Sometimes being a veteran (and a student veteran, at that) is really hard. I can’t obviously speak for everyone but sometimes it feels like you’re just stuck in this weird limbo land. Like you’re between the active duty life and the now civilian life you’re in. You feel a sense of freedom because (in my case) you’re no longer stuck on a boat standing 5 hour watches, being stuck on duty, or getting in trouble and having your liberty secured on deployment because one dumb ass decided it was a good idea to deface an E6’s rack in the middle of the night in your berthing. (That’s another story.)
It’s like you just don’t fit in. You look like most of the other people you’re surrounded by people that you resemble, you’re in normal clothes and no longer a uniform, have your nails done 💅🏼, maybe a little older than your peers if you’re a student, etc. But for the most part, you look like everyone else- but you don’t feel like everyone else. You still remember those years you spent active duty and you may even curse more frequently than most. I know I sure as fuck do, I pretty much always have even before the Navy. You stand up after sitting in a desk for an hour long lecture and your hip pops along with your knee.
I think I also didn’t expect to feel so reminded of the navy with so many little things nearly every day. My instructor can be talking about intercultural communications and how different cultural groups distinguish in-group/out-group members and treat them accordingly because in-group understand the different slang terms and abbreviations and all I can think is how no one understands the navy or military terms in general except those who have been in. You don’t realize how when your instructor asks about work experiences and you remember that time you had to go aloft for the third time that day at 1600 on a Friday even though it can be done on a different day while the rest of the ship left around 1230 to enjoy their weekend but Chief is on duty and says you’re staying because he said so. But you still got paid the same as any other E5 with 4 years in the service, there is no overtime. That’s the type of shit you definitely don’t miss.
I simply miss sitting in my shop with my coworkers and making fun of Chief, honestly. He was a dick. Or laughing at morbid jokes while making another pot of double brewed coffee. Going to the Smith’s house to watch Game of Thrones and play board games and having a nice Sunday night dinner when most of us lived in the barracks. Going out to Country Night at Water Street. Holding the giant American Flag on the football field for the Eagles/Cowboys game on Veteran’s Day. Watching my friend reenlist at Ground Zero in New York City. I miss feeling like I belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I love college for the most part and have always loved learning but being surrounded by annoying af teenagers with obnoxious unnecessary commentary in class who can’t even walk on the right side of the stairs is beyond frustrating. I want to drop kick them.
And then dealing with the VA and trying to get paid on time is a whole other stress and mess of bullshit to deal with. It’s like you want to be grateful that you get your education paid for and also get a monthly stipend but it’s so frustrating when you feel like you did your part in volunteering 6 years and did your job and received an honorable discharge just to get offed over time and time again.
It’s like you miss the military just because it was the one place where you felt you belonged with other likeminded people but you don’t miss it enough to wish you had stayed in. I curse way too much for the civilian world and wearing a uniform with my hair in a bun everyday is perfect for me because I have no sense of style/fashion sense. (Literally when I was younger I used to beg my mom to send me to a boarding school so I could wear a uniform. Yeah, I’m a fucking weirdo.)
Then there’s just the fact that you feel so behind in life. I can’t help but feel like I have nothing to show for at 27. I’m sitting in college classes surrounded by 19 year olds while people I went to high school with have graduate degrees, careers, families, etc. and I feel like I’m starting from the bottom after a 6-year hiatus in the navy. By the time I’m done with college and hopefully in a career, I’ll be in my 30s. (Yes, I know other people go to college later in life, don’t come at me.) It’s just frustrating because sometimes I sit and wonder if I should have just stuck it out the first time instead of getting bored and joining the navy.
You just feel stuck in a lonely limbo land. You don’t want to keep talking about it and sounding annoying when everyone knows how much you wanted to get out but you can’t help but still feel connected to the military life even when you’re not. Sometimes it feels like everything somehow relates to some experience of being in the navy but not everyone else sees that connection. I think because when you’re active duty you’re sort of just immersed into it as a lifestyle because it really does sort of take over every part of it that it’s kind of hard to find your place outside of it. If that makes any sense.
I know that it’s just a tough time in life and I know I’ll get through it and I’m honestly thankful for all of my veteran friends and those who are still active duty that understand. Sitting in the Veteran Resource Center at my school with everyone else talking about old sea stories and how the civilian kids are annoying is my newfound shop.
I’m sure I missed something or didn’t get across something I meant to convey but this is the best I got for now. Sorry that this is pretty much just a bunch of bitching and is probably very annoying but I’m hoping that if anyone else can relate that they just know they’re not alone in feeling alone. ❤️