I just got out of the Army after 6 years of service.
I couldn't wait to get out, especially as my time dwindled beneath the year mark. I had a very negative outlook on my situation and wanted nothing more than to just be done with it.
But now, looking back at things I did, places I went, and people I met really make me smile.
Too bad I couldn't bring myself to appreciate all those experiences when they were happening.
I got to do things and was able to do things
I never thought I, need lip gloss at ALL TIMES Kara, could do.
I completed 9 weeks of Basic Training at 28 years old which was a HUGE accomplishment for me. It was the first thing I had ever finished. For me finishing Basic was my High School Graduation.
I learned how to shoot a rifle and many other types of firearms. I traded in my high heels for combat boots and marched many miles with a weighted pack on my back and in formations signing cadence as we went along.
I began speaking the lingo, using acronyms, and learned what kind of leader I was.
I transformed from the girl I was into a Soldier, and then into the woman I am today.
It was a great transformation and I grew up a lot over the past 6 years. I learned a lot about who I was and who I wanted to become. It was definitely tough at times.
Family time was limited and separation from my Husband in our young marriage was frequent. Vacations couldn't be planned on the fly and even weekend getaways had to be approved. At times I felt suffocated.
I had to maintain a healthy weight and pass my physical fitness tests, which proved difficult at times because I fell into a rut, depression, that lasted for about 2 years. The one thing I tried to keep unaffected were the Soldiers' welfare and being the best I could be at my job.
But, looking back I can see where I could have done things differently.
I could have had a better attitude. I could have realized there was only so much I was in control of. I could have been a better listener instead of having to be heard as much. I could have complained less. I could have focused more on my personal health and well-being.
I could have been more grateful for the cultures I was submersed in, for the countries I was able to live in and visit. I should have learned another language. I should have gotten out more often instead of staying in my comfort zone.
I should be more grateful for the people I met, interacted with, and worked with every day. I hope to know some of them the rest of my life.
I was inspired by many. Some people inspired me to be better than they were; others inspired me to be more like them.
It is funny, the bond that is created through service: paths cross that probably never would otherwise. And,while that can be daunting at times, it is all perspective. More than anything, I should have taken it as enrichment.
In hindsight, I had some really wonderful times in the Army. I laughed some of my heartiest, heartfelt laughs in the Army, I met true friends in the Army, and I found my Husband in the Army.
I also experienced great sadness losing friends, dealing with disappointments, and struggles I never thought I would face.
But all in all, I am grateful for what my service gave me, even if it is different from other peoples' experiences, and even if it is in hindsight.
If nothing else, the lesson I will take away from it all is to be grateful for NOW. Find the good in NOW. Because one day, today will be only a glimmer in your rearview.
Don't waste today.