This week marked my first anniversary of life as a civilian. It has been a whole year since I formally left the military and embarked on a whole new way of life. And what a year it’s been! There have been a whole lot of ups and my fair share of low points but I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
It’s easy to look to back with the benefit of hindsight and see all the dots joining up. But I’ve had to make some really difficult choices along the way to get here – to a point where it feels like life is working itself out. Ironically, one of the reasons I left the military was to have more choices, to be able to make my own choices for a change; having made what I thought would be the hard decision – the decision to leave a successful ten-year career with no real plan, to be honest – I’ve been a little surprised at how difficult these choices can be sometimes.
I met with one of my career advisers this week, a woman who I now consider a friend, who reminded me of the dilemma I thought I faced when I was offered the opportunity to go and volunteer in Bangladesh with VSO. I don’t really remember that now; almost as soon as I had decided to go, it felt like exactly the right decision. And I guess that’s how you know you’re making the right call. You sleep on it and when you wake up, it just feels right.
I’d love to give you all some sage words of wisdom about how to tackle your own tough choices. But I’m really not sure I’ve figured it out, if I’m honest. I generally feel like I’m bumbling along, just trying to put one foot in front of the other and hoping – believing – that it will all fall into place. If you want some good advice, I strongly recommend you head over here and check out Ruth Chang’s TED Talk. As for me, I suppose I would just say a couple of things.
Opportunities don’t just come along. You have to create them for yourself. But when you do, don’t take them for granted. Seize them with both hands and squeeze absolutely everything you can from them.
Every choice has an opportunity cost; by going down one path, by definition, you can’t go down another. It’s really difficult to weigh up the pros and cons of different options but, as a rule, favour ‘sure things’ over ‘may bes’.
Talk to people. Don’t keep going round and round the same thoughts in your head. But don’t abdicate responsibility either. It’s your choice: you have to live with it so you have to make it.
If in doubt, do it. I firmly believe that you only live to regret the things you don’t do in life. Better to be able to look int he mirror and say ‘I tried’ than ‘if only I had…’. Yes, it’s scary (see my post on The Fear from a couple of weeks ago) but it’s also invigorating and exciting.
The principle I try to live by at the moment is that I want to have stories to tell when I’m an old lady; I am going to bore the pants of the other residents of my nursing home one day! What will be important to you when you’re ninety?
Just some of the memories that have made the last year so special 🙂
I can, hand on heart, say that making that decision to leave the military was one of the best I’ve ever made. I still have no idea where I’m going to end up but I am loving the ride!