This whole past couple weeks I’ve been horribly distracted. I feel numb in so many ways still; I write some chapters and I am standing outside that person I was, watching whatever happened happen. I am surprisingly still desensitized towards so much of the trauma. The crude way men treated me, or spoke to me; it’s still vivid, but it doesn’t cut like a knife so badly anymore. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
I don’t even know where to begin, because in order to understand the middle you have to start at the very beginning of my story. Why did I join the Navy? No one ever asks that question. Most everyone wants to know the fun stuff; What ports were you at? What ships you been on? How long were you in? What job did you do? No one asks the deep questions, and that’s fine. I have finally had to sit and reflect on it, because the reason why was what got me through the toughest things I have ever had to go through.
At first I really wanted to make my dad proud, and I wanted to go travel. I didn’t want to go to college just yet, and I had been laid-off from a job with no other prospects in sight. I had also just had a baby and given her up for adoption and I was still reeling from that. I made the best decision for her no doubt, but I was pent up, restless; wanting to do something and figure myself out instantly.
I had always loved Tom Clancy. I had been reading his books as well as Stephen King since I was 7 years old. I wasn’t a content kid to just read normal kid stuff; apparently this has caused me some damage in many ways, since my life reads like a Tom Clancy/Stephen King collaboration that went horribly wrong. I think Top Gun also helped; but what really did it was I’ve just plain loved water all my life. I was born next to Puget Sound, and I loved the smell of salt, and the gentle slap of waves on rocks at the beach. I was also a lucky kid being taken out sailing on a 30 foot yacht between the ages of 7-13 on Lake Michigan in the warm summer sun when I lived outside Chicago, and this impacted my best memories.
So I chose the Navy because I wanted a guarantee to see the world going to sea. It was in line with the Bohemian theme of my younger years. I looked at the Air Force as a desk job, locked in one place, on land. And that was anathema to me.
The recruiters didn’t have to talk me into anything, which probably pleased them immensely. I scored really high on the ASVAB entry test and they offered me “Damage Controlman” who are the Navy’s fire fighters, who teach shipboard fire fighting and are the main responders in case of any conflagration. I thought “Damn that’s awesome!”
But DC was only my source rate; I was actually pegged for Navy diver, which excited me more. I’ll never forget how proud my dad was. He had been a firefighter when I was younger, and he wished he had been able to be a diver as well. His praise for me doing this was so bright, and I was this little sunflower soaking it up.
When I got to bootcamp I found out about Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) and I did an about face. I fell in love with the idea of blowing shit up and serving a very underrated and immensely important job, and I wanted to do that more than anything. I set my mind towards that goal and even though it failed to pan out for reasons I know now it still was the basic petcock valve for the non-stop conflict that was my life on the ship.
I checked into my new ship and I continued ruggedly physical training. I was extremely excited and motivated to get into EOD. I had passed all the entry physical fitness tests with flying colors, aced the interview with the “Master Blaster” or Master EOD technician over at Coronado, CA and then put in the request paperwork. It was lost. I put in another up my chain of command. It came back denied all the way up. They told me not to bother putting in any more. I was “critical personnel” according to someone down in the shipyards where the ship was being built. This is a huge red flag looking back.
I was a nobody! And this was a critically undermanned program! Anyone who passes the entry tests and scores off the charts is automatically pulled into it. However, for me this did not happen. There were too many people hell-bent on destroying my life, and some of them I had not met yet. It’s just too eerie to look back now and see how everything lines up, and not have the hair on the back of my neck stand out.
So now that my dream had crashed I had to regroup, and refigure out a meaning to continue eking my existence in the Navy with some sanity. I focused on going to sea, on going to school, besides busting my butt at work and keeping my chin up and my mouth shut. The situation at the command with senior leadership was out of control, and I tried to keep a positive mindset. There was one lady who insisted on bitching at me, calling me out in front of everyone and nit-picking me constantly, i.e. measuring my earrings and finding they were not regulation size, then she even took me aside and put me in time-out like I was a little kid just for inquiring about something.
The non-stop theme of conflict in my life and the turbulence underlying everything is still so raw and surreal to me even so many years later. I still get angry at how things were, and how it turned out. Only thing now is that my anger is not raging and out of control. It is focused, and it can be contained. I have used it to sharpen my story, and I’ll tell you, anger is not a wasted emotion if you use it smartly and sparingly.
Anger can be a tool that can help us to survive, and afterwards, help us to face what we need to face in order to heal.
I may be distracted, and I may be lost in some ways, and broken in many others, but I think I’ve found the good in my life needed to keep going.