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I was seventeen and a half and desperate for travel. College was the default option but I didn’t want to waste oodles of money traveling, having fun, and being constantly “irresponsible”.

I was unsure of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. No pressure.

Seventeen years ago, it seemed obvious to me – join the Navy. Back then the motto was, Accelerate Your Life. I took that hook, line, and sinker. Was my four-year contract everything I expected? All. The. No.

However, it was a smart decision and I learned valuable life skills during my short stint as a United States Sailor.

Change Is Hard Just Like Boot Camp

Boot camp was hard. I had to do things like run, pushups, sit-ups, eight counts, and mountain climbers.

Daily! On really bad days, it was almost hourly.

This was our instructors (RDCs) form of entertainment: watch recruits workout. Up until that point in my life I avoided athletics. Boot camp turned into a special kind of torture because of the painful fact that I volunteered for it.

I didn’t pass the first fitness test.

It sucked.

On various levels of poor life choices.

I wasn’t overweight but I realized that being thin doesn’t translate to being fit. Luckily, my sailor story didn’t end there.

I pushed myself, with the incessant help of my RDCs, and I was able to pass the final fitness test. It was still excruciatingly hard. During one of my slow passes around the track, I passed a trash cans and thought, “Well, if I throw up, I get to stop.”

In a shockingly short amount of time, I learned that I could push my body harder than I had ever done on my own.

Good Doesn’t Guarantee Happiness

I was an undesignated Fireman for two years.

This is very different from a civilian Fireman. Fellow sailors are like, “What did you just do with your life?”

Undesignated means professional floater. I was under the impression that I got to choose my job.

I was so young and inexperienced!

It translated into: I am placed wherever the need is greatest. I was placed with the repair division which included sheet metal fabricators, plumbing shop, and general ship repair. At the time, it meant a hundred plus male sailors to one female sailor.

It was a tough environment that I had trouble adjusting to. However, I learned to adapt and managed a bit of professional success when I became the ship’s engraver. This was another lesson. Just because you are good at something like testing well on the mechanical portion of the ASVAB (military job placement exam), doesn’t guarantee happiness.

Make Your Success

A lot changed when I finally chose a job. I became more aggressive at demonstrating that I could be better than average which included taking classes and planning for college after my sailor contract.

I paid attention and work hard during emergency drills (battle stations) and I got called out for performing well during inspection, I picked up a journeyman certification, and had the opportunity to foster a French sailor.

The lessons from my failures as a Fireman turned into future success. I discovered working hard and enjoying what you do is a good route to professional success.

Life Lessons Hurt

Near end of my four-year contract, I was on track professionally but I felt lacking personally. I had little to show financially and even less quality memories. It was easy to get caught up with the partying atmosphere and it took me too long to realize that is not what I wanted.

I had to adjust my course and it was hard. There weren’t many people who were interested in what I wanted. It forced me to be more independent. I spent a lot of time waiting to do things with friends which lead to opportunities that passed me by.

This lesson included emotional pain and I was whinny but I did learn not to wait for perfect circumstances because it doesn’t exist. Whenever I feel nervous about a new excursion, gather up the sailor and remember what happens to those who wait. 

You Can, Should, & Will: You’re A United States Sailor.

These are my hard won, military lessons that are always standing at attention and waiting to be called upon. Being a sailor taught me a lot; work hard, attention to detail, and the long fight to success. It also instilled a confidence and stubbornness that I didn’t have before. I would need that as I transitioned from the military to college. If I didn’t develop military-grade self-confidence, I never would have the fortitude to finish.

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2 thoughts on “A Salty Sailor Saga: The Waves of Change

  1. Thanks for showing a glimpse of what it was like in the Navy 🙂 I’m glad that it turned out well for you and made you so much stronger than before!

  2. Thank you, Liz! Sometimes life takes us to destinations that are unexpected. This article was also a good reflection of that!

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