Today is a special day, and for me, it is a day of introspection and gratitude. It has been more than three decades since I last wore the uniform, but my time as an active duty military service member helped to shape me into the person that I am today. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get out. Now that I’m older, I feel more pride with each passing year. I’m a huge proponent of raising independent young adults and my own experience assures me that it is possible. Military service is a viable option for all healthy young adults, both male and female. Today, I had an epiphany about my personal fears which led to deeper gratitude. I wanted to go the Veteran’s Day ceremony today, but had decided not to because my husband was working and I didn’t want to go alone. Then I remembered that when I went to boot camp, I didn’t have a husband. Each time I checked into a new command (6 times), I did so without a husband or a parent. That realization was all I needed to spur me to action. Within an hour, I was standing tall with my brothers and sisters. I spent a good part of the rest of the day talking to people I didn’t know at the local American Legion post. It was a very good day! I’d like to talk a little about how you can encourage your kids to make the best of the opportunities that are presented to them. Here are some of the things I learned from my personal experience:
If an opportunity comes your way, seize it. You never know if there will be a second chance. I was lucky enough to have a large portion of my tuition paid for when I was on active duty. This was in addition to the technical training that I received for free. Twenty years later, I worked for another organization which paid 100% of my tuition. Completing the classes was still a lot of work on my part, but I am ever thankful for the opportunity. I’ve read so much about college debt, but I’ve personally known many adults who chose to go to school while working full-time or get an education by joining the military. Neither is easy, but they are debt busters for sure!
Don’t make age a factor in whatever you choose to do. When I started on active duty at age 19, I knew I could receive a pension if I just stayed in for 20 years. However, at that point, I felt like it would be literally FOREVER until I was 39. Well, in retrospect, it just took a few minutes to get there. Ah to be 39 again! I was well into my 5th decade of life before I got my long coveted bachelor’s degree.
Don’t let fear cheat you out of life. When I was 20, I had to drive over 1000 miles to report to my new duty station. I was terrified to go there alone, but I had no other options. That was not the outcome I had hoped for, but turned out to be what I really needed. After I successfully made that trip, I felt I could go anywhere. What an amazing sense of satisfaction that gave me! I was fully prepared for my next duty station where I had to drive from coast to coast.
Time is a precious thing to waste. I had a division officer who I rarely talked to. He wasn’t particularly warm, but I remember the day he actually leaned over from his lofty pedestal to declare to me that ‘time is a precious thing to waste”. It was a wise sentiment which I didn’t heed. Maybe it was because of his pious delivery, or maybe because I was young and foolish. Regardless, I remember his words and would like a chance to vindicate myself by sharing them with other teens and young adults!
Your daily habits create your reality. This applies to all of life, but my mission is to guide people towards financial solvency. I have a very vivid memory of being in my first technical school. I would get paid twice per month along with my peers. Our housing was provided, as well as our meals. Inevitably, right before payday, some people weren’t shy about asking for money. They weren’t looking for a loan. The conversation went something like, “Can I have a dollar?” If didn’t matter to them if they even knew the name of the potential donor. I wonder how these people managed to get through life. Their needs were all being met so all of their income was disposable, yet they couldn’t make it last until payday. Watching how your teens or young adults manage their disposable income today is a good indicator of how they’ll manage on their own in the future.
I’m eternally grateful for the opportunities that I have been given. Even though I’m painfully aware of every stupid mistake I’ve made, those are fewer than the times I’ve said “yes” to a chance that I have been given. Many of my breaks came while I was in the military but the prudent can find them anywhere. Encourage your kids to step up and say “yes” when they are just a little bit afraid. The sense of accomplishment they’ll get from that is something no one can ever take away. Decades later, they’ll be able to draw strength from those memories of success and climb over whatever new mountain lies in their path!