Back in September, a Marine I knew from deployment popped up after a couple years. In the military, friends come and go in waves, but they never disappear completely. This old acquaintance asked me how I have been over the past 4 years and it turned out that a lot had changed in the time since we saw each other last. I had done a lot of adulting and it kind of made me feel a lot older.
Before you look at me and say being 30+some is not old, it’s not! I know that. But the changes that have gone on in even just the past 12 months make me feel like I am really an adult now. Serving in the Navy, sure that is something that adults can do. Going to college, many people over the age of 18 do that too. It just seems that in the last few years my life has taken a turn that I didn’t see happening until I had to update an old friend.
I graduated from college. Again. Which doesn’t sound like much for someone who collects college degrees like other people collect shoes, but it was a huge achievement for me. I enlisted in the Navy at 28 years old because I knew it was the best way for me to go back to college without putting myself in debt. I reminded myself on every hard day that I was going through the chaos of military life because I had a goal in mind. I was going to get my Masters in Education and I would become a teacher.
I can remember on my last day in the Navy the Career Counselor at my command told me it was a mistake to get out. That I would never find a job and I would be asked to get back into the Navy within a year. He told me that my goals of teaching were a joke and that I was wasting my life getting out when I only had 16 years until I could retire from a “real” career. Lucky for me I find people like that only motivate me to push myself even harder towards my goals.
This summer I received a phone call from a principal offering me a job teaching at the school I wanted to work at, in the school district that is hard to get into, working with teachers I love as my mentors. It still wasn’t until I met my first set of parents at Open House Night that I had the “holy poop, I’m a teacher” moment!
I wasn’t the only one with a major job shift in the past couple years. My husband got out of the Marine Corps too! He moved to a new town to be with me, took on a job outside of his comfort zone, and in under a year and a half had been promoted twice. He took a position he was unsure of and turned it into a career he can keep moving forward in. His job may have changed, but his ability to work hard and create new goals each time he reaches an old one has not.
I know that sometimes being a part of the military community makes it seem like goals are outside our reach. Starting a business. Going back to school. Pursuing the dream career. It’s not impossible to do these things if you want it enough. It just takes some creative thinking to figure out how to make it work for you within the confines of the military community.
On top of career changes, we took on what seems to be the ultimate measure of if you’re a real adult. We bought our first house. Want to talk about an adventure. Who knew that what type of sink a house has could lead to an hour-long debate with my husband over what features were deal breakers in our new domicile! For the record, I lost that battle and complain about having a double sink every chance I get.
But sitting here now at my desk in my own little work nook, looking at the Christmas tree we decorated together, and the stair rail covered in cards from our loved ones that sink means so little because for the first time that I can remember, I am truly home. My husband and I have created a space that is completely us. Oh and apparently no house is complete without a dog because my husband managed to convince this allergy ridden, dog-slobber hating, neat freak to adopt a 75 pound pit bull who quickly won my heart. It turns out it’s true, home isn’t home without a wagging butt to greet you when you walk in the door!
I’m not saying that feeling at home takes away all the stress of owning our own place. Every time I pay the mortgage and they show me that I own maybe the doors in the home so far thanks to everything going towards interest first I freak out just a little bit. Though the freak outs are becoming smaller because I remember that someday we will own the windows too. And then the appliances. And eventually the whole place will belong to us. It’s an investment that just a few years ago I didn’t think I would ever be able to make. When I enlisted in the military I was so over my head in debt I almost didn’t get the security clearance required for my job! So to look back and see how far I’ve come and how far we’ve come as a couple…it’s something to be proud of!
And while all of these things are the typical mark of becoming an adult in today’s world, the biggest thing that I told this old acquaintance that made me realize that “holy poop, I’m an adult” is this: I don’t really care to keep people in my life that are not healthy for me, my family, or my marriage. I know, I know. Not the happy ending to an old friend popping back into my life that you might have been hoping for. But it’s true. I don’t know when it happened but I have realized that there are certain people that do not need to take up time or space in my life and I am not allowing myself to feel guilty anymore about closing my circle to those that matter most.
As I get older I have learned to take to heart the idea that the people you surround yourself with influence who you become. I’ve learned that quality friends mean far more than the quantity of friends you may have. And I’ve learned that the best friends are those that understand and accept you for who you are, good, bad and ugly.
So while it might have just hit me this year that “holy poop, I’m an adult,” know what? I think I’m okay with that!