When I left you with the last post I promised that the next missive would be on the 25+ Retirement Seminar. Well, this isn’t it. I didn’t exactly lie (not just because that is just a bad idea in general, and I promise that I will be giving you, the constant reader, all the inside scoop on the 25+ later) but I am instead going to write about the new group that I have found myself becoming a part of- a group that I had never overtly intended to join but happily ended up in anyway.
I became a member when I began attending transition seminars. Not at all unlike the the first couple of days in a high school I started to see the same faces in the seats to my left and right, except now they had grey hair and wrinkles as opposed to the big hair and RayBan Wayfarers that were the rage when I left the hallowed halls of my youthful education. In a surprising departure from our love affair with snappy uniforms with lots of sparkly trinkets the courses are conducted in civilian clothes, so there were none of the trappings that are part and parcel of martial life; no rank insignia or rack of ribbons to show our standing in the pecking order. Becoming civilians again began with the simple act of dressing like civilians- it made us all equal again, just like we used to be. We were all of similar age and were similarly dressed in the standard collared shirt and khaki slacks which compose the non-uniform that we all wear when we can’t wear a uniform. Much as we leave the world as naked as we entered it, my cohorts and I were decamping from the service in the mufti we abandoned to don the cloth of the nation.
Where before I considered myself carnivorous to a fault, I left the pack and fell in with very different crowd. I affectionately call them (us!) the herd. It is not a pejorative title in the least, but a descriptive observation of the new strata I found myself in. When you are on active duty, you are moving at a million miles an hour in about a hundred different directions. Compartmentalized thinking and multitasking are the norm- you almost never have the luxury of just tackling one problem at a time. As such, when all tend to be in a hurry, may be a bit brusque in our speech, and never have time to sit back and watch the leaves blow in the wind.
Once you drop your papers and announce that you are departing the service your ride on the waves of chaos comes to an end. You turn over flag to the next guy or gal, hand in your blackberry, and lose your parking spot- but you get your life back! All of a sudden you can take your kids to school and plan for holidays with the certainty that you won’t be hanging tinsel on a tree made out of an ammunition crate made festive with olive drab paint. Just as significant as these marvelous changes is your inculcation into a covey of people just like you- recently careworn, stressed out, and career-driven, but now shifting their lives to civilian side of the fence.
No longer part of the rapacious pack, we are all members of the congenial herd. Regardless of our background- pilot, grunt, artilleryman, mechanic, whatever- we are all now taking the same train to the same destination. We are all leaving our chosen profession to pursue life on civvie street, and just as the Unsinkable Molly Brown observed as she watched the Titanic sink beneath the waves, we were all in the same boat-first class and steerage passengers all lumped together. The ride is about to end. But that’s ok. There are plenty of other rides out there, and for a change we get to choose which one we want to try.