Yesterday, I got promoted. I’d known it was coming for more than month now. And the waiting didn’t really even bother me. But yesterday, after 7 years and some change in the Virginia Army National Guard, I was promoted from Sergeant to Staff Sergeant.
In the Before Times, when I first enlisted, I didn’t really ever think about making it this far. I assumed I’d fulfill my six-year commitment, get my degree for free (!!) and start my life. I was just 19. I didn’t have any idea what was to come. I didn’t think it would change me much. It would just be something I’d do.I’d be a Soldier. I’d gain some skills, kick some ass, and have a neat bullet point to put on my résumé.
But then real life happened. I deployed. I fell out of love and in love and got divorced and got married and bought a house and got a baby dog and a good job and life just exploded and before I knew it, when my life had flipped upside down and upside right, I’d almost reached the end of my first six-year military obligation and I had the option to sign up for another few years and get promoted and enter a whole new phase of my military career as a leader. And I jumped at it. It was a no-brainer. Of course I was going to re-up. There wasn’t even a question. I signed on the dotted line for another six years and then, just a few weeks later, they promoted me to Sergeant and my career as a Soldier, as someone who needed to be someone else’s responsibility, started to slip way. And I became a leader. Just like that.
That was more than two years ago. And now I’ve taken another step. I’m even more of a leader. Other Soldiers, other leaders, see me and expect me to be responsible. They expect me to know how things work, to know the system, to understand and live by the Army values. And that’s sort of weird. Every day that I wear a uniform I learn something new, I discover something I feel like I should have known and I realize how much I have to learn. And I’m caught between feeling so proud and so ready for this and so excited for this promotion and feeling like I’m still that little, scared, naive, totally unprepared private that I was at 19.
But then…I look at my life. I look at all the things I’ve figured out. I look at all the things I’ve done, and I’m struck by two things:
1. It’s okay to not have it all figured out. There have probably been several thousand times when I’ve encountered new and foreign situations that I didn’t know how to handle. But I figured it the fuck out. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out, there’s no real manual that explains all the bullshit and all the little bits and the high points and the low points and how to handle situations that seem upside down and backwards so you figure it out. You work it out. You make it work and you learn from it. You grow. You gain experience. You learn as you go, make the rules as you go, you change the rules for different situations and you make it work.
2. I’ve done a lot of cool shit. I’ve deployed. I’ve helped people sort out their issues. I’ve flown in Black Hawk helicopters. I’ve met amazing people and have had life changing experiences. When I went to Warrior Leader Course, an Army course on how to be leader, I was in the top ten percent of my class. They even nominated me for a fucking leadership award! Clearly, even if I don’t think I know what I’m doing, other people do. Last year I got an Honorable Mention for a national-level journalism competition. The congratulations I’ve received since getting this promotion are real. People really are happy for me. Last week, a request came for me to co-anchor an online news program. I’ve gotten married and put together a home that I love and created a life for myself.
Bottom line: I’m going to rock this. I’m going to learn and grow and gain so much from this and I’m ready. I don’t know everything, but I don’t have to.