Finding your purpose

Finding your purpose and pursuits after the military or after combat is a challenging endeavor that we all face. While we were deployed our lives were filled with time tables and mental to do lists. We had a purpose in every hour that we were awake and even plotted out when we would sleep. All of these events were mission dictated and we knew that while we closed our eyes that night it would be back to the speed of sound as soon as we woke up the next morning. In the military there is still some of that to a degree. We were responsible for our troops and showing up to the right place right time. We had tasks to accomplish and counsellings to write. We were so busy, such a part of the big machine. Then the time came, our tour was over, our enlistment up and moved out and away.
Coming back from a combat tour, the first month, you don’t care you don’t even remember your name for the most part. You are too busy reminding yourself what it is to be alive and to smile without that graveyard humor in the room. Sooner or later though, it will settle on you and you will feel as though you have lost the focus and purpose that you once held in combat. You will feel like nothing you do has purpose or really matters, for example how am I helping anyone by doing inventory on a conn-ex for the 10th time. Its really easy to drop into a funk or drink it off at night. You start to dread the army and the chain of command. The chain of command under goes a change from what they were in combat back to being the source of stress rather than combat being the stress source and that just complicates things even more. Attention to detail slips and motivation falls and before you know it, a soldier can find themselves being a shit bag in a heart beat.
Getting out of the military all together has varying effects. Some guys, it is all they have lived for their entire enlistment and the belly flop out into the world and don’t even make a wake. Then there are guys like me, who would rather cover myself in honey and pour ants on top, than be a civilian. But for one reason or another it was time to go and now they find themselves, without a job, without a purpose, without support, without guidance. It is an incredibly scary and debilitating place. It is very easy to slip into a funk, you may find you lash out at people, your frustration will be worn on your sleeve and expressed through your knuckles. Its hard, you feel that life is in a way over. I often considered the rocking chair, I sized my life up by what I had accomplished in the army and decided that the rest of this was just filler until I kicked the bucket. I feared that sitting in my rocking chair years later I would look back and question why I left and wish I had done something else. So what do you do when the grass is greener actually turned out to be a grass fire… MOVE.
I have found it to be so critical to continue to move and to learn and strive for self set goals. One of the major issues that guys face when either returning from combat or getting out of the military is the loss of guidance. Its scary when you realize you are in charge. You will wallow, you will get bored, you will get angry, and then you find the funk. The cure is to get moving, start taking on challenges even if they are just with yourself. Push learning into your life, whether its college or skill, doesn’t matter as long as the brain is engaged. Create attainable and not so attainable goals for yourself. Leave yourself open for suggestion as well. I found that making a pseudo-bucket list helped, if you are not familiar with a bucket list its where you write down all the things you want to accomplish before you die. For my purposes it was what I will accomplish in the next five years, I have all sorts of things in there. Attainable goals- finish my degree, not so attainable- complete an iron man triathlon, pursuits- to save a life not in a combat zone, personal growth- to not fight when I normally would have. This is all a bunch of self-help junk, but if you actually apply your mind and your time you do some really incredible things. Just getting into the driver’s seat of your life is where your first goal should land. College is always a good thing because it gets the mind rolling and ready for more. I have found through my mental list of things I want to do, I am more busy than when I was in the army or a combat zone. I have more simultaneous pursuits than at any other point in my life, sometimes I feel stressed out but I remember what it felt like to be stagnant, and I just keep moving. This has really worked for me, I am sure there are as many ways to overcome this as there are people who are trying. So let us know…. KEEP MOVING.

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One response to “Finding your purpose

  • JKH

    I have some of the same things going on with me. That feeling that your not doing all you can…. That missing piece… The wife and kids have there place in me that could never be replaced, and I love being a “Family man”, but there is still that feeling that I’m not doing enough to Protect, Defend, Assist, Save. I miss those feelings. The rush. The excitement. I like your bucket list idea, I’ll give it a whirl… see what comes up.
    I’m thinking about becoming a cop. I think that’s the only civilian job that can allow for the protective mindset I am always in. I am always on the defense…. My wife jokingly thinks I’m nuts.. but I think this would be a good way to utilize what I’m good at, and with any luck it may fill that space. You know the one….

    JKH

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