Friday, February 24, 2017


30 years ago today, a very-much-younger, scared, in-college-loan-debt me shipped out to Navy basic training in Orlando, Florida. How I wish I could reach back and tell that person getting on the plane (you know, the one who freaked out her fellow recruit/seatmate during take-off by grabbing her arm and saying, "Oh, my gosh - we're leaving the ground!") that everything was going to be all right. Because, seriously, I wasn't at all sure of that at the time.

No one in my family was in the military (aside from my father's long-ago stint in WWII). All my college friends either had "real" jobs or were on their way to having same. I felt like a failure: college degree but no job, in debt, no real purpose or goals. What the hell was I doing on this plane?

All I knew was that I had to do something.

My favorite poster EVER
I hated most of my Navy time. There was, as is the military's wont, a lot of stupid. But I was given a job, one involving skills that could transfer to the "real" world. I was given a decent paycheck. I was given health and dental care. All of these things, incidentally, are still easier to come by in the military than in the rest of our society.

But most importantly, I was given the type of experiences that middle class suburbia and the rarefied atmosphere of an Ivy League college could not have provided at that time: living and working with people of color, working under both women and people of color (this was the 1980's, remember), learning about the world of the military and the people who inhabited it, learning about the world of government (I happen to have been stationed at a gov't agency).

Oh, yeah, and I also met Larry. You know, my spouse of 26 years and the father of our 6 kids?

All because I did something.

I look back on that day and feel proud of my scared, unsure, directionless younger self.  And I pass that lesson on to my adult and soon-to-be-adult kids: no matter what, do something. Experience beats sitting around. No matter what you do, good or bad, you take away something from it. And all those little somethings mount up to build a life.

Of course, we know how that goes - they probably won't listen to me, because I'm their mother and what the heck do I know, anyway? But that doesn't matter, really, because that doesn't change the past 3 decades. I'll always have Florida.

[Navy poster image: Wikimedia]


  1. You are right, of course, so your kids should listen! Maybe they will surprise you.

  2. It's good advice for any age.

  3. Fabulous advice! But you are right, they probably won't take it!

  4. You absolutely should feel proud of yourself! I'm proud of and thankful To You for your service.
    The kids will come to the realization that you are right when they get to be our age ;-)

  5. Kids of SubCor: You should Listen To Your Mother!

  6. Wow, I had no idea you'd served. And yes, you are right and it's excellent advice. Keep telling the kids that...eventually it will sink in for at least one of them.

  7. That is great advice and getting on that plane was incredibly brave. Love that poster!

  8. You are inspiring.

  9. I stumbled across your blog a few months ago and am enjoying it immensely.

    I could not agree more with your 2010 post "DO NOT thank me." I'm a retired Army nurse (1968-1988) and it drives me crazy when people thank me for my service. I joined the Army because I got a full ride scholarship to college and stayed in for the pension and because I enjoyed all the amazing people I worked with.

    I've wondered if I was being overly sensitive to the "thanks" so it was nice to read your words.

  10. I couldn't agree more. Just act. It adds up to living a real, full, rich life.