New Year’s Day, 2016, marks six years since I retired from the Air Force. Six years since I woke up, no longer a “Master-Sergeant” but a “Mister.”
It was quite a transition. After almost 21 years, I had to find a new purpose in life.
And it wasn’t easy. Believe me, my wife could tell you.
I had a job, yes, but even I could tell that something was off, wasn’t right. I seemed a little lost, a little listless, even a little depressed.
Retirement is not for the faint of heart.
It took around six months for it to really sink in that this was my life now. No more phone calls at 1 am telling me that Airman Snuffy was fighting with his girlfriend/wife. No more running in to work on a Saturday to “catch pods” that were coming back from TDY from some shit-hole around the world.
That was gone. That constant sense of anxiety, waiting for the phone to ring and hearing “Grab your mobility bag and report to work,” and then wondering if it was just an exercise or if this time you were headed off somewhere, who-knew for how long.
(That game was made especially fun, by the way, if I’d been paying attention to the news and knew that things were going on and letting my not-inconsiderable imagination run wild with possibilities.)
Nope. No more of that for me. Just a life of nine-to-five (-ish) routine. No surprises.
Now, six years later, I find that I enjoy the routine of civilian life, the predictability of it all. Wanting to go somewhere is simply of matter of making sure I have enough money to do it and letting the boss know that I’m going. No worrying about where I am on the deployment rotation or if there’s an exercise coming up that is canceling all leaves.
But I find, as I continue to keep in touch with some of my comrades, that there are aspects of it that I miss. It may sound like a cliché, but I miss my guys. Those troops that I was lucky enough to work with and eventually be put in charge of. I miss the day-to-day aspects of the work I did, of taking something broken and finding out how to make it right. I miss watching young kids, 18-19 years old, who’ve never been away from home, find their feet — and the rest of themselves — and grow into really great Airmen. I miss the knowledge that I, in some small way, may have helped them, as I was helped when I first enlisted.
Sometimes, I even miss the uniform, God help me. Sounds corny, but it does feel different to wake up and put on that uniform (however hideous they might have made it **cough–ABUs-cough**) instead of just grabbing a pair of jeans and a golf shirt and heading out the door.
But six years out, now, and there is no going back, obviously. Not in that capacity, anyway.
So, on this New Year’s Day, I celebrate six years of a new life, one that I hope I am finally figuring out how to live well.
I hope that your 2016 is a year in which you live well, and enjoy your lives as much as you can. Take advantage of every opportunity, appreciate every challenge, and value every friend you make along the way. They will be what you remember when you finally look back.
Hopefully you will be able to say, “I’m glad I did that. All of that.”