Who are you?
This post is going to be about, defining yourself after a defining moment. Most times defining moments are viewed as a positive thing. They are the moments that forge leaders and thinkers. They are times when as humans we are tested and emerge victorious. Unfortunately, these defining moments can leave little else other than that definition for a person. This is particularly the case of combat vets. When we come home, we are combat vets, our every action, thought, and feeling are a product of our time at war or has at least been touched by our time at war. This definition, this identity makes it very difficult for us to differentiate between who we are and what we have done. This state of interconnectedness tends to propagate a lot of the symptoms of PTSD or feed the struggle of life after combat. It is critical that after we return home and when the time is right that we begin to establish a post war persona. Essentially and as weird as it may seem, we have to decide who, not what we want to be when we grow up.
Everything about our military life was dictated to us. Now we must decide who we are to be after that. Tastes, political views, demeanor, dress, sense of humor, speech,writing both written and typed, emotional expression, mannerisms of all sorts, eating habits, all change when you leave the combat life. There is a very specific way for all of this to be done in a combat zone, the way that presumably gives you the best chance of survival and tactical superiority. When you come home its a matter of preference, and as grunts we tend to not have any. We slept with our heads in the dirt or on an ammo can or in a palace, it made no difference to us. We ate what was in front of us, and talked like everyone else did. We lived in such tight quarters that we grew a communal mind, this was lethal on the battlefield, knowing what your best friend, your brother was going to do the instant he thought of it. Once severed from the hive, you find that you are stranded worker bee. Its an uncomfortable and unsettling situation to find yourself in and yet it is the most critical moment in your coping process, because it is when you decide who you are, who your post war persona will be. This post war persona, can be the victor, the victim, the leader, the thinker, the guy sitting at the VFW telling war stories, the one stuck in the past. When all you have to define yourself is trauma you are going to be traumatized. What complicates the situation more is that when we come back we tend to shut ourselves off from the world or at least emotionally detach ourselves. This doesn’t allow a lot of new experiences to come in, experiences that could help us define who we are post war. Essentially, we are blank slated when we leave the military. You have been through hell and back and yet it doesn’t apply in the slightest to regular civilian life. Its all associated, if you could do that then you can do this, not because you are this you can conquer the world. This is an earth rocking idea for veteran who has been told from the start of his military career that it will set you up for life. It opens all the doors to the world and you can walk into anywhere and get a job. All the military does is teach you how to breach and clear the room behind the locked door. It is up to you and I as the veterans to take the tools we earned in the military, the goals and aspirations of the future, and the desired persona, slam them together and make it happen.
When I left the army, I kind of struggled with that. Not because I had left the army and lost my identity but because I had left the job that covered the fact that I only knew one part of who I was. The stress from being over there, changed who I was, I was angry and felt like I was not in the driver’s seat all the time in regards to my mind. The first two months I was out before college started I kind of wallowed in self-pity and boredom. I didn’t know who I was and wasn’t really all that sure what I liked to do. I tried to hold onto the military routine for as long as I could. The fiancée was none to pleased with this whole time period. Then school started. There are so many things to define you in a college environment and yet everyone is searching for their identity. I kind of blended into this without a problem, because it was the one way I could relate to all the children I was in these classes with. Slowly over the course of the past year, as I have come out of my military cocoon and made friends, joined organizations, participated in events, helped others, I have found a persona, an identity besides the trauma. It has been critical to how much change and improvement I have undergone in such a short period of time. The best part about all this, I have chosen who I am. I am comfortable in my own skin because I have painstakingly redefined who I was and where I stood on many things. Ditching the common views that are beaten into you and replacing them with things and ideas that are truly important to you. Its a whole lot of inner peace kind of junk, when you start being you but also defining who it is you are to be. All of these things help you lay your trauma down or let the combat zone go, because as you begin to define who you are, you are able to define a location for the trauma, a healthy spot. Healthy spot? Yea like the spot where courage and motivation are found. For example, I lived through that, everything else won’t impress me much, so bring it on.
Take Home: Deciding who you are, is a process, not a singular moment. It requires careful introspection, you have to be honest and humble when you go about doing this otherwise you will find you are uncomfortable in your woven skin. This seems strange, but you do it automatically when you get out, it is so much more beneficial when you take an active role in the process. It can be the difference in being the victor or the victim. The final thing, is that by actively defining yourself, you can ensure you are defined as happy and confident or whatever the heck floats your boat. Give it some thought.