I learned early in my career that progress and personal development rely heavily on self-evaluation and willful action, but in the Spring of 2008 when I shed my military uniform and began my lengthy transformation from Soldier to civilian, I couldn’t begin to understand how muddy that process could be upon assimilation.
When a Soldier leaves their unit behind he or she also leaves behind a wealth of support that’s essential to their sense of self-worth, well-being and community. However, beyond the internal stress of this loss they also face the full weight of real-world pressures that can threaten their ability to focus on that internal struggle and overcome the difficulty that underscores their new life.
This pressure can come from loss of financial security, society’s need for conformance, or even physical health. I know this was the case for me in my life.
I left the military during a formative stage in the early life of my small family. My wife and I had barely been married for 6 months, and soon after my transition began we found out our first child was on the way.
The struggle was real.
As the reality of 2008’s recession began to settle in, the urgent need for me to find lucrative work began to savage my mind and spirit. If I couldn’t find a job, I wouldn’t be able to meet the needs of my new family.
This is when fear began to take its toll.
After 9 months of rejection I stumbled upon work as a Program Manager in an industry I had no previous knowledge of. I was suddenly exposed to the inner workings of window and door certification; a field that very few people know anything about.
Soldiers are nothing if not adaptable.
In less than 90 days I gained a foothold in the industry through establishing a framework for my new organizational role in the industry, networking, and developing critical knowledge of the certification process.
Skill would be important but for the time being persistence would be key.
I was determined to use this new found opportunity as a springboard to a better future for my family. To support this initiative, I set my mind to the task of finding new work within two years.
I was hired to develop and implement the business rules of a new internal certification program, and that’s just what I’d do. This required a lot of brain work, but the task was sedentary.
This was a huge shift in lifestyle for me. I went from carrying machine guns, and installing networks on the edge of the world, to sitting stationary behind a desk all day. The new work took its toll on my mind and body. I began to feel separate from the world. However, with my new found responsibilities there was little time to reflect on the fact.
I achieved a wealth of early success in the project, but as things progressed, and the task shifted from development to maintenance, creativity left the building and in its wake monotony prevailed.
I struggled to find fulfillment in the work.
As I settled into my new job my daughter was born, and soon following I found out my son would arrive less than a year later.
I went into survival mode. My career focus shifted from professional development to creating stability for my family.
Time moved on but I didn’t, 2 years turned into 5, and my sense of self-worth suffered its passage.
I felt preoccupied by my fading sense of self; and to suffer in this mind state is to invite apathy.
In 2013, as the changes occurring in my family began to stabilize, I made the decision to return to school. If I didn’t do something to change my circumstance, it would mean my family would begin to suffer the consequences of my increasingly unhealthy mind state; and my career would stagnate.
As I began this new chapter in academia, new life was breathed into my daily life. However, to pursue my studies also meant I had to spend more time in front of my computer screen.
I became married to Microsoft and to its suite of productivity software.
As this new relationship with technology progressed so did the size of my belly.
My body shifted from the lean 215 lbs. of muscle I left the service with to a much softer 235 lbs. version of itself. My energy level soon began to suffer, and so did my past hunger for an active life.
Personally, I find this state of being to be unacceptable.
I understand the circumstances that led me to this point, but to remain here would be tragic.
As a Non-commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army I learned that a leader’s physical character is made up of three key attributes:
- Health Fitness
- Physical Fitness
- Professional Bearing
Maintaining a high level of physical fitness is a critical component of resiliency, and a core strength for any leader. It gives a leader the energy they need to face the daily challenge of leadership, the confidence they need to interact with stakeholders in any organization, and a charismatic leg up in interactions with the individuals they lead.
But, as we all know, to remain fit takes discipline and effort.
Although I appreciate the opportunity that was given me, I’ve since moved on from that first job out of the Army, and as such have found time for a new beginning.
So with that in mind, today is day one of what I’m going to call physical rejuvenation. After all, I’m not attempting a body transformation. What I’m seeking is a return to normalcy.
Phase one of this journey is a time of preparation for a lengthy training period that will follow, and it will last for approximately 2 to 3 weeks depending on my bodies physical response to its new level of activity.
Today is a fitting start for this new journey, its Independence Day.
Today I am free. Free of the prison of my added body weight. Free from the negligent apathy that poor fitness can bring. Free to live life on my new journey.
Thanks for experiencing this new day with me.