One of the biggest challenges I hear other Veteran’s say they face, and what I experienced myself, is feeling lost or having lost your sense of purpose after getting out of the military. I know from my experience I separate thinking I knew what I wanted to do, but quickly realized what I had thought wasn’t the right path for me, so I felt stuck. I thought I made a mistake leaving, that I would have been more successful if I had stayed in. I felt that I was somehow behind all of my peers for not taking the traditional college after high school route, which was most popular where I grew up.
This was challenging to say the least. In some way, I ended up settling on a degree that I thought closely matched what experience I had from the military and decided I would pursue a career in Supply Chain. As a welder, I had coordinated with a lot of vendors and procurement and worked closely with supply to handle our welding materials. So, I figured that’s what I should stick to. In my mind I thought it would provide me with a degree I could get without being completely shocked by the lessons taught in each class and thought it was a quick way to begin working.
Problem is, I never stopped to figure out what would make me feel that sense of purpose again? It certainly wasn’t a bachelors degree in Supply Chain.
My sense of purpose has changed from what it previously was during my time on active duty. Naturally, my goals have changed, my family has gone from my husband and I, to adding two more, and what I thought was right in regards to career has shifted. I thought getting a degree and finding a job afterwards, so I can save the little money earned after taxes, was the best route. The path that would get me to retirement… I quickly became bored. I missed the having ownership, driving change, experiencing something new with different operations and projects. I missed joking around with people that wouldn’t get butt hurt by dark humor or knowing that the weekend would start on Thursday night because we’d all be headed out for drinks.
I realized that my life is more meaningful by working towards financial freedom and that my definition of wealth is not in terms of how much money I have, but how much time I have to spend for myself and my family. That is when I got the courage to launch my business, an idea I’ve had for seven year…
It’s taken awhile to find my footing and grow to understand what that ‘sense of purpose’ looks like for me now that I am no longer serving. While you may be feeling lost now, your narrow perspective of what you thought you knew and were taught will change. My advice, write it out (might be cliché, but that always helps me). Identify what your short and long-term goals are now that you just completed a huge one by finishing your service contract. Do you want to own a business? Work with your hands creating something? Provide a service? Or maybe you want to be a doctor or go into a specialty? Are you ready to start or maybe even go back to school? Whatever it is you want to do, strive for it and don’t be afraid!
I was terrified to launch a business, but by setting these limitations in my head, I spent a lot of time and effort pursing something that just paid the bills but didn’t make me happy. You are not your job and you were not put on this earth to just pay bills and work, at least that’s my mentality.
Strive for whatever it is that is going to make you happy and what you enjoy spending your time doing! I highly encourage you to check out our resources and reach out in our community to connect with other service members- we’ve all been there!