After the Uniform Comes Off, What's Next?

I came across a profile on Instagram of a former Frogman (Navy Seal) named Mario whose post about having diverse interests and passions resonated deeply with me. Team Guys (Special Forces fellas) are idolized like Superman (minus the panties on the outside of their clothes). They aren't superhuman, of course, but they do have a dedication to training and a commitment to success that is unmatched by most. These guys master the concept of mind over matter because in situations where everyone would quit, they keep going. That's admirable as hell! Anyway, it's because the advice came from such a skilled warrior that I appreciated his thoughts so much. One may assume that a Special Forces guy would be 100% focused on the mission ahead - and, when not on a mission, is training for a mission. But that's not what his post was about.

His post, which I can't find anymore (bummed about that) ... was basically how diverse his passions were.  He wasn't just a Navy Seal / Sailor. He was more than that. He mentioned his hobbies and his educational pursuits in Astrophysics (yup, he's more than just a hot body -- he's a brain, too!). Basically, he was advocating being a modern day Renaissance Man.

According to Merriam-Webster -- Renaissance Man (noun): a person who has wide interests and is an expert in several areas.

When some people join the military, it becomes all-consuming. Their identity becomes the uniform and they lose a sense of their life goals and passions. We are more than a job even though we often describe ourselves as "the job." We have jobs. Jobs change. We change. We are never completely one thing because we are capable of so much more. Diversifying interests is a fantastic idea!

I think about how this single-minded track plagues Service Members transitioning from the military to the civilian sector. Suddenly, there is no more identifying as the uniform because we don't wear it anymore (you can, of course, but that's just weird).  You also see Veterans DECKED out with insignia and apparel proclaiming their Veteran status and former life. Shirts and hats that are basically shouting, "I SERVED GOD DAMN IT. I WAS A SOLDIER!" Like, okay, we get it. Your 30 pins and hats and embroidered shirt are a bit much though, don't ya think?! I never got into that stuff. No one I initially meet knowns I'm a Veteran (partly because people are so insanely sexist they can't fathom that I served) and partly because why would they know? I don't have tattoos or clothes that declare who I am ... besides a chick who just wears clothes.  (haha)

I am a Veteran though and I care about Veterans issues. I'm also politically minded and care about the wars the USA engages in. The reason I care isn't because I'm going to win any contracts for those wars (money is out there but I'm focused more on being a full-time mom to my kids - while living on the same continent). I care because Service Members will keep dying in foreign lands for wars that are rather meaningless and the families torn apart by distance is heartbreaking. Divorce rates are high, children whose mom or dad serve in the military and deploy or leave for extending periods to train are forced to deal with a lot. Many changes at home, many emotions to process, many important events in their lives missed.

I digress ... 

Back to Mario's post ... 

No matter what job we hold or careers we aspire to have, there is more we can do with ourselves. We can continue with higher education, we can volunteer with causes that matter to us, we can write books, we can blog, we can be avid paddle boarders or hikers, take a culinary classes, travel to new countries, learn a new language ... my point is that we need hobbies that excite us and fuel our passions for life. Be a Renaissance Woman (or Man).

When one facet of our lives comes to an end,
our lives don't have to end.
Veterans kill themselves with such an insane frequency and success rate. There are, of course, many reasons Veterans decide they can't fight off their demons. I just wonder, for many of them, if they had another fulfilling facet of their lives that they could then focus on that -- focus on the good and fulfilling things -- while sorting through the darkness.

Even those superhuman guys (SF and the lot) aren't infallible. They have their own demons to sort and process. We all have a process. But, I love his advice about being a Renaissance man NOW and not waiting until you are done with the military to figure shit out. Every single day grants us an opportunity to learn and grow.

So use today so you have a better tomorrow.

**** UPDATE **** I sent Mario a DM on Instagram. Turns out the dude is pretty nice. He tagged me in the post of his that I mentioned and, he also likes Ludovico Einaudi (but that's a different blog post, perhaps). Anyway, I'm embedding the post of his that I loved so much below. 

Do you realize how cool social media can be? At no other time could I have reached out and connected directly with him so easily. Forget degrees of separation. We are all simply a DM away from friendship.  

A photo I took during training with the WMD CST team a few years ago. This one photo in particular is still a favorite of mine. I feel it's symbolic of the life veterans live following their service. We are suspended between worlds ... civilian and military - sometimes not fully living in either. I feel fortunate to be grounded and happy as a civilian but I know many who feel lost and disconnected from having a purpose in life without the uniform. This cool #navyseal dude I crossed paths with shared insight about how he maintained his self identity in and out of uniform. He had hobbies. He had created a means of doing multiple things he loved and simultaneously adopted them as his purpose. So he wasn't just #frogman ... he was simply "also" #sailor so when he ended that chapter, he didn't feel lost. Perhaps being a mother helps keep me grounded and aware of my life and the way I value the things and people around me. I'm a mother, traveler, writer, photographer, magazine editor, Florida beach bum, aspiring yogi, cook, activist (many causes) and also a veteran. Be more than one identity so it's not all you are because we are capable of being so much more. --------------------------------- #dailymotivation #military #veterans #usmc #armylife #identity #aviation #blackhawk #nikonphotography #photojournalism #instagood #instadaily #militarylife #armedforces #marsoc #specialforces
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FYI - Former Navy Seal who inspired this post: Mario Romero @marioromero186 (You can find him on Instagram and read the post of his that I found insightful.)

"How do you stay positive if you’re a civilian who feels like there’s so much more to life than working at useless jobs and staying positive around workers or people in general that have no drive, no ambition, no motivation?” --I wanted to answer this publicly because I think it’s a great question, and it's always relevant. -I have always viewed life as something with many avenues. Since I was a kid I liked participating in multiple things. Things like track, cross country, swimming, lacrosse, (music) bands, etc. Today, as I’m sure you’re aware, not much has changed. I like to lift at the gym, roll jiu jitsu, learn at school, read, write, travel, anything astronomy etc. To steal the phrase from Tim Ferris, think of it as a "diversification of identity.” In my opinion, when you indulge yourself in various activities it becomes much harder to dwell in that “useless” feeling. Yes, sometimes in a job the repetition and perhaps the other individuals might seem to sap away your own motivation, but I think that’s because you might not be branching out enough. If you’re in what you believe is a rut at work, that’s OK because, remember, now you have that new jiu jitsu move you’re going to work on tonight. Or that new personal record in time or weight at the gym. Or that new camera in your photography kit. Or that volunteering event that you’ve signed up for to help others in some way. -I think of it somewhat like a sinusoidal wave function. If you have a seemingly low point in one area of your life, there are still plenty of other high point areas to excel in. You just have to find those things that interest you. And we all experience those low points. That is life. The reason I tend to lean towards fitness stuff is because there is always room for improvement in real time. And the results are an even better you. But that doesn’t mean fitness is the only thing. When I was an instructor in the teams I would train badasses in the desert then on my breaks I would yank out my telescope and observe celestial bodies traversing the night sky. Not that my job was boring, but I just liked to indulge in things that interested me.
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