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I nearly did not have anything to write about…
Until I started the Story Skills Workshop and shined a big old neon light on areas I normally keep hidden. So, here it is.
I have been lying!!!
Yep – LYING!! I will own up to it.
I will start by saying a military career is a wonderful thing and I was proud to serve my country. Many government departments do an incredible job and people love working in this cadre. And I learned a lot of skills that have proven valuable beyond their intended scope. That part is true.
But takeaway the nostalgic camaraderie, then for me it was like any other corporate job. I had out-grown my military-issue armoured skin and was disconnected from the processes, people and demands it had on my life.
And I have been skimming over a very vital piece of my story…
I often get asked, ‘You were 7 years from a full pension, why did you leave?’ And my response is usually, I just wanted to try something different and the pension was not a good enough reason to stay.
I believe a military career should be more than just a pension trap… No, any career, should be more than just a pension trap! That’s the optimistic ideal.
The more truthful answer to that question is:
I HATED my career. I spent most of those 15 years either depressed, bullied, coerced, stifled, mis-managed and failed to fully realise my potential.
I never belonged. I did not fit in and my true feelings were suppressed. It was not for me. But I persisted because I had a home and family to look after. I had responsibilities. So I battened down the hatches, kept my head down as much as I could and got on with things.
My lived experience involved having little control over my time, where I lived, who I knew and would hang out with, my energy and even my body. I would resort to extreme dieting to keep my weight under control and be able to pass fitness tests and fit into my uniform, because it was so embarrassing having to visit the clothing store for replacements. And I thought I needed to be like the others, so I wasted much of that precious time and energy doing just that.
I was not consistently coached or nurtured. I was forced to doing things a particular way, not afforded the space to be creative, innovative or develop my own leadership style.
You could mark your mark, provided it was a reflection of the permitted image.
You could speak out, but not too loud.
You could listen in, but not be heard.
You could seek improvements, but nothing too radical.
You could make change, if it didn’t deviate too far.
You could lead, so long as you were following the herd.
Until one day, enough was enough. And that is why I walked away from a stable job and a full pension with 7 years left to run.
It could be argued, all of that is part of the job. It’s what you sign up for, it’s why we get paid good salaries and it’s how we honour our country – through sacrifice. And I would agree completely.
But for me, the salary was not enough for the amount of myself I was sacrificing. I value purposeful work that feeds your soul by serving people and honouring them with generosity. And I discovered there are other ways, other than a military job, to still achieve that aim.
And this whole time I have been feeling guilty about not being “part of the ship, part of the crew”. I do not feel a sense of loss because I have moved on. And I have avoided being honest about it because I felt like, I was the one in the wrong. I must have screwed up somewhere along the line, to not be feeling the pride for my service, like other veterans.
So I would hide my thoughts and beliefs. And once again, I was back to not being myself. I would censor my copywriting and blogs in an effort to please or not upset a community, that ultimately I did not belong to.
I was asked a question recently:
Do you coach people who are unhappy in their careers?
No, but maybe I should be…. I want to help other people nurture their bravery and make a leap towards the change they seek.
In this interview, Liz Gilbert gives a wonderful explanation of the distinctions between The Work in our lives.
Ok, so I had the yeast extract equivalent of careers. I asked myself, how might I be confusing my job and career? What might free me to find a more fulfilling vocation, if I made these distinctions more clearly?
What do I really want to change? What do I want to get better at doing? And how can I find others and help them get better at the things important to them?
Everyone will have their own lived experience of their chosen job or career. We are individuals – that’s the whole point. What I want people to realise is – if you are unhappy, it does not always have to be that way. And it takes guts to start over. Either with a fresh perspective in your current place or with something entirely new. And you might find it easier if you had help and found other people going through similar shit.
I believe there are 2 choices… no, wait. There are 3.
Do nothing. Because choosing to do nothing, is still a choice. But I would assert that if any of you have made it this far into this blog, that option is off the table.
Start thinking of the career you dislike, as a job. It’s just there to pay bills and you’re detached from it. Freeing you up to explore fulfilment in other ways, away from your job.
Find a new career. And a vocation unique to you that sets your soul on fire when you think about it.
As times are weird right now, I am offering free coaching for adult learners because they are brilliant examples of the infinite game players. More about that over here.
And you can join me for a Water Cooler Convo on Tuesday’s at 9am (BST), so that you can start to explore and find the other people out there.
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