The beginning of this year would probably sound terrible on paper to some, but to me, it has been liberating. Tough, yet, I have never felt stronger and more proud of who I am.
I couldn’t see it when I got out in 2011 but I realized this year that the military taught me integrity and at a very early age. I was 17 when I joined, and while other young kids my age struggled and felt miserable, I did not.
I suppose when you have to grow up fast, you are often taught the “rules” to life earlier than most. So for me, a community where I knew what was expected was a natural fit.
Learning integrity and living with integrity are certainly two different things. But I dare say, it is hard to find adults who have integrity outside of a military base. Let me explain, in the military you can and will be punished for a lack of integrity. I shit you not, cheat on your spouse and get caught. Well, you and the commanding officer will be making a phone call to said spouse. Docking of pay for lying and being caught, you betcha. In the civilian world this would not happen, like ever.
How does this all fit together? Well in my youth I was unable to stand-up for myself mainly out of fear that I would lose a friend or look stupid. I would ignore red flags, make excuses and hide from any issues that caused me or anyone to feel uncomfortable. If I saw someone being picked on, I was the little shit that looked the other way and never a word. When I was being bullied, I took it. I let kids, adults and family members bully me for years. That is the opposite of living with integrity.
When I was in the military I found my voice among the boys. I could hold my own around a man or group of men. I was counseled on multiple occasions in regards to my ‘verbally abusive tactics’. I guess with the ratio of men to women, it was a sink or swim situation. But I have always been far too timid to stick up to mean women.
Then this year I stopped letting the mean girls win. I stopped letting myself get intimated by good looks and beautifully put-together outfits with accessories. The women that never let you catch them with out make-up and who always seem to have a fucking Starbucks coffee in their hand. The women who are pushing 4 quiet and well kempt kids around Target while they browse every isle they want. Fuck those women, I am not intimated anymore.
I lost a job, I lost a friendship or 2 and I was banned from The Stonermom for voicing an opinion she did not approve of. Cest la Vie.
My serving days finally came to an end after 4 years on and off. I finally decided that I wasn’t going to let those over-shadowed eye rolls bother me anymore. They were never about me anyway. I decided that I wasn’t ok watching a manager belittle her employees or verbally abuse them depending on her mood. It was not ok to be passively aggressively bullied because she had the power to make me clean-up the fucking salad station for a month straight just because I didn’t eat the bullshit she tried to serve.
By the way, I scrubbed that salad station so clean she could have asked that bitch “mirror mirror, who is the fairest of them all?”
I decided that even if it means severing a relationship that matters to you, you owe it to yourself to always be honest and speak the truth. The truth is not something that is not debatable or up for interpretation. There are no variations of the truth.
If you are worried about someone, tell them. If someone is mistreating you, stop allowing it. If someone is struggling with addiction, reach out to them. If you’re values don’t align with someone close to you, reevaluate the relationship. All of these are examples of clear communication and living with integrity.
Remember this one, “do as I say, not as I do”? Change the words, be a force of good, honesty and integrity. Do as I do, and not as I say. Be the example, not the discussion.