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I recently reconnected with an old friend that I met years ago and we talked about life and how things have panned out. They were going to join the Navy and decided not to at the time. Their comment was that they wished they had joined the Navy and not chose to do things the “hard way.” This is a theme I have heard from my friends and family over the years. That some how joining the military makes things easier? Let’s talk about my time in the Navy. Over 20 years. I was stationed on 5 ships (USS John Young DD-973, USS Lake Champlain CG-57, USS Bataan LHD-5, USS Boxer LHD-4, USS New Orleans LPD-18), did 10 deployments with only one being six months long (the rest were 8-9 months long) and spent some not so always fun time in a very hot and sandy spot. I was stationed in Portland, OR (semi-successful recruiting tour),San Diego, Ca, Newport, RI (amazingly successful Officer Training and Teaching Tour) and Norfolk, VA. I’ve been to Guam (x2), Puerto Rico (x2), Barbados, San Lucas, Peru, South Korea, Hong Kong (x2), Australia (x4), Oman, Jordan, Mubai (x100000000), Singapore (x2), Germany, Bali, Sri Lanka, India (EW), Thailand, Malaysia, Djibouti (i still snicker when I say that), Kuwait, Israel, Turkey, Malta, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, Canada, Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar, Dubai (x100000000000), Bahrain (x200000000000) and all over the US (I’m sure I am forgetting places). I’ve met SO MANY people from SO MANY places. I have had the ability to touch so many lives for the better (I hope). Made life long friendships with people that I know I would never have had the chance to have without the Navy. Worked on 3 different missile systems, a 5 inch gun system, 5 different radar systems and my pride and join 1 BAD bum (sorry for the language Mom) 20mm Gatling Gun system. I taught Naval Warfare tactics, ship handling, Small Arms Marksmanship and A MILLION other topics to new and old Sailors. I learned how to tell you the electrical resistance of a circuit (though I think my brain would hurt from that today). I learned how to accurately place ordinance on target, on time (Warheads on Foreheads). I’ve been shot at (believe it or not on more than one occasion). I was involved in several VERY pivotal and historical events (they even made a movie about one, but I can’t talk about it “I am the Captain now.”) Saw some SUPER COOL poop (sorry for the language Mom). Blew some poop up (LOTS OF poop) (SORRY FOR THE LANGUAGE FOR REAL MOM). Probably have fired more rounds down range than most Sailors. A sparrow tattoo on a Sailor equals 5000 nautical miles, I recently did the math (because ya know, need more ink) and I need 26 sparrows.... I’ve been on every single continent except Antarctica. I’ve been colder than I ever want to be ever again (-45) and hotter than I ever want to be (145). I have drank more Rip-It’s than I ever want to admit. Eatin food from SO MANY cultures. Drank so much that I thought my liver was literally going to come out of my body, been drunk on beaches in Bali by 10am. I have done so many amazing things that I can’t believe I had the chance to do, swam in every ocean, been a poly wog and then a Golden Shellback (Sailors will understand), eaten chow that I was unsure of what it was, and drank the darkest coffee you’ve ever seen in your life that I’m pretty sure equated to cocaine in a cup. I have a stack of ribbons and medals and certificates in pretty padded folders and a set of anchors that show all the deeds I have excelled at over the years. Now those are some of the great things, lets talk perspective and reality. I was in Boot Camp when my adopted Grandma passed away, “A” School when my Uncle Dan passed away, on deployment when my Grandpa passed away, on deployment when my Grandma passed away, unable to take leave when my Uncle Ron passed away and I never got to say “Good Bye” to any of them... I have been in (I know this will be a surprise to some of you) TWO failed marriages, both of which ended when I found out they cheated on me (though I am pretty sure both said that I was the one that cheated). I missed COUNTLESS anniversaries which led me to understand why they had cheated. My last marriage lasted almost 5 years, of which I did the math, I was only home for 2 of. I missed so many birthdays and landmarks in the family that I have no idea of.... I have no real relationship with (except to be a source of money) 2 children that I fought for years with their mother to try to have a relationship with. Which at this point now I am just waiting for them to come to me. I never owned a house of my own because I was never sure of where I would go next and whether I would stay somewhere. As a result of the above I tend to place myself in a self imposed isolation from those I care about due to the fact that, well, to be truthfully honest, I don’t even think I know how to be in a family anymore. I have clinical depression that I battle with almost daily and went to years of therapy for. I have clinical anxiety, bordering on PTSD as a result of things that have happened to me in my past. I have been an E4 twice and and E5 twice because of toxic and garbage leadership (though in the end I owned my mistakes and they made me a better leader for it, they still have not owned theirs). I stayed in to try to ensure the same bullshit I went through professionally and personally didn’t happen or could be prevented. I have just now started to get my finances in order to even think about maybe buying my own home hopefully in the next 10 years, due to years of being too nice to an Ex that I was till living my life for still up to about 4 years ago. I have spent more time feeling more lonely than I would like to admit, even when I was in a room full of folks. I’ve decorated fake Christmas trees in my workshops and watched while the “kids” I worked with celebrated New Years in hanger bays thousands of miles from home. Taken Sailors duty on Christmas Day, New Years Eve/Day and Valentines Day, because NONE of those holidays mean a damn thing to me anymore. When leaving for my deployment in 2010 I was given a counseling for not “manning the rails” to say “good bye,” to San Diego with the rest of my division in our dress uniforms. And not counseled when I gave my response as to why, by screaming at the top of lungs at a senior petty officer that I didn’t do so because everyone had family and friends on the pier and my family that I hadn’t told anyone but a close friend wasn’t because I was legally separated from weren’t there. I watched horrified while a Sailor shot himself on watch while I was the Chief of the Guard (that still haunts me). I have felt guilt to this day for putting a young kid in the US Navy in 2003 who was killed in a small village in Afghanistan in 2007. I have spent more time in my life with walls around my heart and soul than not, as a result. I am a suicide attempt and ideation survivor. I am a loner for the most part, have always been, probably always will be. It tends to lend to be the easier path. In the end, remember this, we ALL have a hard life. It is all a matter of perspective. Am I going to be okay? I don’t know, I would like to thinks so. As a result of much of the bullshit (sorry once again for the language Mom) that has occurred in my life I have found that those that I tend to let into my life, tend to be attached to me somehow or some way for the long haul. I have always said that NO MATTER WHAT, if you need help, put your pride on a shelf and ask me for it and you KNOW I will be there for you. Remember it is not about materialistic things or money that makes you successful, it is how you learn from life. Or IF you learn from life and life experiences. Telling those that you love, that you love them, hugging them when you see them (not just a hand shake necessarily). Always keeping an open line of communication or trying to talk to those you care about. These things are most important in life. Grow together, stay connected, we have each other. These are the important things in life.
Life - It's a Killer! It has been an interesting half year, let me tell you! New job, new activities, new classes, change, change, change! It started to rain in January and it just kept pouring until June! I am sure you know the feeling - as Dads I think we all struggle with it. I am talking about: WORK & LIFE BALANCE! It can be hard to balance work and life. Many factors to weigh and many pressures to resist while being distracted by dozens of tasks.... How are we to try and even consider balance? Well, in light of my (tentative, LOL) return after a nearly 6 month hiatus I figured what better topic to talk about than work & life balance! Now, work can be many things. For some Dads "work" might be "chores" or "hobbies," rather than traditional employment. It could be homeschooling your children. It could be caring for a relative. Work is generally a task that needs to happen in order to ensure sufficient resources for a pleasant life. "Life" is the ability to enjoy the fruits coming from "work." Life is relaxing with friends, good meals, vacations, hobbies, gaming, engaging with our children and other family. Its the stuff we look back on and say, "That's what it's all about." The trick, which I am sure you know, is figuring out how much work you need and how much life you can afford! If we could, I am pretty sure most of us would choose to just live all the time. But sadly, my wealth doesn't support such goals. At least, not yet 😉. So if I can't live all day, I guess that means I got to work some. Luckily, I rather enjoy my work. So it makes going to work no nearly as painful as some jobs in my past. Maybe that's you right now; work sucks. I feel for you. I hope to write up a few blogs on ways to help find opportunities to find better work. But today, we just need to find balance. So how do we do that? By setting BOUNDARIES and RULES! You know, those things you set for your children and tell them they can't do certain things? Yah, they work on adults, too! The trick to finding balance is setting boundaries and rules. Of course, setting these ain't easy. Boundaries are often discarded because of discomfort or guilt. Rules get tossed because you break it a few times and it seems too much work to make it stick. But you are a Dad! This isn't the first time where a rule was ignored and then re-established (looking at you "no electronics on the weekend until your chores are done." Don't think I forgot about you!). Dakar's Boundaries and Rules for Dad: Plot Personal Time - This is actually a bunch of things rolled into one; but let's focus on family and self. Each member of your family needs three to four events per week with you. Some of those can be group events, but at least one even each week needs to be one on one if possible. Events could be dinner, game night, or walking to the park. Maybe it's sitting on the couch and watching a movie with popcorn together. During these events, put the phone and tablets away. Focus on being present. Make three to four events per week for events with yourself... you need time too. Some of the is direct self care; physical, mentel, or spiritual. The rest is just decompression and relaxation; gaming, sports (watching or playing), reading, or whatever other hobbies you enjoy. Of course, nothing says you can't mix it up and do self time with others - poker night, clan battles, etc. Set Work Hours - Depending on your particular field, this can be tough. Still, you need to do it. The least you need to do is find a way to make family time disconnected from work time. Find three to four times a week per person where you can turn off the phone and pay attention to them. If you can't do that, finding balance is still possible, but you need to make sure that you are taking advantage of every opportunity when work leaves you alone to focus on family and self. I could write more, but in the end I think it comes down to priorities and long term goals. I never met an old man who wished he add earned more overtime. I have met the man who wished for just one extra minute with his family. Make exercise a MUST DO - This is my worst offender right now. When things pile up exercise time becomes "time to get things done." Which means there are still things to do (cause there is never enough time!) and I am not exercising. Unless you work a job that keeps you moving all day, you NEED exercise. Especially if you work 40 hours or more at a desk... Otherwise you may not live long enough to enjoy life after the desk! Harsh, but true! So make sure you are getting in your exercise. Some cheats to this are making SOME exercise part of your family and self time. Even a simple walk around the park is better than not. Walking with family is even better - help instil positive exercise ethics in them and yourself! Just make sure that you don't make all family time exercise time...each deserves some time on its own. Be Realistic - Know thy self. Don't go through this list and try and do everything perfectly today. Its gonna take time. Set small achievable goals. Haven't been exercising? Do some push-ups and sit-ups/crunches. Right now. Good. Now, when will you do that again? Why not when you wake up while the coffee is being made? Small steps. This week, if you don't normally do it, have a family dinner once week. Even if its take out. Just sit down in one place. For ten minutes. Say hi. That's enough. Once you get those ten minutes, got for eleven! The key is to try, fail and try again. Ask for Help - This ties into "Be realistic." Help comes from all different sources; friends, family, co-workers, DHO. Ask for help in setting boundaries. Ask friends and coworkers not to call during family dinner or family game night. Work with supervisors to set up exercise time before, during or after work - sell them on how healthy workers cost less in injuries, insurance and down time! Ask that friend who does all the stuff how they do it and try out some of their suggestions. Google "how do I find work life balance" and give some of those tips a try. Whatever it is, get the help you need to make this work. Manage Your Mind - Things are never going to be perfectly smooth all the time. You need to be resilient to change. Self-help books on building a resilient mindset can do wonders. THere are some great podcasts and youtube video series out there for inspiration, mindfulness and self care. WHen fear or self doubt happen, you need to take time to address it. Your emotions can get in your way if they aren't kept in check; both good and bad! Set Long Term Goals - What does 5 years from now look like? What does 10 or 20 years look like? Does that plan allow for work life balance? If not, is the plan worth it? If so, how will you manage until then? Re-evaluate regularly - Life is what happens to you while you are making plans. Not sure who said it first, but I find it far too accurate. Unexpected child, new job (or lost job), natural disaster, new friends and family; all of this will mean that a new balance needs to be established. This isn't a one size fits all thing. Your balance is going to be unbalanced at some point. Make sure you make time to check! Set Time for Finances - I put this last, but don't let that fool you. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do to build balance. If you don't know what you can afford in terms of balance, how can you ever hope to achieve it? Make sure you are looking at your income, bills, charges, and expenditures at least once a month. Check to make sure you didn't sign up for a free trial and it turned into a monthly bill. Do you go overboard last week on movie tickets? Or maybe its time to consider preparing for and asking for a raise or maybe look for a new job opportunity. If you can't control your finances, they WILL control you. Make sure to keep on top of your finances as best you can and this will have a huge influence on your ability to balance work and life. Start Small - 80/20 Rule - 80% of the effect comes for 20% of the events. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle Just a few small changes can make huge rewards. Make a few small boundaries and rules and see what happens. You might be surprised how much impact it can have on your work life balance!
Addresses. When is the last time you thought about your address? How about all you addresses for the last 3 years? Five years? TEN YEARS? I have. Especially in the last few hours... the background check I am filling out wants every address I have lived at for the last 10 years AND someone who can verify that I lived there. Luckily, I have a folder. A very special folder. A folder that contains all the little tidbits of my pasts lives that I don't keep i my head any more. It's my "Occasionally Super High Important Tidbits" Folder. Yep, the "OSHIT" Folder. Aptly named as I have regularly face-palmed myself and said this aloud when trying to recall the information form memory. So why talk about this? Here I sit - 3 hours into filling out a background check for a potential "government" job - and I realize, "Damn, I'm lucky to have my OSHIT Folder." Without it I would be calling my mom and family, looking through old emails, or find old post to remember every address of the last ten years. And then I remember that my dad never taught me this - I learned this on my own... Professionally, I do occasional client work as a Life and Career Coach as a part time "side hustle." I used to teach transitioning skills professionally, but that opportunity has moved on, and so have I. The information and skills a received in that area are really valuable, and you see just how little people know about "looking for work." Its not their fault - looking for work is usually not something we think about as needing to have a skill in as we (hopefully) don't need to look to often. And when we do look for work, we go with "age old, tried and true wisdom" so we are all set, right? What could go wrong? Well, lots, and not being told to have an OSHIT folder is one of the many things I now coach clients on regularly. Things I wish I Knew This information (addresses over the last ten, or even twenty, years) is the sort of thing you don't know you need! One of best things about being a dad is passing on lessons you have learned to the next generation. In that simple act, you give a jump start to that person, helping get them to the next level. No amount of "now, listen your old man" can replace going out and doing things on your own and learning the lessons for yourself, there are many ways to reduce time wasted and stress encountered if you only listed. The folder is useful for more than just work applications. If you want to rent, take out a mortgage, or any number of other "big" life events, the information in the folder can be invaluable and save you lots of time and stress. Not to mention awkward phone calls asking your sister when her wedding date was - the one I missed because I was overseas and couldn't attend that she still holds against me... just a little... (Yah, I needed that info for my background check and I cringed! It asked for her name(s) and when she changed her name I needed the date. FML ) What's in the Box, er, Folder? So what's in the folder? Tidbits; little bits of knowledge that i have learned might be important to have in the future but are generally hard to remember and/or will be hard to find later. A perfect example is "previous home & mailing addresses." What can/should go in YOUR folder? Address going back to Age 18 bonus points if you have landlord contact info or someone NOT a family member that can verify you lived there. Employers/Companies Physical Company Address Phone Number & Email Positions Held Title & Dates bonus points for a description of what you did Supervisors of each Position Name Phone number & Email References - Keep these up to date! Friends/Coworkers going back at least 10 years Addresses, Phone numbers & Emails Car Registrations Type/Model, VIN & License Plate #s Credit Card Accounts / Loans Account # When you Opened it & Closed Accounts Personal Phone Numbers bonus points for when you had them Family Information Mom, Dad, Siblings, Children Dates of Birth, Places of Birth, and contact info This is not a huge amount in terms of words, maybe a few pages, but the wealth of the information is huge. I also realize that the information may go out of date - specifically contact information, phone numbers and emails. In short, don't stress too much. Write down what it was at the time and update it if you know it changes. In most cases people like to see you have the information to put in the spots, and if it is a background check, they will use what is accurate to do the check. Its not your fault things change. Just make sure your references are people you still talk to... Because the size of this stuff is rather small my folder is actually a digital, not a physical, document. I email my self a copy each time I add something and I save a copy on my computers and back up drive (when I remember to do so...) so worse case is I might lose the most recent information (the easiest information to recollect, thankfully) so not a big deal. Start Now - Keep it Up to Date I use Microsoft OneNote to organize my OSHIT Folder, along with many other bits of information. It syncs between my computers, tablets, and phone. You can password protect sensitive information on OneNote, so that's a huge plus. If you aren't sure, just keep a paper copy in you safe and in an actual folder. Okay, now it's your turn! Do you have an OSHIT Folder? Do you thin its a good idea? What advice would you give that I missed? Comment below!