Military transitions just can't be rushed
By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Stars and Stripes | Published: April 21, 2017
A few days ago, I made my usual school drop-off, then took our 2-year-old lab, Moby, on his regular morning walk. While we trudged around the local reservoir, I listened to my latest audio book and focused my eyes on the path, dodging the many goose deposits.
At some point, I managed to lift my head and look out toward the sea. The sight stopped me in my tracks.
While the rest of the hemisphere had been raving for weeks about balmy temps, sprouting buds and baby animals, here in New England I’ve been straitjacketed into a ridiculous full-length down coat since last October. The kind I swore I’d never buy because it makes me look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Moby stood dripping, patiently waiting for me to throw his raggedy tennis ball into the water again, while I paused to take in the scene before me.
It was finally, undoubtedly, splendidly ... spring.
Although the grass seemed a little greener that morning, there had been no obvious signs. No happy tulips, no ducklings beating to stay in line with their mothers, no tender chartreuse shoots on the trees. The air was still a chilly 44 degrees, and despite Moby’s willingness to swim in it, the water was frigid. Beyond the path, the tall reeds between the reservoir and the beach appeared pale, brittle and lifeless. And there was no foliage on the prickly rose hips lining the coastline.
But I saw that, just beyond the dunes, the ocean was glimmering. Juxtaposed against the pale morning sky and the seemingly dormant landscape, the sea was a beautiful blanket of flashing silver sequins.
Suddenly, the day seemed fresh and full of promise. Even Moby’s slimy tennis ball appeared a brighter shade of yellow as I tossed it into the clear, cold water.
I continued down the path with a new spring in my step as I remembered the long winter our family had endured. It had been particularly challenging, because my husband, Francis, had just retired from the Navy after 28 years and was transitioning to a civilian career.
Based upon the positive responses Francis received from various hiring managers, we thought he’d get a job before his terminal leave was over on Nov. 1. But come winter, we realized that the transition would take longer than we had expected.
Francis continued to beat the pavement, networking relentlessly and applying for a wide range of positions in his field. In the meantime, we rearranged our finances to adapt to military retirement pay.
That winter, as I tromped the icy local dog-walking paths each morning, I pushed away fears of long-term unemployment and prayed for good news. The bright civilian future we had imagined appeared dim and foggy.
“You’re overqualified,” Francis heard from two companies. “We need someone with corporate experience,” others said. All those years of military service, working on missions that made a real difference in the world ... Was it all coming down to this?
“Every company wants to help the military, until you ask them to help the military,” one mentor astutely pointed out.
Finally, after many months of networking, phone calls, meetings and interviews, Francis landed the corporate job he was looking for all along, but it is located out of state and requires us to live apart while our daughter Lilly finishes high school. As a military family accustomed to the “geobachelor” lifestyle, we’ve simply adapted to this new routine.
It hasn’t been easy, but we realize that our transition is not complete — we are still cultivating our future. Just like spring in New England, the transition from military to civilian life cannot be rushed.
Even if we can’t yet see them, the seeds of our new life are there, growing invisibly under the surface. They will bloom brightly in due time.
As long as we keep our sights focused on the hopeful, glimmering horizon.
Read more of Lisa Smith Molinari’s columns at: themeatandpotatoesoflife.com.