Many people have different perspectives about the military after they get out. I do not know a single person who misses the negative experiences like the sucky details or bad times during deployment when it never seemed to stop. Many people seem to reminisce on the past of the good times and things we miss about service rather than moving on to the now in life. They continue to tell tales that fill every VFW hall every day. Veterans tell stories of how it was much harder in the old corps and that the new corps is nothing but fluff and snowflakes. There are tales of heroism and valor and millions of incredible deeds someone else did. These stories are great time killers, but they present a catch. As veterans, we continually revisit the past, and we all talked about stories of “back when I was in.” It’s time to cut that crap out and move on in your life. Your after-service slump is not doing anyone any favors with the fact that you are not getting any younger or that the military is NOT going to let you back in to save the world. If you can admit the real reasons why you miss the military, you can find ways to move on and improve your life or the lives of others.
Here are five real reasons you’re miserable after the military:
1. You miss the camaraderie you had while you were in.
You had some close friends while you were in the military, and they were battle-tested. It’s no surprise that under those circumstances, your bond with them was so close that you would place your life in their hands and hold them, dear, to you like family. The problem is that you hold on to this mindset once you’re out, the notion that it requires misery and conflict to build a substantial relationship with other people and let them into your life. Instead of trying to reach out to any civilians and open up to them, we go into lockdown mode and push everyone as far away as possible.
What do we do to remedy this? Start making a real effort to adapt to the culture of the people you’re spending the most time with, either at work or in your extracurricular activities. If you are not spending time with any specific group, then get out of the house by taking up a hobby or activity to get connected with people. By reaching out to them, you may find they reach back for insights on life-strengthening bonds and friendships.
2. You miss the lifestyle.
Barracks life is cluttered with nights of heavy drinking, other chaos, and calamity that soldiers find fun. You work hard and play harder, and why not? You had guaranteed a disposable income with sustenance that wasn’t going anywhere regardless of the number of hours you worked. After the military, you either held on to the drinking, or the working, or both, which starts causing social problems, especially when your civilian counterparts don’t share in your views and don’t find that lifestyle very appealing. While it may be fun at the time, it does not correlate to civilian life when we’re out.
What do we do to remedy this? Accept any invitations that you’re given to participating in events and gatherings. Step back and realize that your part of the rest of the world, and there are fun and a decent lifestyle to be a part of too, but not every event needs to turn into an all-night drinking fest. There are a time and place for everything, so think moderation.
3. You miss playing with guns and blowing shit up while getting paid for it.
Let’s be honest: Most people think guns are cool, and bombs are cooler. The only thing better than playing with guns is getting paid for it. There aren’t too many jobs in the private sector that involve carrying weapons, making these jobs highly competitive. Sadly, veterans are often stuck joining the workforce in other career options with much less excitement than we’re used to and left to toil away in mundane jobs that merely scrape by in our lives.
What do we do to remedy this? Exercise your Second Amendment right by bear arms. A .22 caliber rifle modeled after the M16 may not pack the same punch as its counterpart, it is a much cheaper alternative to getting some lead-slinging therapy on weekends at the range.
4. You’re an elitist.
Face it, your pride and excellence are something that’s been drilled into your head harder by the military, and it doesn’t retire after your get out. Take a look at your closet. Are all your hanging items facing in the same direction? Do you still fold your shirts and underwear the way you were taught in boot camp? We strive to do things at a level of excellence and perfection at a level above our civilian counterparts and then get sassy with them when they fall short of our expectations handed down through our military programming for doing it well and doing it right the first time.
What do we do to remedy this? Try to help others see why you do things the way you do by constructively explaining to them. Your constant drive of excellence is a positive and productive way can help develop a culture of higher standards in your new workplace that can become a standard practice of improvement.
5. You are accused of not talking enough.
Open and honest conversation is something that is normal in the military. We have turned everything into an acronym and have analogies for every other item, verb, and action ever created. Blue falcon, anyone? We can be so blunt about what we think and feel while in the service, mostly because they can’t, or perhaps won’t, get rid of you for your mouth. The civilian world, however, will drop you like a hot sack of rocks for saying anything that hurts the sensitive snowflake feelings of our co-workers. We limit our talking to other people and internalize our thoughts, opinions, and ideas in the effort to preserve ourselves rather than trying to speak like the rest of society and show our ability to adapt.
What do we do to remedy this? It’s hard to open up and spill your guts to other people in a way that won’t scare the hell out of them. Practice writing down your thoughts and then rewriting them in ways that sound slightly more delicate. Be deliberate and give sincere thought to what you say to people and how you say it. It’s very easy to come off condescending to your civilian counterparts from your military demeanor.
As humans, we often become creatures of habit and maintain specific ways of interacting with people and how you do things. It’s so easy and mindless to continue down the path we started ourselves on, but just as easy to offend others or alienate ourselves from the rest of the world by driving along on autopilot. Making a sincere and deliberate effort to improve small areas in your life can have an immense impact on your interactions with others and build positive relationships after the military. You are only hurting yourself and the potential friendships you could have with others. You are the only one who is responsible for your quality of life, and this is limited by the efforts you are willing to make to improve your day to day life.
Image provided by Military Exchange (2019). The Military Life. Retrieved from https://www.ironmikesmx.com/the-military-life-then-and-now/