For much of my childhood I lived in Alabama. I was born and raised there, but for about two and a half years, between third and fifth grade, I lived in Texas. I remember my mom taking me to school everyday and I would always tell her I didn’t want to go. I didn’t like school. Her response was always the same, it is what you make it.
I was just having a chat on Facebook messenger with someone who connected with me to possibly assist in some work he is doing with his nonprofit organization. This project would assist with transitioning military veterans. Being a transitioning veteran myself, I know this is a community I can connect with. I know the difficulty in walking away from this lifestyle, and am currently experiencing the challenges that come with this territory of walking into a new phase of life.
He asked me, how my transition was going. I told him it was going well and that what I’ve found is that it’s really what you make it. I said that statement and I immediately thought about my mom and how she’d always say that to me when I was a kid.
It brought tears to my eyes because back then when she said it, I knew what I was going through. The kids at school were mean to me. I didn’t want to be there. It was a challenging time for me. I don’t remember having a profound conversation with my mother on how that statement applied to me and what I was going through at that time, but I do remember thinking about it during school hours as I was sitting in class, and definitely during PE when I came face-to-face with why I didn’t want to be there – the bullies. It is what I make it huh?
And it was. Instead of trying to get the bullies to like me, I made friends with those who didn’t care that I didn’t have name brand clothes because they didn’t either. I made friends with those who didn’t care what my hair looked like because we all had hairstyles that our moms thought were just the cutest, but we despised. Come on, you know the big curl you had in your bangs with the roller dent still in it because you slept with that pink foam roller in your head all night. I made friends with those who didn’t care that I was quiet because they needed the ear of somebody who would listen. Going to school still had its difficulties, but it was what I made it.
Here I am facing another tough time in my life. For some reason everybody thinks that I “have it all” here in the military and they can’t figure out why I’m walking away from it. I get told all the time that I’m throwing away years of my life. I’ve even been told that transitioning from the military is the dumbest decision that I could make. Oh, the best comments come from those on the outside looking in, those people who never served in the military a day of their life telling me that if it was them, they’d stick it out until retirement. I’d always think, well, to make it to 20 years you have to start with one day. Let me escort you to the nearest recruiting office.
Then there are the alarming statistics about veteran unemployment. Sometimes even our formal transitioning process is discouraging because while I know they’re just trying to help us think realistically, sometimes what they say feeds into what we already hear from the civilian world, that nobody is going to want to hire us. This has just been a scary, difficult time.
But what do I make of it? I’m getting through it and I’m determined to help other transitioning veterans get through it too. I stopped listening to the people who told me that I was crazy for walking away and started connecting with those who supported me in my decision. I stopped waiting for opportunity to show up and started creating my own.
That simple phrase my mom used to tell me long ago has been my guide. It is what you make it. Everyday we are creating our futures with the thoughts that we think, the words that we say, the decisions that we make, the actions we take, and the chances we don’t take. We truly are creative beings.
Life is what we make it.