After retiring from the military, I spent a lot of time thinking about what to do next. After a year and a half, I am still thinking. It’s like being a second grader who is just figuring out the world around them. Anything seems possible but nothing seems to fit. My only criteria was nothing to do with the defense industry. I just needed to get away from all that. I was over it.
So I thought about what I majored in. English. Teaching? NO WAY! Journalism? Meh, I really should go back to school for that. I don’t want to. I used to write for my college newspaper but I didn’t have much interest in reviving that. Retail manager? Nope. I want more control over my time than that. I don’t want anything beyond a standard 9-5 weekday thing. The military owned me and I worked when they said so. i was technically available 24-7. I want control over the hours I work (if I work) from now on.
What about some kind of service organization? I’m extremely privileged to get retirement pay and not have to worry about getting paid a certain amount at another job, so this could be an option. There were a few local jobs recently at Goodwill that I liked. Things like “Family Coach” and “Job Counselor.” Those seemed like something interesting I could do. The hours were a little questionable though. Occasional evening/weekend hours might be ok. But those jobs didn’t feel 100% right either.
What I’ve really been doing this past year and a half is deep diving back into my soul. I have gone to therapy regularly, gotten ADHD medication, quieted the screaming in my soul, learned how to be a better parent, shuffled the kids around to their various activities, coached a youth soccer team (major highlight of my LIFE!), and written mostly incomplete memoirs, short stories, and one complete novel that needs a lot of editing. I have picked up old hobbies that I loved as a child, like doing 1000 piece puzzles again, trying to draw, and thinking about what I was when I was a kid. I want to find those dreams I had that kept me going. Dreams that might be doable now. Dreams that don’t involve the defense industry, retail, or anything too confining.
I always wanted to be a superhero so I could save people, mainly kids like me who felt trapped in their circumstances. I was bullied pretty badly because I was a scrawny, shy, timid intellectual who didn’t tattle and wouldn’t fight back. But in my head, I would swoop down from the sky and save kids with their back against the wall who had no one else to count on. I would fly them to this awesome playground where they could play with nice kids who didn’t make fun of their cheap sneakers and clothes, and treated them with respect. I also wanted to fight bad guys and keep everyone safe. I liked Batman a lot because he was just a regular guy who took care of Gotham with cool toys. I also loved Spiderman when I was really small. I even had several pairs of Spiderman pajamas that I loved.
Superheroes are not real. Wait, not real like in movies and comic books. Superheroes in real life are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. But what is an extraordinary thing? Does it matter if you do an extraordinary for one person or a million people?
A real life superhero that I know is the principal at one of the schools my kids go to. He created this school from the ground up. The district trusted him many years ago to create this program for kids in middle school, primarily 6th-8th graders. He wanted to include 4th and 5th graders too, but the state told him he couldn’t. Last year he did, just as we moved to this city and I had a 5th grader. This school is the best one I have seen in any district I’ve been in or the kids have been in. When he told me about the school when I was deciding where to send the kids, he was humble. He said his TEAM did all this work. His TEAM defied conventional wisdom. But when I showed up for orientation, one of the teachers said it was the principal and his undying devotion to the kids of this city and the desire to present the very best and more effective education. But he takes no credit. That is what is superhuman to me. Drive this TEAM to success but give them all the credit. That is extraordinary to me.
I’m wrestling with the urge to just get out there and do SOMETHING. Everything logical about me says be still, quiet down, and listen to what my soul is saying about what I’m meant to be doing. There is no more time or energy to waste just doing something. I need to find my purpose in life; my whole point in being alive in this world.