you see when you look in a mirror? What do you look at first?
I’ve heard it at least three times since I came back from Hawaii…how silly or naive I am for being a military significant other. I started a new job at a bar to make a little extra cash and wore my new Navy hoodie I got in Hawaii. A man, who I had met one other time, asked me with enthusiasm who I knew in the Navy while I was counting some money. I piped up, excited and said, “My boyfriend!” and his expression instantly changed. The brightness vanished. He just replied with, “Oh” and went on talking to someone else sitting next to him.
I stood there honestly confused, money held idly in my hands. What just happened? I kept wondering if maybe his reaction would have been different if I said my cousin or sibling was in the Navy instead. I couldn’t figure out why my boyfriend being in the military was so different.
I never really thought I’d have the chance to go to Hawaii. I know it’s beautiful but my dad hates airplanes, family doesn’t travel much to begin with and it’s expensive so I never really had the urge or the means to go.
Enter Taylor, my boyfriend who chose Hawaii as his first pick of places to be stationed.
He told me a gallon of milk was about ten bucks a pop and I freaked out because if a stupid gallon of milk is that expensive how in the hell am I ever going to afford food, a plane ticket and a place to stay?
Some intense research and internet sleuthing taught me otherwise, however…
When I graduated high school, I wanted to be a journalist and a photographer on the side. Maybe even a photojournalist. I wasn’t sure but all I knew was that I loved writing for the school newspaper and no other career path really intrigued me. So with barely 18 years on this earth, I took the plunge into what I was guessing I wanted to be my career for the rest of my life.
I went through the ups and downs of college and I found that with each passing week I began to hate my choice more and more. The real world newspaper industry was heavily different from my high school newspaper and I didn’t like what I was doing or what I saw. I did internships in an office setting where I sat from nine to five typing articles. Eventually, my love for words and the way they tasted painfully died and I no longer had any passion for what I once considered an art. MY art.
Then on graduation day, I all but snatched my diploma and ran out of there as fast as I could and vowed to never turn back. I didn’t cry because I would miss my friends or because I just made an incredible accomplishment. I cried because I wouldn’t have to hate what I was doing anymore. I didn’t want to look at another newspaper again. I didn’t pick up a book for pleasure anymore. My camera collected dust on the shelf.
My parents were confused and upset that all of a sudden I hated my degree, one that I had spent four years and a house’s worth of money for. Did I have a bad teacher? Did I have a really bad experience? Was I raped? Why did I all of a sudden hate the one thing I told everyone I wanted to do?
A month or two after I graduated, I found a kickboxing instructor position. It was a job I was excited about though I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time. I started kickboxing when I was a junior in high school and it was always something that I had loved. A few months into this new job and I realized how happy I was. I loved helping people and having a direct effect on their lives. I had a purpose, something I didn’t feel in college.
I decided to turn my life in a whole new direction and go after my personal training license. It was a decision my entire family was weary of and a decision that I was terrified of.
I didn’t care.
I went after it anyway and went full throttle towards my other dreams too. During college, I created His First Mate. This blog was something that was all my own creation. It has helped others and has saved me in its own way. No newspaper editor could trash it or change it. My writing and art was suddenly mine again.
So, every Sunday and Monday I would carry my backpack full of equipment and study the ways of the body and write for my blog. I spent countless hours in the same seat, at the same Starbucks, drinking the same drink but dreaming up all the new and fresh possibilities I now held.
A year flew by and now I’m the assistant manager at my job. Last week, I passed my personal training test. I photograph private events whenever I get the chance. Watching His First Mate grow is like watching your child grow. I created this thing and had no idea what I was doing and then one day I looked down and had this beautiful, ever-growing creation in front of me.
During college, I never thought this happiness was possible. So, take this advice and do what feels right in your life and everything will fall into place. My love for writing and photography has come back full force and has found its own place in my life. I am fulfilled every day I walk into my gym and coach people to becoming better than they were yesterday. And it is all because I followed what felt right for me.
Not what felt right for my teachers in school. Not for my parents or for any of my family or my friends. Just my own personal satisfaction.
Because, you see, life is short. People, young and old, sick or healthy, die every. damn. day. There is no shame in wanting to be a ballerina and an astronaut and then maybe a waitress. The way I see it, there is one life that I am sure of. One chance I have to experience and be everything that I want to experience and be.
Not one person on this earth is going to hold me back from that and no one should hold you back from that either.
Go be what you want and do what you want. If that means quitting your job that is making you unhappy or going back to school for something new then go do that. Maybe that means having three career paths and things that you love. Go live your life and don’t apologize for it.
There is no denying that distance is hard and I would be silly if I told you that I have found a way to deal with it completely. I haven’t. But I have found ways to bring comfort during those times when I feel like my heart is literally tearing in my chest, those nights that I toss and turn and can’t fall asleep.
1.Grow yourself a support system
I think of my support system as a circle. The reasoning for that is because none of them come before the other and they are all there for different kinds of support. I have my parents, friends, Taylor, his family, military girlfriend Facebook groups, I have pen pals I write to and of course I have His First Mate and the community that comes with that. My family and friends are there for physical support like hugs and an actual listening ear, etc. Taylor and his family are on there for the obvious reason that he knows better than anyone else what I am going through. I have my military Facebook groups in case I have questions or just need to see that I am not alone in this. And of course, I have His First Mate as my outlet to express myself and help others.
Make a circle for yourself. Maybe yours looks different and that’s okay. Keep that circle someplace safe where you can look at it whenever you need to. Some good places are your wallet, a drawer at work or hung up in your room.
2. Become a Hoarder
Normally, I wouldn’t recommend this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Be a hoarder of everything that is your significant other. I can’t even tell you how many hoodies, t-shirts and blankets that I have of Taylor’s (some he may or may not know that I even have but that can be our secret). These things are pieces of Taylor and some still have his smell which is a huge comfort to me in times where I feel like I’m falling apart. And not to mention, men’s clothes are significantly more comfortable than anything in the women’s department.
Below is a list of things you can ask to borrow from your significant other:
-Bottles of cologne/perfume
-Blankets, pillows, stuffed animals
-Any clothing items
-Mix tapes they have or create for you
-Keychains they have
3. Have Christmas in July
Not having Taylor here for holidays absolutely kills me. With Taylor’s first deployment coming up, I have made a list of every holiday that we will miss together. When he comes home in the next couple of weeks, we plan on celebrating every single one: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, both of our birthdays and a close friend’s birthday and Thanksgiving. It will literally be Christmas in July.
I think what gets me most is looking on Facebook during holidays and seeing all these other happy couples spending time together. Take lots of pictures during these “holidays” that you’ve created together so you can post them to Facebook or look at them whenever the actual holiday rolls around. My other piece of advice is to just stay off of social media as much as possible during holidays.
4. Save letters and text messages
Be a hoarder of their items and be a hoarder of their words. It helps a lot to hear their own voice and words come through a page to comfort you.
When Taylor deploys, I am asking him to write me some “Open When” (read what these are here!) for me to read when I get upset or I miss him, etc. so I have that handy.
5. Make a Deployment Bucket List
Stay busy! One thing that I like about military/long-distance relationships is that I get a lot of time to work on myself and my dreams. So, make a list for you! This keeps you busy and always gives you something to look forward to.
What are things you have a ways wanted to do? You can add in things that you like doing but haven’t done in a while. When you are feeling down or feel like you have nothing to keep you busy, turn to this list.
Today is Memorial Day.
I love Memorial Day.
I love that there is an entire day set aside to being thankful for the ultimate sacrifice that one can give for their country. An entire day to relax and hangout at the pool or have some drinks and burgers with family and friends.
I had an okay day today. I took a kickboxing class. I went to the grocery store with my mother. I watched The Jungle Book with my dad and ate some delicious food. After dinner, I put some pineapples on a skewer, drizzled some maple syrup and cinnamon on it and took it outside to grill.
My face crinkled with concentration so that I wouldn’t catch myself on fire. I carefully placed the skewers in opposite directions on the grill and then sat in an outside rocking chair that we have. The chair rocked back and forth and for a few minutes I looked at my phone and waited for my pineapple to cook.
A raindrop on my knee interrupted my Facebook scrolling and I turned away from my phone to look up at the sky. The clouds were dark and the sun was setting and it was breath taking.
As my eyes grazed the sky, it occurred to me how wonderful life is. The clouds suddenly became a little blurry as a tiny tear welled up in my eye. I thought about how lucky I am. How I have amazing friends. Most of my family has passed away but I felt so blessed to still have my parents. I work at a job that I love with people that I’ve come to know as friends. I have the most beautiful relationship with one of the most beautiful souls I have ever come to know.