Have you ever been at a place in your life where you KNOW you need to make a change? Or maybe you reached a point where feeling "comfortable" with your day-to-day wasn't so comfortable after all? Have you been searching to feel more fulfilled? If you have, you certainly aren't alone.
Michael and I found ourselves in this exact position after spending nearly all the money we had in saving, renting a townhouse that we couldn't afford, and not having a clear plan in place for our future. We had no other choice but to move in with my mother-in-law (thank you, Rose) for a few months while we "figured things out." Things tend to work themselves out when you least expect them, and for us, it was when Michael was working a side job passing out samples of wine at our local grocery store. Maybe it was Michael's super short haircut (he used to go in phases with the length) or the fact that he stood nice and tall and proud while pouring a chilled sample of Chardonnay.
Nevertheless, he was approached and essentially recruited by a Marine Officer Recruit. This encounter essentially changed our path and now present-day lives. The lesson we took from that encounter is always staying open and ready for life to send you a message or curveball (in a good way) and be ready to say yes and jump in. We identified that we needed to change our life's path. If you find yourself in a similar situation, be open and ready for an opportunity for change to come your way (even in an unexpected way.)
Once you have identified that a change is necessary from your current situation to move you to a better position to live a more fulfilling life, the next step is to understand the option or several options available to you and your partner. In the case of Michael and myself, we understood that pursuing a life in the military would be the best route for our family to get us back on track and allow us to live the life that we ultimately want to live. There were several significant reasons why we chose a military life over civilian life to get us back on track. For us, it was the guaranteed paycheck for at least four years, health insurance for both of us and our future children, housing and food allowance, and the use of the VA loan for when we were in a position to buy our first home! No more renting was a dream of ours.
Think about you and your family's needs and how you or your partner serving in the military can get you where you need to be to check off those essential things to bring you the life you deserve.
We still had to decide which branch of service would be the best fit for us. That was simply a matter of talking to as many active servicemen and women as possible and hearing about their experiences and day-to-day lives in different branches of service. Reading other military blogs was also very helpful for me when it came to the spouse side of the equation. Again, doing as much research as you can to provide you the best peace of mind in making your decision. Ultimately, think about what's vital for you and why a specific branch might check off several boxes of getting you to the life that you and your partner want!
Along with doing a ton of research on good old Google, we still met with the Marine Recruiter who approached Michael at the grocery store. We ultimately decided that joining Marines was not the best path for our family, and our search shifted to the Air Force. The best way to make as close to the best decision as possible is to make sure you put the time into understanding your options and feel as confident as you can when moving forward with your new life decision! If you do your research and maybe a little prayer along the way, there should be no reason to look back! Now it's time to ACT!
If there's one thing you need when pursuing a life in the military, it is faith. I say that because you aren't going to get all the answers to your questions, and you'll have to have a decent amount of faith and believe that everything will work out - even if it's not exactly how you planned it would. I am not the type of person who likes to go with the flow and not have a plan. I've needed to learn to be OK with not always having a plan and being able to adapt at the last minute. It still isn't easy, but if I can do it, you can do it!
Once we decided that the Air Force was the best brach of service for our family, it was "go time." We were fully committed. The train left the station, and we were at the will, mercy, and timeline of the USAF. The next steps were studying for the ASVAB, getting the medical examination completed, and making sure Michael's physical state was where it needed to be. It was about six months from when we first met with the Air Force recruiter to when Michael left for Basic Training. Every branch's timeline will be different, but the point is that you have to be flexible, open, and ready because you will never know what the exact timeline is going to be.
Looking back on our initial conversation about joining the military seems like a lifetime ago, and SO much has happened. However, I wouldn't change a thing. Were there tough times? Of course!! But did the exciting time makes all the sad and challenging time worth it? Absolutely! So if you or your partner are thinking about starting a life in the military, I would say, go for it! But do your research, have a strong desire to make a big change, and have a lot of faith along the way! This journey won't be easy, but if you pack the right snacks (aka be prepared) and soak in the experiences along the way, you'll be in for a pretty awesome ride!
Live Big and Ready,
-Jamie and Michael