The other day I talked to a very motivated Staff Sergeant in the Marines. He repeatedly displayed feelings of sorrow and fear during our conversation as he was facing the end of his military service (unwillingly). This Staff Seargent was sad he couldn’t serve his country anymore and continue the career he dreamed of having since he was a child. His fear stemmed from a logical question he was unsure he could answer— “Will I be able to provide for my family?” It should be noted that this kind of uncertainty is pervasive amongst transitioning service members.
This was when I came up with a phenomenal metaphor (not to toot my own horn). If you are facing a transition or did face a transition, you are a goldfish, and the military is/was your bowl. You get fed regularly and consistently in the form of a paycheck. Your bowl gets a little more beautiful every time you get a reenlistment bonus or a new medal or ribbon. But don’t forget, you’re still in the bowl.
When you transition out of the military, an invisible force removes you from that bowl and drops you in the ocean. All of those things you had in the bowl are gone—the job safety, the financial security, everything— gone.
However, one crucial and remarkable thing to remember about the ocean is that it’s almost endless, and so are its opportunities. You can be whatever you want, wear whatever you want, live wherever you want, and associate with whoever you want to! You could work as a banker on Wall Street, design code for cutting edge artificial intelligence, start your own business, or teach children to read in third world countries. Like I said before, the options are endless!
The reality is the world outside of the military can seem scary, especially the world of academics, but as a veteran, you have a network of people that want to see you succeed on the outside (including us here at NSI). All you have to do is use the resources afforded to you as a veteran and capitalize on your initiative to succeed in the world outside the military. Don’t let the fear of failure paralyze your growth and potential.
After sharing this sentiment with that motivated Staff Sergeant, his outlook shifted. His perspective went from bleak to positive, and he became motivated to seize his newfound opportunities and carve out his new life in the deep blue sea.