on “transitioning”

13 Jul

ok i am back! now that i have shared a bunch of beautiful pictures, i have some reality i wish to discuss with my online followers.

as you may or may not know, june 30th was my last day in the army. the last day i’ve been paid and the last day i could answer the question, “so what do you do” with a real answer. yes, i know, i am now technically a student, but classes for my master’s program don’t start until september. i took a lot of pride in having a career and working for my money and supporting christopher and i’s life together. i didn’t know how much i valued paying for my own groceries and items and bills until, quite recently, i haven’t been able to do so.

i digress. i began my “ETS leave” at the beginning of may, and although i wasn’t going to work, i definitely wasn’t relaxing. i started leave at the beginning of christopher’s week of graduating vanderbilt medical school, so i was hosting relatives and shuttling people and hosting a party and dinners – and although it all was AMAZING having the family in town and chris graduating and getting promoted to captain (!), i didn’t have a chance to really think about what was happening in my life. then the monday after his graduation, the movers came to pack, and then they loaded our worldly possessions up and then we drove across the country.

before we knew it, we were in tacoma with a week to kill before the movers brought our things – so we filled our time adventuring and eating voodoo doughnuts in portland. then the movers came, we set up our house and chris started orientation at the hospital on june 1.

the first day chris was gone, i started my thirty day study plan for the PMP exam. thus began my weekday life for the next month, studying for about four hours every morning and then job searching and applying for jobs in the afternoon. when he came home at the end of the day, i was frustrated with what i saw as my foreseeable future (at least until september when classes began). i explained my feelings with him, but as the days went on i became more and more distraught. it is easy to pretend to the world that life is all rainbows and butterflies on instagram – i mean, it isn’t all a smokescreen. i do love living here and everything is beautiful and perfect when i’m out exploring our new town, but the moment i get home i felt like i wasn’t contributing to the world in any real way. it is truly discouraging to feel like your resume is strong and your experience meaningful, and then not have that validated in any way.

during my four months in the hiring our heros program, we received SO MANY lectures about how “transitioning” (i keep putting it in quotes because i don’t like that this is the verb we use to describe leaving the army and entering the civilian sector) is hard and different. but truly, i thought it would be fine for me, or at least i would feel fine. i knew finding a job would take time, and logically i knew it would be harder because i am looking for a part time job in the non profit world while i’m in school, and all of the junior officer recruiters are looking for full time employees for the corporate world. but it really brought me down and i started to realize i didn’t even know where to start. online applications are so impersonal and i didn’t think i was getting any traction (i did get one interview from an online application though. but one out of like twenty.)

after one particularly tearful night with christopher, he sat down with me and looked over job boards with me and encouraged me to contact the veteran affairs office at UWT because when we had visited there previously someone had told me that the woman in charge was a west pointer (i was so hesitant to reach out to anyone – probably my pride problem). so i reached out to her, and to the person in charge of the hiring our heros coordinator at JBLM. one thing let to another and i started meeting face to face with some community leaders in tacoma, and i eventually was recommended to meet one amazing woman, who also is a veteran, and business owner and general superstar in the community. i reached out to her and since that day (just over a week ago lol), my life has felt like it is moving in the correct direction. i’ve signed up for many networking and community events because of her (yes, they are uncomfortable, and reaching out to strangers is awkward, but building a network is so essential, as she’s teaching me). and on tuesday i attended the greater tacoma community foundation’s women’s economic opportunity workshop because my new mentor was a speaker on one of the panels. she literally took me by the hand to meet two other women that could help me, and i have another meeting next week to talk about life and where my path should lead with one of them. i was encouraged to be surrounded by people trying to improve tacoma for women, and by doing that, for everyone.

she’s encouraged me to truly take some time off. and it has helped so much. even simply having the mindset that it is ok to take a break (and not scouring job boards every hour of every day) to figure out what makes you happy and centered. i passed my PMP exam sunday (!) and i had an incredible interview yesterday at a company i can stand behind. although i haven’t had any job offers, i feel so much better opening my lines of communication and meeting so many amazing leaders in this community. i feel like i’m on the right path. i’ve been collecting business cards like pokemon cards, and reaching out to every person i’ve met and exchanged information with.

my story isn’t an actual success story, but to me it already feels like a success story. because i am meeting people and integrating myself into our new community. of course, i hope soon to make at least a little bit of money to offset tuition costs and to not have to ask chris permission (barf) to buy whatever i want from anthroplogie’s sale. but these relationships are more important than working somewhere i am miserable. Β so i guess my main message here is: human interaction is essential, and admitting you don’t know what you are doing is humbling and hard but has led me to some great places already.

it has been hard to my independent pride to come to terms that i am unemployed. i am extremely privileged to be able to say this and to be able to take my time with my next move. i also admit that i am so so lucky to have chris and money saved and food on the table. i want to work somewhere where i can help those not quite as fortunate. and by dipping my toe into the beautiful nonprofit pool that exists in tacoma, i feel like my dream of doing that is much closer than it was a month ago. i already owe so much to this woman who has been helping me (due to privacy and such i’m withholding her name), but what a game changer.

my advice to you, if you’re considering leaving the service or a job in general, is to have a plan – but realize that the plan needs to be flexible and you need people to help you. try to build a network where you’re headed – hang up your pride hat on the peg on the wall, and realize that almost everyone has been where you’ve been, and will offer help – but you have to ask, first.

xoxo,
annie

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needless to say i totally made the right decision to leave, for me. but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t going to be challenges.

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3 Responses to “on “transitioning””

  1. Kimberly Cale July 13, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

    So excited to follow your journey! Cheering from the Shenandoah Valley! I love you!

  2. shalela July 14, 2017 at 3:55 am #

    Anastasia reading this was so surreal because I will be leaving active duty a year from now. I honestly have to say going from high school, to West Point and then to the army has completely sheltered us. Reading about your experience has me nervous but I know it will be the right thing for me to do. I definitely agree networking is a very important key in the civilian sector, that’s why I do it now in and outside the military. A lot of the times it’s all about who you know. I’m glad you met someone and have a mentor in the area. Good luck with school and finding employment that you love. I’ll be taking the corporate America route and will possibly choose my job based off the city I want to live in.

  3. Jack Powell July 14, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    As someone said, “God, Yahwe, Karma, etc, fill in the blank, NEVER closes one door without opening another.” However!! Those LONG DARK HALLS can be quite challenging and disturbing! I’m glad you are beginning to see light shining undet a door!! Hang in there. Great things are in your future!

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