"Nothing ventured, nothing gained." - Navjot Singh Sidhu
As I’m sure most of you know, I am a Navy Reservist. Back in March of 2014, I got a phone call that changed my year—and my life. It was a normal Thursday at the office, I was tired of being cooped up inside on such a gorgeous day, so I IMed my work bestie and convinced her to go sit outside on the patio with me for a while. And off we went! After our standard first-world-girl-problems chat, I headed back into the dungeon for one final hour of work. I never could have been ready for what was about to happen next.
As I got back to my desk there was a post-it on my computer with a name and number scribbled across it. Before I could even yank it off to read it, my boisterous coworker, Glori, rolled out of her cubicle, and in her thick Spanish accent said, “Somebody kept calling and calling for you! And so I answered it and he sounded so seeeerious! Very official. He said something about the Navy.”
Hmm, I thought, it’s probably my Navy Reserve supervisor wondering about the upcoming inspection that I’m helping him prepare for. But as I read the note I realized it wasn’t. This was my commander’s name, and he never calls me! Oh crap, I hope I haven’t really messed something up. Well, better face the music ASAP, I thought, and began to dial.
When he picked up the phone, I told him it was me and that I was returning his call. His words were, “Are you sitting down?” And my heart plummeted into my stomach. I suddenly realized why he was calling. “Oh fuck,” jumped out of my mouth before I could stop it. In a very empathetic yet serious tone he assured me it wasn’t so bad—it was only to Qatar not Afghanistan, and only for seven months versus the typical 12 months Navy Reservists are usually sentenced with—and gave me a list of things to do before hanging up. The only thing I heard was deployment.
I wanted to cry. And die. And call him back, yell at him, and tell him that I can’t go! I won’t go! I quit! I don’t belong in the Navy! I’m a fancy financial consultant living in DC. I paint my nails hot pink and wear high heels to work every day! I can’t deploy!
Luckily, I was at work. And my coworker, David—a 12-year Marine, current reservist, and level-headed influence—overheard the entire conversation and was in my cubicle before I could get up to run out of there crying. He looked at me and said, “Are you okay?” “In shock,” I said. He sympathized and assured me over and over again that it’d be okay. He told me about his deployment to Iraq, and that our company would support me 100 percent. It wasn’t long before I was smiling and he was googling pictures of the Qatari beaches and joking that I was actually going on vacation, not deployment!
As the reality set in, I broke the news to my friends and family one by one. A lot of them were confused and worried. Some made handling the news easier; others were so freaked out—lacking any understanding of the military—that it made me even more nervous. My mother was especially afraid that I’d be on the front lines, in danger, and that I may not come back in one piece. I assured her that I was going to the safest place possible for a deployment, and that she had nothing to worry about. I was also convincing myself.
I honestly wasn’t sure how to feel. On one hand, I didn’t want to be inconvenienced by the deployment. I didn’t want to give up my routine and all of the amenities and luxuries of America that I was used to. I didn’t want to be away from my family and friends, and house, car, and job. Most of all, I didn’t want to be alone. On the other hand, I was excited. I had been on active duty for four years and, though I wanted to, hadn’t left the continental United States. I thrive during times of change, and looked forward to trying something new. I also had a very difficult client at the time, and was secretly glad to be leaving them in the dust!
Probably the best thing to come out of receiving the news was that it forced me to reflect on my life. You know how they say, “what would you do if you were told you only had X amount of time to live?” It was sort of like that. I had 6 months until my departure date, and after that I had no idea, and no control over, what was to come. The next 6 months were all I had and I was determined to make the best of them. It forced me to prioritize better and to only spend my time and energy on the people and things that mattered most to me.
I saw my family more that summer than I did in the entire year before that. I visited more touristy spots in DC, ate at all of the restaurants that I had been meaning to with my best friends, and checked off a few items on my bucket list. I also did some difficult things. Like finally confronting my difficult roommate about her difficultness, and admitting to myself that my relationship with my ex was going nowhere, and having the courage to end it. While these things weren’t easy, they were necessary. And when you only have six months, it makes you realize that time is limited and precious, and wasting yours and other people’s is always a bad idea.
Five months into my deployment, I can honestly say that I’m glad I got that phone call. Although it hasn’t by any means been easy, and I am counting down the days until my feet touch American soil again, it has definitely been worth it. Sometimes when you step (or are forced) outside your comfort zone, it really is the best (and sometimes the only) way to become a better you! I have a renewed outlook on life that I wouldn’t have gotten sitting inside my little cubicle in DC, and a newfound respect for what the military members of our country sacrifice on a daily basis in order for me to have the privilege of sashaying around DC in my high heels and hot pink nail polish.