Come close.

closer…

I am about to give you top secretedy, secret information about the truth of balancing the Army reserves and civilian life.

You’ve seen the commercials that make you want to fist pump and high five yourself because America is amazing.

giphy-downsized (2)

Land of the free and home of the bad-asses that protect us.

(At least that’s how the commercial makes you feel anyway)

Then the screen flashes and you see ARMY RESERVES in golden letters calling out for you to take action. Be a boss in your civilian life with transferable skills AND a top notch Soldier when duty calls. It’s as easy as a light switch. Turning on one aspect of your life and switching off the other. They don’t tell you that sometimes it’s a melting pot mess if you’re not careful; even for the anally organized and professional like myself.

Instead you get fed this image

giphy-downsized.gif

 

But what about the cut scene of your boss sighing loudly in a “What the f*** you have another three day drill weekend in the middle of our busiest season!” kinda way?

Here’s the truth about balancing life as a Solider and a civilian from my own experiences and others I’ve been privy to. This  is what your recruiter won’t tell you but what you should know before making the decision to sign on the dotted line.

 

Your boss can’t fire you so suck it up.

It’s true. After being given your drill schedule which usually (I use that term loosely hence the italics) consists of a weekend once a month and a separate full two weeks out the year; your boss cannot fire you for fulfilling your military obligations when called to duty. Even if you’re gone for two years and up to five years. This includes any orders or active duty time that you may get selected for whether voluntary or involuntary.

The fine line with this is that if you have a spiteful boss they can make your work environment uncomfortable, stressful or plain out unbearable. If you can prove this then there are actions you can take to protect yourself under federal regulations that can be better explained with these links:

https ://employment.findlaw.com/wages-and-benefits/military-service-and-re-employment-rights.html

https://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/

However, if I have to force a boss to treat me fairly then I would think that makes a hostile work environment in and of itself. Just saying.

Not to mention the schedule when it comes to being a full time student. You have to take into account that most professors will work with you to help curve any time you miss; however, in an increasingly demanding year you could miss anywhere from a week to almost a month of school in the start of the semester and if you have a professor who’s an ass then that’s a recipe for a disaster. Schools really aren’t required to look out for part-time Soliders.

In being open with expectations and issues with your employers and professors beforehand, also talking with college administration, you can curb some of these issues.

 

Sometimes you can’t be Mary Jane

Yes seriously. For all the reasons discussed above sometimes it will be difficult to give to your civilian job in ways that could help you advance at a faster rate. And vice versa. Balancing your schedule often requires you to shift or cancel things you may have planned in the civilian world based on your military needs. Fulfilling obligations on both sides could leave you in a gray area professionally if you’re not actively paying attention.

 

It pays for school…kinda.

When you’re in your enlisting process you must make sure you get the Montegormy G.I. bill put into your contract before signing your life over. Otherwise, you’re just out of luck. Some recruiters will take the time to explain this to you. Others not so much. I was lucky to have a decent recruiter.

Still, in the terms of hearing “it will pay for school” you will think that comes with a heafty check to the school you’ll be attending. Instead it comes in monthly payments made to you for about $500 to $700 depending on your contract.

You will hear terms like “Kicker” or “ROTC program money” my suggestion is get a good understanding of what financial benefits you’ll actually be getting because after you sign everyone will just assume you know.

There is also something called tuition assistance that can be paired with your scholarships, grants, and G.I. Bill and if used correctly you could graduate with virtually no debt. Oh how I wish someone would’ve told me these things. You’re welcome by the way. At this point it should go without saying that you should definitely read the fine print before signing. Because once it’s signed that’s it; no going back to get extra benefits.

 

 What YOU time?

Your administrators, unit, and superiors expect you to be all that you can be and EVERYTHING else. This includes taking care of military assignments, classes, appointments, staying physically fit etc…much of it on your civilian time. To compound this, your boss will likey expect the same treatment (rightfully so) this can translate into, as I stated in a previous post, this…

110 % to civilian job

110% to military job

40% to family and friends (because you have to fit them in somehow)

and very little, time or energy left over to yourself without some serious organizational planning skills.

I’m not at all saying that there will be no time for yourself and personal goals but you will be in a unique situation where you are expected to perform at 100% from your civilian job and especially for your military job. Make sure that you are planning time to prioritize yourself as well as your jobs.

 

Frenemies

I tell people all the time that me and Uncle Sam have a love/hate relationship when they ask about my military career. It is the most honest representation I could say. Most people have this glorified sense of the military and in some ways it’s justified; not many people are willing to sign over their time (the most precious commodity) to a government with mixed reviews.

 

Regardless of your personal opinion, that in itself is pretty brave. But the truth is being part-time military is in many ways just like any other job with its high points and low points. You are expected to perform specific tasks as an individual and a team player. Often there’s organizational issues,

disagreements, celebrations, and everything else you would find at your normal 9 to 5. Don’t let the stigma of “military” fool you into thinking you can’t provide what is needed to be a Soldier.

 

 FYI

Some people get confused over what the National Guard is compared to the Reserves. The biggest difference is that the National Guard is sorta like a militia for each state. This is where most of there funding comes from and if something like a natural disaster effects that states those are the Soliders you see as responders. Reservists are funded federally. We both have pretty much the same one weekend a month, two weeks out the year obligations. Other branches such as the Air Force and navy offer part time contracts as well. Don’t be afraid to ask or accept a bonus. No you won’t get screamed at every day in training and Yes, it was worth it.

 

My truth

I made many important milestones as an adult as a result of being a Soldier. I wouldn’t trade the experience, growth or financial advancements it has afforded me for anything. I had specific reasons on why I joined that has kept me focused on my military journey. Still, I made mistakes due to ignorance of my benefits and rights; had I’d known much of the information above I could’ve enjoyed an even better experience as a young professional and a Soldier. I hope these truths help you in some way. For questions, comment or email me and #LetsBuild

 

Constantly dealing with a feeling of guilt is a default emotion for many of those on the path out of poverty. Why me? Who am I to spend money on what I want but don’t need? Am I changing into someone my family can’t recognize?

ball and chain

Many of these questions play on a constant loop in the minds of those who are attempting to dig their way out of the struggle.

We live in a country where pulling yourself up by the “boot straps” is glorified but we never talk about what happens in the attempt or the success for those who do.Those who come from humble beginnings to become first generation college graduates, business owners, or successes in their ideal of a better life often internally wrestle with the psychological impacts of feeling unworthy of their achievements.

 

Living misunderstood isolates many individuals; as family or loved ones can’t relate to where they’re going and friends can’t relate to where they’ve been. I’ve dubbed this mindset Survivor’s remorse as it reminds me of an individual who is lucky to survive a tragedy but they feel guilty and undeserving of life. Many articles call it Survivor’s guilt. In the case of someone from a low income background they suffer from feeling undeserving of all the things they now have that others still go without. Let me explain.

I have this “friend” who has just gotten financially stable and is self sufficient. She enjoys traveling to see another friend out of town. Every visit is an adventure because she finally has a stable car and money to enjoy herself. While visiting said friend she has gotten exposed to different ways of life, foods, and activities she had never been able to afford before. Every visit lead her to thinking she should bring one of her family members with her one day because she felt guilty for experiencing such joy without them.

She feels guilty whenever she treats herself to dinner and shopping. She feels guilty at her job she loves and when she gets home to her sweet little apartment. She feels guilty when a new opportunity to move upward financially or otherwise presents itself.

Why me? Am I changing? What makes me different? They’re better than me, why not them?….

But the thing is we all have choices, paths, and people placed in our lives.Those entering into a phase outside of poverty or low income circumstances have a combination of all three working in their favor.

Good, knowledgeable choices about who you are and what you want lead you to the right path. On the path you may meet people who will give you better direction (mentor ship); or people who expose you to things outside of your normal upbringing. These new experiences all contribute to your eventual achievements.

 

You are determined enough to attempt the journey out of poverty.

 

So why feel guilty for putting in the work and getting the result you were working towards? Often, those who find themselves in a different position outside of friends and family feel undeserving because others they know work just as hard.

Young adults from low income households always feel they owe a debt to family and friends who may not have the financial stability or career upward mobility that they now possess. I struggle with this.

My hard work ethic comes from my mother and sisters. So how is it that I’m experiencing trips around the world but they are still in our hometown? Is it fair that I’m getting more and more financially stable while those I love still live paycheck to paycheck? So, I got into the habit of down playing my hard work. “Yea, God sure is blessing me way more than I deserve,” I’d say. And while every word of that is true I just inadvertently denied any helping hand in the blessing.

Breakdown?…

Opportunity presents itself. You can choose to seize it or not. Push through when it’s rough or hard; because faith without works (hard works) is dead. Can I get an Amen from the Deacon corner?! AMEN! God blesses you with opportunity and freedom of choice but it’s up to you to take those chances presented to you. You have to put in work in order to reap the benefits of your blessing.

 

Living misunderstood isolates many individuals as family or loved ones can’t relate to where they’re going and friends can’t relate to where they’ve been.

 

So I chose to go to college and chose to graduate because goodness knows I wanted to quit several times. I chose different paths outside the norm in my family. I discovered that I wanted a career more than a marriage or kids. I wanted to explore helping others in a different way than I had seen.

Every choice is then an ingredient added to your personal recipe for success. Whatever that success may look like. For my mother and sisters, being wonderful mothers was their desire. They’ve mastered that recipe.

Mine is a little different because there was no ready, tried n true recipe I could go off of in my attempt to build a career, alleviate inter-generational poverty, and help others in the community.  So in the process of navigating uncharted waters I discovered so many other possibilities that could help me accomplish goals. The guilt I feel stems from my misunderstanding of what success means for others in my family. We do not share the same definitions.

 

Although, it is worth pointing out that low income families would benefit from more financial stability. Young adults who are just  getting to a point where living paycheck to paycheck or stressing over bills is no longer the norm may feel guilt.This stems from being able to indulge and focus on other things in life. Knowing that you can indulge a little leave many feeling like a fraud because those still struggling don’t have the same luxury.

I feel you.

I wrote this blog because I realize that many others battle with themselves every day trying to find a comfortable balance of where they come from and where they want to go.

Desiring more for yourself doesn’t mean you’re rejecting your past but rather you see a different way of living that would bring YOU joy. You are determined enough to attempt the journey out of poverty.

It is hard to explain the complex emotions you feel to someone who doesn’t share your past experiences or the difficult transition. I offer this blog as a platform to share your stories below so that you can enjoy your life guilt free and happy.

jpy

IMG_0504There is a sense of pride in knowing that you were the first in your family or group of friends to venture outside the “norm.”

For some that may be going to college, for others that may be joining the military. For some that may even be doing both or neither OR starting a business, moving to a different city, buying a house, vlogging.

Whatever the source of that pride and the knowledge that you are the first to push outside the box; I think it’s safe to say that with the pride also comes the pressure.
With the pride comes the anxiety, the fear, and the feeling of not having what it takes to succeed in your dreams. I write this blog for you. I’ve experienced the feeling of not belonging and I’ve also, at different points in my life, allowed that feeling to paralyze my growth. Many times it can be frightening to start down a path that no one you know has taken or maybe they have and didn’t succeed.

However, you should know that there are many others with stories just like yours and that the best way to feel sure of yourself in a new environment is to prepare.

 

  • Prepare yourself by learning all you can about your endeavor
  • Sharpen your circle to include others who are on the same path
  • Find a mentor who can properly guide you

 

If you’re starting out in college and feel like your small town high school did NOT prepare you *raises hand* then spend that extra time studying, socializing, and exploring instead of taking that afternoon nap.

If you’ve decided to enlist then take time in advance to learn rank structure, creeds, and study the materials your recruiters give you. Becoming a small business owner? Great! surround yourself with other small business owners to get an idea of what you can expect in the first few years.

Nothing compares to the confidence that preparation and surrounding yourself with the  right people gives you. Growth is hard but it’s also exciting and if done right, rewarding. So, never be ashamed that you seek growth in a different way. Don’t allow yourself to feel like an outcast when your uniqueness gives you something those around you don’t have.

Find a way to take advantage of your disadvantage.
Often, children and young adults who are first generation successes find their journey to be a lonely one; this is one reason why networking is so very important.

Sometimes, MOST times you have to stretch your comfort zone to include the unfamiliar
but it is necessary to find individuals who will understand certain areas of your life. I have a best friend who went to college and joined part-time military just as I did. I know that I can talk to her about various issues concerning both.

On the other hand, I have a friend, who like me, was also from a low-income family. I can confide in this friend with issues others in my life may not understand because they did not experience it. I hope to connect young adults to each other  with similar feelings and experiences. That is one of the goals of this blog and the Let’s Build initiative.

The Let’s build initiative is all about uplifting our communities starting with young adults who may not have the direction and mentorship they desire and deserve. I offer this blog as a mirror, an outlet, and a source of relief with you knowing that you’re not alone.

This blog will serve as a format to encourage healthy discussions, provide  relevant  information and a sense of community for young adults and their parents. Stay tuned for weekly posts about the things that matter.