Journey Through “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan”

Hello, readers.

I am taking a short break from homework to check back in. I cannot recall if I’ve told you all before I love reading for pleasure, and one of the hardest things about working full-time and completing my collegiate classes is losing a substantial amount of free time for personal reading. I grew up reading a lot in my free time; it was a perfect hobby for an introverted child. Although I’ve shed some of my shyness, reading is still one of my favorite hobbies.

While I don’t plan to go into detail about all the war-related books I started to help me determine how to write my own memoir, there is one I want to talk about today.

My local public library has a small section of books covering the history of different wars. Originally, I hoped to find Shoot Like A Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front. I looked for Shoot Like a Girl on several trips to Barnes and Noble, but it was never on the shelf. When I couldn’t find the book at my public library either, I decided to look through the other titles. (I don’t like leaving the public library empty-handed.)

There wasn’t much that stuck out to me except for one title, The Mirror Test. It’s the lengthy book I’ve picked up in a while: 585 pages. I haven’t finished it yet. I hope that doesn’t deter anyone from picking it up. This blog entry is not meant to serve as a book review. I could probably give you that perspective later, but I’m only on Chapter 9 at this point. (I slowed down my reading pace with this book in order to not fall behind in my class.)

I quickly fell in love with the author’s writing style and wanted to share my sentiments on Instagram.

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Dotting the landscape of his personal narrative, I found direct information about service member casualties. It was unexpected, but almost like coming home. Someone encountered the casualty information, not necessarily the same way I had, and he recognized them as people. He was making sure they were not simply forgotten in a world where Americans drift from one new thing to the next and have grown tired of hearing about our protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On top of it, too, he gave more recognition to the marring of Iraq and the brutal toll the war’s taken on its people. When I worked on my graduate applied project, I found access to Iraqi casualty information difficult to recover. I used details I could gather from Iraq Body Count but again, The Mirror Test drew me in with the sensitivity and openness regarding interactions with Iraqis.

I didn’t expect to come across something more simple that hit a nerve.

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Anger, bordering on rage, hit me. I felt like the author immediately dismissed the value and burden of my deployment responsibility. My rant could not be contained. In fact, I hit the word limit Instagram has and to finish my rant, I needed a comment.Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 6.33.11 PM.pngScreen Shot 2018-05-17 at 6.34.09 PM.png

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I try to keep tirades like this out of public view, but the sting that my work was not really seen as a war experience wasn’t easing up. It’s been awhile since I found someone’s written words tearing me up this way.

I put the book down for a bit to refocus. I did not want to discount the entire book based on this one piece, but I needed a breather.

After taking some space, I realized an opportunity existed. The author had valuable casualty information and might be able to help me find a way to finish reconstructing the casualty information from my own deployment. I had to ask. The worst he could say was “No.”

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The Mirror Test

In my email request, I discussed the intersection of our time in Iraq and my work with the activity reports. I explained my interest in how he came to share the casualty information, whether he took good notes or if he acquired the details through Freedom of Information Act. I did not ask the author to do the research for me and this detail is important. I implore anyone looking to reconstruct their past be mindful to do the same with any person you reach out to for assistance. Do not ask someone to do work you yourself are not willing to do. If you have the capability to do your own research, do it. In this case, I have the ability to continue my research, but it helps to know where to look.

Thankfully, my request was well-received and the email I received in return, exceptionally courteous. He offered ideas to help me find the pieces of information I’m looking for to include checking out Brown University’s “Cost of War.”

I am happy with our correspondence so far and hopefully, he appreciates the feedback I have regarding his book.

More to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Honorably Discharged Veteran Millennial: Money Talks

A friend recently shared The Outline’s “Being Frugal is For the Rich” and the article got me thinking of something I started talking about while pursuing my first graduate degree. For new readers, my access to VA benefits helped me transform my family’s circumstances these past few years and I opened up about this matter to help give others some transparency on the issue from a direct user perspective. For those who’ve been following me along my blogging journey, yes, I’m talking about veteran entitlements and privileges again!!!

A few years back I read The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi and it inspired me to be more curious about how people spend their money. I won’t say I found the book “out of the blue.” For almost the past ten years, my reading tastes have gravitated more towards non-fiction but my interest in learning more about financial spending happened when I took the chance and attended a Financial Peace University class friends had at their church in Cody, Wyoming.

My husband and I started our lives together as a dual-income military family. During our active duty days, we did quite well for ourselves. (Note: I served on active duty when we started dating in October 2005 and separated from the Marine Corps July 2007.).  I wish I kept our Leave and Earning Statements (LES) from this time to give you concrete numbers regarding income, but in lieu of that information, our spending helps give you an idea of the privilege associated with our military service (and also not being parents at that time).

We started our married life (2006) in a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in Oceanside, CA. As super lazy millennials who didn’t want to pay for moving expenses, our second apartment was the one right next door. When the other neighbors moved out we upgraded to a two bedroom, two bathroom 854 sq. ft space for $1,440 a month in 2008. (That second apartment now rents for $1,764 on the low-end. Trust me, I don’t miss overpriced rent in southern California.)

I won’t lie. That time in our lives was a lot of fun because financially we could afford to do almost anything we wanted (but buy a home). It’s interesting too because so many people think that service members are grossly underpaid for their efforts and I don’t fully agree with that segment of our population. If you look at information below from Federalpay.org this way of life is pretty good although it continues to frustrate me to see people and organizations, including nonprofits geared towards veterans and service members, use ‘basic pay’ as a way to say service members are broke people. This approach is not inclusive of all forms of pay people receive while serving.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of BAH, it differs based on where one is stationed. Some service members may choose to live on base (and therefore do not receive a housing allowance) in order to live in a bigger home than how far their BAH would go in the local area. Other times, service members may choose to live on base because they have one family car and base life is more convenient for their family or they are overseas and not comfortable renting out in town. Getting back on point though, how many young adults do you know that don’t possess a college education and make this kind of money? Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 6.59.05 PM.png

Over the years, our financial wellbeing has looked more like the dips and rises of the stock market than a steady improvement. Ours lows come from a combination of personal behaviors (typical things like going above our dining out budget) and unfortunate circumstances (two unexpected bouts of unemployment, unexpected veterinary bills, and unexpected air conditioning problems to name a few big-ticket issues). After the rocky financial patches we’ve found ourselves in, I do find myself drawn in by people, such as the Frugalwoods, who say, “It’s super easy. Just save money.” It’s nice to hear because it reminds me to have hope that things get easier, to see people who may have accumulated more debt than we’ve carried turn their lives around.

But I know when I talk about how we overcame obstacles in our past (and those down the road) I must be transparent that there’s a lot of privilege I’m standing on, just like the Frugalwoods. The social capital and financial resources at my feet may not be that important to people outside the veteran community, but an ‘honorable discharge’ is an important form of privilege. It’s one thing to have access to good employment benefits while serving in the military, but it’s another to have door after door open up after earning an honorable discharge. It allowed me to use 48 months’ of GI Bill benefits. It allowed me access to a VA home loan. It might permit me to receive VA disability compensation to help offset the costs associated with managing the anxiety related chest pains I started experiencing after my first tour in Iraq. (Side Note: New readers, I’ve covered the last issue a lot in past entries, but my lack of evidence in my service record has made my case with the VA difficult. I’ll update you on this issue when I receive an update on my Notice of Disagreement.)

As someone who made a pretty good transition from active duty Marine to possessing a Master’s degree, openness is important in sharing a narrative and I encourage others to think about what someone does or does not share regarding his or her privilege. Here are some small (or not so small) things you might want to know about me:

  • I’ve received over $105,000 worth, 48 months, of GI Bill benefits through a combination of the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I’ve talked about this funding along the way here and here more recently. I owe everyone an update now that I used the last month and 9 days I had remaining so the full sight picture is available.
  • I’ve learned outside of school, privilege is not always steady. Trust me, it was weird during our home search to find out some homes did not qualify for a VA mortgage.
  • Occasionally, I receive low cost or no-cost opportunities available to veterans such as a student veteran scholarship to participate in the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writing Conference which I did and a trip to Aspen to Huts for Vets which I will do later this summer.
  • Anytime I’ve applied for a post-Marine Corps job, I annotate any veteran category I qualify under because I know these categories can only help me be considered. What I’ve learned though is I must change how I talk to my service to not scare or confuse hiring committees. It’s true we don’t always speak the same language, but most people I’ve met have a positive orientation towards honorably discharged veterans like me.

If you want to look at privilege in another way, here’s what some of those things look like for me and what I encourage you to consider when you think of your own life experiences. We may be deposited in the same world, but that does not mean we get to experience it on equal terms and we have a responsibility to acknowledge the unearned advantages and the support teams that help us live our lives the way we do.

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Memoir Building: March 2018 Recap

Good evening, everyone.

I’m excited to announce I am making progress with my Iraq memoir. I am sitting at 24 pages (yes, baby steps!) as I continue to juggle work, writing, and reading (along with all my other life responsibilities). I’ve always been a bit more of a short focus writer (journal entry to 1,200 or so word length blog entries) and this project is my longest writing endeavor. I am thankful for the privilege of living in a nation where I can share my thoughts and experiences in such a way.

In case you’re wondering what I am reading to be a better writer at this point, here’s what’s floating around on my nightstand, in my home office, and occasionally, in my backpack for those commuting days I stay an hour later.

The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan

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The Things They Carried

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Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Flight in Afghanistan and On the Homefront

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I also recently finished the following book and the tips in the book helped me to shape two particular stories that are certainly more personal in nature but worth sharing to give readers a better sense of what freedom means, how boundaries are negotiable, what it’s like to be a privileged war fighter, and things of that nature.

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I am off work tomorrow to enjoy Good Friday and I look forward to relaxing a bit more than I have lately. My next graduate course begins soon, and I’m a bit disappointed I’ll lose off-hours time for writing to continue my graduate studies. It’s only eight weeks so I can trudge through it and get one step closer to my second Master’s.

And just to touch base, the reason why I am reading so much lately is to improve my balance of dialogue, background, and personal voice. I am quite particular about liking (and disliking) certain authors based on their writing styles and as someone who’s gravitated heavily to blog writing in the past few years, it’s work to rebuild circumstances with a place setting, characters, and dialogue rather than to just talk about what I saw, felt, and did during that time period. I don’t have an English or Journalism background so it is imperative, in my mind, to re-educate myself on stylistic matters to build a useful product for generations to come.

Thanks again for your great patience.

~Cheryl

Sharing Stories: Personal Relationships

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Today is a short writing session for me. I’m being more dedicated to my Iraq memoir writing and I’m sitting around maybe 16-18 pages so far. I’m keeping a steady pace and taking breaks as needed to read from memoir writing books to assist me in writing dialogue, reflecting appropriately on experiences for my intended audience, and ensuring I let my readers see my mistakes and flaws on the page.

Some days my writing sessions are pretty easy. I pick apart artifacts from the deployment and find meaningful ways to connect them to particular events or people such that my audience will remember aspects of his or her own youth and a memory resonates with that person. I understand many people did not desire to serve in the military or more importantly, serve in some capacity in Iraq but so many have watched Iraq from a distance. My job is to remove that distance and remind people this space also served as a home.

It is impossible to talk about a sense of home without talking about people. A number of my close relationships changed as a result of serving overseas, some grew and others faltered. I am spending more time now cultivating permission to share some stories that are not exclusively my own. My willingness to volunteer in Iraq is not a decision shared by my family and there were strains placed on my family to be in a dangerous job in a dangerous region of the world. Thankfully, my family came out stronger, but it took us time to get here.

Out of everyone impacted by my first deployment, it is most difficult to share my past relationship with ex, Nathan. When my dad served in the Navy, my mom was a wife stateside with four children. Nathan and I had a very different challenge of both serving in the same area with the same threats to life and limb, although not always equally distributed. The secret classification of my daily work also meant constantly keeping secrets from him. It was an atypical job assignment and it was not made easier by knowing he was constantly outside the wire with no guarantees of making it back safely. I find this part of the deployment the hardest to craft in memoir.

Like a former husband, I owe him some courtesy in not sharing all details of our relationship. The world doesn’t need every bad habit of ours splashed out on the page to bring sensationalism to the story, but so much of the deployment was shaped by his presence. When I decide to bring a conversation of ours to the public’s eye, it must serve a purpose. What does this conversation indicate about friendship in a time of war? What does this conversation indicate about the burden families encounter when a loved one agrees to take on a dangerous assignment? What does this conversation indicate about work responsibilities and the costs associated with protecting the safety and security of others?

The memoir is not about us as a former couple but our role in each other lives at that time shapes the many conversations about how it feels to serve in a combat zone. When I first started writing to you all years ago, he was one of the first people I discussed. I knew the world might have something (nasty or otherwise) to say about our relationship when he was only legally separated from his former spouse but I could not discuss serving in Iraq without acknowledging the place of this part of my past. Honesty is one of the hardest things to discuss because we all come with biases, values, and judgements regarding what is right and wrong with this world, our actions, and the actions of others. In being honest about my past, I expect my audience to take a step back and realize I’m talking about a vulnerability, a soft spot in my life. It was challenging to constantly fear losing a loved one and still go to work daily with 100% effort as other people are dying and wounded in one of the most complex conflicts this world has ever known.

The good thing about blogging–at least from my experience–is not too many have gone on to comment about my behavior or life choices. The memoir writing books I’ve read lately have mentioned I cannot expect the same when I’m published. Likely, people will rake me over the coals because they have certain attitudes towards relationships, family, religion, work responsibilities, and personal character. I will likely find myself in a position again that others feel my body is theirs to use appropriately for their agenda (i.e. to comment that this is why women shouldn’t serve overseas, to comment about the deteriorating role of families, to comment about how differently my generation conducts themselves in a war zone…blah blah blah).

I am nervous about how my writing will intrude on the lives of people I know. For this reason, I’ve continued to let my family and friends know the responsibility I feel with my writing. Every damaged part of our relationships will be seen through the scrutiny of others and it is important for my family and friends to know there is more outside influence that caused those rifts so long ago than personal disagreements between my chosen lifestyle and theirs. My family wasn’t ready for me to serve overseas; I really sprung that opportunity on them. Looking back, I understand their hesitation. My Uncle Paul was impacted by his service in Vietnam as was my grandmother’s boyfriend in her latter years. These two men saw things and experienced things we like to turn a blind eye to but these events happen all the same. With respect to the loss Nathan felt when I left Blue Diamond, he will always be left to share his own experiences. I can only speak for myself in saying it’s difficult to have a best friend walk daily through traumatic events and to arrive home having thousands of mile change that circumstance.

As a new student to memoir, I would share what others seem to be saying over and over again. Have compassion for the authors. It is very difficult for authors to share their personal experiences so that others might not feel alone in this world. It is difficult to share family secrets when there is so much society expects to stay behind closed doors. To my fellow authors, have compassion for your former partners, friends, families, enemies, and allies. We are all flawed people and memoirs are a place to look back and see why things happened the way they did and what was learned as a result. Respect the individuals who walked into your life and what their presence taught you about yourself, them, and the world you encountered.

 

Schools Need More Than Veteran Memes for Protection

No. No. No.

NO, we should NOT put veterans into schools to offer students protection. These veteran memes are one of the worst ideas to spread in the wake of school shootings. These memes pop up like dandelions after every school shooting and I can’t begin to tell you how infuriating it is to see them spread across social media. The idea and these idiotic memes are placebos. You will not solve a social crisis by throwing a meme out there nor can you effectively solve the rampant problem of school shootings by employing every unemployed (or hell, employed) veteran because it sounded like a good idea at the time.

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There are people far more qualified than I am to vent about the issue of school shootings and in the past week many of them have spoken. They’ve shouted their discontent and allowed their rage to unfold in the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen individuals lost their lives and we have people throwing memes out there like they can effectively solve school shootings and veteran unemployment with the click of the button and wipe all responsibility onto someone else to design, implement, and evaluate such a solution.

As a parent, I don’t like the idea that my child or any child I know might one day be ambushed and shot at in a school setting. IT SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN. 

I also share this sentiment as a gun owner. I don’t believe everyone who meets the qualifications to own a firearm should necessarily own or handle a weapon. We’ve seen far too often people who abuse their second amendment right.

We have a real problem on our hands when it comes to finding the right solutions to empowering schools, their staff, and our children.  No one person can say what those solutions will be because it takes the investment of many individuals in local communities to assess what the weak areas are in the school system (building, staffing, training, etc.) and our resources (funding, training, personnel, etc.). These conversations must continue to trickle up so as a nation we can reduce and prevent school shootings but respond better when incidents happen on or around school grounds.

For this reason, I want to take a brief second and reaffirm my belief we should not employ veterans on school grounds as a remedy to school violence. On its face, the solution sounds great. The American understanding is school children are protected by the likes of veterans specifically taught firearms safety. Veterans, in need of jobs or purpose after transitioning out of the military, find security and meaning in protecting schoolchildren and Americans are comforted by the fact they’ve done two “good deeds” in one fell swoop.  Although these are oversimplifications, not all veterans are equipped for law enforcement responsibilities. In spite of having firearms safety training, there are numerous qualifications many veterans would lack to step into this role.  Additionally, a number of veterans separated from military service for health, behavioral, or legal reasons that would also not make them well-suited to law enforcement responsibilities on school premises. Would you want Iraqi detainee abuser Lynndie England protecting your children? How about former Marine drill instructor Joseph Felix who abused recruits? I didn’t think so.

At this point, most of us need to listen more than to speak. I have not faced a school shooting directly and I am among those listening now. For those of us on the sidelines, we must help the conversations of those hurting.

Take some time and actively listen to the victims’ stories.

Take some time to look at and think about, what if my child died?

What would you want to happen?

 

 

13 Years Later

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We are back to this day again.

I always wonder how his family gets through today. I was a Lance Corporal on deployment and didn’t know Captain Brock personally although we sat closely to each other. Sometimes, I feel pretty stupid to say I sat next to him but I didn’t know him. I don’t think it’s something my civilian peers would understand especially in light of how much the manner of his death affects me. We spent so much of the deployment having close calls until we finally had this incident that took Captain Brock from our team. His assailant doesn’t wear a face I would know and although we worked on the same shift most of my deployment, in the weeks leading up to his death I was reassigned to our night shift.

I don’t think people generally consider how important it for Marines to be there for each other. It wasn’t my decision to leave day shift and while the logical part of me understands there’s nothing I could have done to help, it still bugs me that I wasn’t there in case there is something I could have done. It frustrates me that after dealing with deaths over and over again via our computer screens, one of our team members became a number on the screen.

His family and friends have an honorable mission in continuing Captain Brock’s legacy and I know it’s probably a difficult journey. Captain Brock doesn’t have the name recognition with the American people the way Pat Tillman did, but his service is no less important. I hope as the years progress the foundation in his name thrives; it’s a wonderful mission to help make higher education a more attainable goal to children of killed or injured .

If you have the ability to donate, feel free to check out http://www.seanbrockfoundation.org/donate

 

Semper Fi,

Cheryl

 

2018: Personal and Professional Growth

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Operation Iraqi Freedom 5-7 (Camp Al Asad)

I think one of the best things I did during my time in the Marine Corps was chronicling my journey for family and friends.  Looking back, I see so much about my personality that I’m embarrassed to admit right now and my growing frustration with people who I would not naturally pick as coworkers. I had frustrating situations both at 1st Marine Division and 3rd MarDiv when I worked with MAG-16, but I was more disgruntled with my assignment at MAG-16.  We had a particularly difficult guy in our shop who grated on me for the duration of the deployment.

While I won’t say my feedback on the situation (demonstrated below) is how we should talk about work problems, I was 23 years old at the time and not skilled in communicating my work issues in an effective problem solving matter. I take ownership of this reality and share my vulnerabilities because it was a crucial point in my Marine Corps career.  As I neared my end of active service (EAS) for that enlistment period, I was  more critical of the personal interactions that marred my feelings about the Marine Corps.

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Prior to the deployment, my husband and I discussed the possibility of me enlisting one more time to establish financial security for our family.  At that point, we didn’t foresee the economic downfall in 2008.  If you want to read something interesting about this time period check out The Great Recession by Robert Rich (November 22, 2013).  When we were reunited in 2007, my husband and I saw the benefits of a downturned economy, not the flaws of the situation. As newlyweds, we explored the housing market in southern California (particularly the Oceanside area) that previously would have been out of our reach. I ultimately decided to not reenlist at one of the worst time periods possibly because I knew I didn’t want  another four years when I might be stuck with another (or multiple) like-minded person(s) to the man I described above.

The Marine Corps is a smaller organization compared to our sister service branches.  I knew in my last year with the Marine Corps my ability to find a better workgroup would ultimately be limited.  My Military Occupational Specialty field (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense) is not a particularly large job field.  I also made the bad career decision to move from 1st Marine Division to 3rd Marine Division under the assumption of re-enlisting.  When I returned stateside, I don’t think an opportunity to change units again would have been available.  Each unit is only permitted a certain number of personnel for each respective EAS; of additional concern, my husband and I were dual military couple.  He re-enlisted during his deployment and was staying in California.

After much discussion, I had his support our family would be better served if I left the Marine Corps.  My ability to attend school using the Montgomery GI Bill supplemented by additional payments from the Buy Up Program and the Marine Corps College Fund provided a means to leave the Marine Corps without much (immediate) financial regret.  For a full month of school attendance, I received $1,739.89 to pay for school and living expenses.  We managed our finances without a significant drop in our quality of life by my decision to also attend a community college.  I supplemented our income by also working part-time where I was paid $10.50 an hour and worked approximately 30 hours a week.

I share these details of my life because personal and professional growth occurs more “behind the scenes” than upfront in a glamorous fashion.  My particular transition required working with a partner.  I could not feel satisfied making a decision about my professional trajectory without also communicating with him about what I wanted to do and why I wanted to make those changes in my life because those decisions ultimately affected him as well.  Not all partnerships look like mine, but I also didn’t want someone to suddenly have a change a heart about our relationship because I needed a change of direction in my professional life.

A former coworker of mine once told me we spend more time with our work counterparts than we do with our own families, and it’s true.  When we are able to work full-time, we devote typically 40 hours a week on tasks and work connections that takes time away from our significant other, children, parents, siblings, and friends (in no particular order of priority because these relationships vary by our situations).  We have 168 hours a week to split up among our relationships, responsibilities, and self-care interests.  For my most of my first deployment, I spent 84 hours a week working; half of my weekly hours were devoted to a mission and placed many burdens on my personal life.  I am grateful the second deployment was not the same level of commitment, but the work environment taught me I didn’t want to serve the Marine Corps anymore.

My personal and professional lives were suffering.  I was unhappy beyond belief.  I had a string of unsuccessful relationships because the demands of Marine Corps life meant making unpopular decisions.  Not all friends and romantic partners wanted to be on this journey with me.  I also felt strained by the pressure to work on my academic goals.  The Marine Corps, like other service branches, offered tuition assistance and I jumped into a short-lived journey with American Military University without fully considering my work demands.  During my second deployment, I found it was unrealistic to continue my online coursework as I did not have reliably consistent access to computer time.

I don’t seek your pity in sharing these seemingly small trials.  We all have them.  I didn’t know who I could become in this world.  My 2007 self reveals a lot of anger, frustration, confusion, and self-doubt.  I am happy here in early 2018 to see how much I’ve changed, the confidence I’ve developed as a result of many mistakes. I have a better focus on financial investments I want to make over time.  I challenged myself to complete a graduate degree. The 2007 me was barely confident to complete a bachelor’s degree!  I no longer seek self-help materials because I think there is a flaw with me fitting in this world.  Instead, I look to mentors who show how to interpret positive and negative situations.  They help me see how to minimize negative consequences.  They also remind me to appreciate my blessings.

I’m learning to see each day as an opportunity for “do overs” when things don’t go my way and as baby steps towards my desired goals.  There is a lot of uncertainty in my future this year as to whether the VA will approve my disability claim regarding my chest pains.There is also uncertainty in my work life as we await the introduction of two new team members.  There is also uncertainty as I explore the additional steps needed if my husband and I decide to bring a second child into this world next year (or even the year after). There is less uncertainty regarding my additional coursework this year for my second graduate program.   There is less uncertainty for me regarding what I want in my next home.  There is less uncertainty in how I feel about my public role in educating others about modern service and veteran experiences.

My life will never be 100% balanced, but I now feel more confident about my personal and professional growth. I look back on where I was and how I felt about uncontrollable circumstances and how little I invested in controllable variables.  I often stepped in my own way of progress. I ignored my intuition.  I let my lack of confidence encourage me to stay in unhealthy situations because I didn’t believe I deserved better.  Now, I say “no” to the things that don’t require my attention or for which I am not interested.  I seek help for those matters I cannot fully control on my own (like the chest pains).  I ask others for their advice when I know they are stronger in an area I want to develop my skills.  These are not weaknesses.  They are signs I value my time, relationships, and opportunities.

2018 is waiting for all of us.  Find what makes you happy, allows you to live out your purpose, and teaches you to be a better human being.

~Cheryl

January 2018
At home in Gilbert, AZ (January 14, 2018)