Just like you, I have made a great deal of decisions throughout my lifetime. One decision in particular always spins around in the back of my mind. I effectively had 2 paths before me. Either direction I chose had life changing results tied to it, and it truly was a pivotal moment in my life.
In 2011, I decided to retire from the United States Navy.
Easily the hardest decision of my adult life. It meant that I was going to completely change my way of life. Had I decided to stay in, I would have most likely made Master Chief by now, and I was already on my way to becoming a Command Master Chief. Equally as life changing, but still within the structure I was accustomed to.
Let’s not mitigate the impact this decision would have on my family. Command Master Chief billets are world-wide deployable, no real negotiation of where or when, or even type of duty, and could take me away from my family for even longer periods of time than they were already experiencing. However, retiring meant an enormous amount of uncertainty about the future. No-one can really survive totally on Enlisted Military Retirement pay, especially while supporting a family. I would need a new career. Not as easy a feat as you might think.
To say I was apprehensive would be an understatement. To say I was terrified would be accurate. Both paths set before me meant drastic changes for my family and I. I sought the counsel of, well…. Everyone I knew (and even a few people I didn’t really know). I weighed the options, and in the end made the decision I felt made the most sense for my family.
I got lucky. I landed an AMAZING job shortly after I transitioned back to Civilian life. Has it been challenging at times to adjust? ABSOLUTELY! If I’m being completely honest, it still is, and I imagine it will always be, at least to some degree. Comes with the territory.
Perspective has been delivered to me today. It has been reported, and verified, that the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group has been extended on their current deployment by a factor of no less than 30 days. This is near and dear to my heart. My last duty station was VFA-32, who deploys upon that magnificent ship. The Sailors and Marines who currently serve onboard her will undoubtedly take it in stride. “All part of the job. Embrace the suck.” Words I’ve not only uttered, but eventually helped others learn to chant like an old ritual prayer.
So, back to the title of this post. The best and worst decision I ever made.
Best: I made a decision that brought me home for good. No more deployments, some of which lasted nearly a year. Now I’m home for holidays, birthdays, dance recitals, band concerts, soccer games, and (as of today) seeing my Daughter become the first Smith to ever graduate college. I can be more than a provider and a protector. I feel I can be the Father my kids need me to be.
Worst: I feel guilty. Guilt for leaving my Navy when she needed me. Guilt for leaving my Sailors. I know my Sailors hold no ill will towards me, and in fact applaud and support me for my decision. Here’s where the rubber meets the road for me. I KNEW I made a difference in my Sailors lives, every single day. I saw it in their performance. I heard it in their words and voice. I saw it in their eyes. I spoke their language, and they spoke mine. I heard this news today, and knew exactly what needed to be said to those Sailors; what needed to be done to lead them through this difficult time.
To my surprise, when I looked around my garage, there were no Sailors to be found, save myself. What I did find was clarity!
Please do not take this as a tale of woe or regret. I feel no regret; no anger or sorrow from the decision I made. Life is full of decisions. Some are good, some are bad. MOST land somewhere in the middle. It’s important to reflect on these decisions, but not dwell on them to the point of self-doubt. For my family; for myself; and for the lives I’ve touched in my new role as a Civilian, I know in my heart that it was the RIGHT decision. I truly believe that every decision a person makes always comes from a good place for that particular individual.
My question to you, dear reader, is this:
What decisions have you made that changed your life? What decision are you going to make today to change your life? Most importantly, what are you afraid of?
No impactful decision was every made from a comfortable place. Take a deep breath, and take a leap of faith. Trust in yourself, and the support of those around you. If you think you have no-one, reach out to me. I am a Coach. I know many Coaches willing and waiting to help you. It’s what we do.