Life post-college happened quickly. I commissioned and took my oath on a sunny Friday morning in May. That afternoon I graduated from my college and by Sunday the university had given its blessing in a big ceremony on the National Mall in Washington, DC. On Monday I went to work.
Within a month of all of this I had moved all of my worldly possessions into a lovely little apartment at my first duty station, hosted my parents for a week, lugged some things onto my ship, and deployed.
I think I am still recovering from the whip-lash.
In four years of study and training I was never really taught what my job or Navy life would be like. It was described to me and parts of it thrown into a Power Point presentation but none of that really prepared me for what life was going to be like on a destroyer out to sea. There is nothing like it and frankly no way to prepare for it aside from a solid up-bringing and an open mind (Semper Gumby – Always Flexible), so I suppose it was all for the best. My previous shenanigans and experiments have prepared me for different aspects of my life now (thank goodness) and some have made adjusting to naval tradition a bit harder, so I will be referencing them as this blog continues.
A few brief examples:
*College Roommates (Part 1): Living with the girls and sharing a shower is a helpful tool in my “kit.” I have never had to share one shower and one toilet with seven other women at one time before, but we make it work in Forward Officer’s Country (to be known as fwd O-Country or simply fwd O from now on – it’s a passage way up at the front of the ship where a few of the officers’ staterooms are and where they have placed all *eight* of our female officers). And I have learned to braid my hair since taking the time to wash all of it and wrestle it into a regulation bun is not always possible.
*College Roommates (Part 2): Living with the guys – the lovely conversations (both drunken and sober) about leadership, religion, politics, philosophy, video games, sex, beer, farts, beer-farts, etc., have proven useful. Conversation is truly a form of art and after a few thousand nautical miles, the ability to strike up and carry on a conversation at 0300 is hugely important to a watch team – the topic, however, is not.
*The “no thank you” bite: I was always made to try something before I could refuse. This has served me well my whole life, especially in foreign countries where some dishes are simply frightening. It has made me into an incredibly adventurous foodie… but Navy food is a force to be reckoned with. I made the mistake of peeking into the galley and looking at the boxes of frozen and dried food labeled “FOR PRISON AND MILITARY USE.” Yup, that’s right, the men and women of your armed forces eat the same quality meat as your convicts. The taste of freedom and lack of freedom all in one big, grade-D bite! That being said, I have tried each meal in the very predictable rotation at least once (it really is the only way I know what day of the week it is sometimes – Wednesdays, for example, are burger days) and now know when to work out or take a nap instead of eating. Microwaveable Mac’n'Cheese and Campbell’s Chunky chicken noodle goes a long way… every Wednesday.
*Rollin’ with the punches: My mother once told me, “If you want to hear G-d laugh, tell him your plans.” It’s true. No plan survives first contact with the enemy and, of course, Mom was right. I have yet to devise a plan I have actually seen all the way through no matter how hard I tried or how many loose ends I thought I had tied up. So I have given up on such plans and it has worked well for me. Every time we think our port schedule is finalized and we look forward to a visit or begin to make plans, a part breaks irreparably or a security threat is heightened, or any manner of other random issues crop up and there goes our port visit. We do eventually pull into port – just not the exotic locations originally planned… when we do pull into port.
*Study abroad: I am so thankful that I have developed the ability to live in a strange place, be uncomfortable, adapt, learn a new way of doing things, and be happy about “the process” in-and-of-itself. The exercise of throwing everything I owned into a couple duffel bags, hopping on a train, and moving clear across the country was a stepping stone to up and moving to Russia. Nothing had ever been so strange and new before! (And as life would have it, nothing ever has been so strange or new since… even this crazy Navy thing!) So here I am in a strange place, a little uncomfortable sometimes, but I am adapting and I am learning so much every single day. Also, I understand currency conversion rates… who knew that would be amongst the most important skills I picked up in the Eastern Bloc?
*Newspaper Editing: The ability to format documents and edit text has become hugely important to me. Also, a solid base in flowery page-filler has made life as Legal-O a little easier too.
*Internships and secretarial jobs: These odd jobs put a few handy skills in my “tool kit”. I can make a mean pot of coffee in any pot, with any “fair game” grounds around the office. Thank goodness. I can throw together a Power Point presentation in minutes! And I can brief it off the cuff (without just reading the slides…) even if I am super nervous (of course, it is not always the best but at least the Captain gets the information and we can all move on). I can file things (which is apparently difficult?). I’m no Radar O’Reilly, but I usually have the answers to the XO’s (Executive Officer) questions as he asks them…