What did I expect? Well, I didn’t expect to be working 12 hour shifts on a building site up to my nuts in horse shit. Was I foolish to think otherwise? Yes.
The Corps breeds a mindset that tells us we are the best, that we can do anything we want, overcome everything, and become whoever we want to be. All of this is correct, but what it failed to do was tell us how to get there. Time spent before getting out was mainly consumed by thoughts of being a civvy, how long my hair would be, and what would I do with all the women and gold at my feet. This is all we had ever heard, the dits about blokes getting out, leaving for far off lands and smashing pirates for bags of coin. What we didn’t know was the shit times blokes had to go through to get there, and why didn’t we? Because we are too proud.
The mentality that we build in training breeds a mindset which is highly effective and necessary on ops. We are taught to believe that if there is the slightest possibility, it could manifest into a probability, we apply the theory when we calculate risks and when we think about overcoming the almost impossible. And it works. The product of this mindset, is that any possibility of success on the outside is achievable, and that we are purely limited by what Gucci, ally looking character our imagination can conjure up. However, a by-product of this mindset is that anything other than achieving our goals is a failure, but it’s not. It took me a long time to swallow my pride, stick my hand up and accept that I might need a leg up in life.
Getting medically discharged is a stinker for anyone, but I was fortunate. My body was intact, albeit with a couple of unsalvageable knees, I couldn’t drip about my situation. When I entered the remits of career transition, trying to get my head around transferable skills, writing CV’s and interview techniques was challenging. For the past 8 years my literacy skills had only reached the dizzy heights of a route card, and so trying to muster up a cover letter and a CV that didn’t sound like a set of orders was hard work. I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do. My heart was in the Corp, so deciding on which route to take on the outside was tough. I knew that cyber security was a decent industry to get into, so when I rocked up on a course dominated by former sigs and Int boffs, this solid Tankie was out of depth. I cuffed the course, but I wasn’t sure if it was for me.
Time was running out and I really started to question what it was I wanted to, then before I knew it I was a civvy. Shit. Ok, everyone else was smashing it now it was my time to do so, and I didn’t have a scooby where to start. Luckily for me, I managed to land a job building stables. It was the summer and I could get some Phys done whilst getting bronzed on the building site. Weeks turned into months, and before I know I was wearing a softie suit carrying 100kg sections across bogged up fields, wielding a pair of sparrow knees. This wasn’t what I had in mind. It wasn’t just the hard graft, lack of 2-hour lunch breaks and time off to do Phys that hit me like a truck of reality, it was the realisation of me as person. Overnight I was transported into a world where Jimmy Saville jokes went down like tonne of bricks, drinking every night was deemed ‘excessive’, and swamping on colleagues on a night out wasn’t funny. My dits of war were wasted on people who couldn’t relate, the look of shock in their faces signalled for me to wind it in and it wasn’t their fault. I wasn’t in the Corps anymore and I had to evolve, or I’d become a dinosaur. I’d become extinct.
It wasn’t that my jobs were at all bad, or poorly paid, it was the realisation that I wasn’t growing into the person that I wanted to become, and I had no idea how to change. Feeling alienated was an understatement. How could I share my dissatisfaction with my life with the people around me? The first thing that hit me was my social life, I had lost touch with friends and I couldn’t make the re-unions because summer leave didn’t exist, and any chance of a catch seemed impossible. After the first winter as a civvy, I knew it was time to move on, but I couldn’t do it on my own. Monster’s local job search wasn’t inspiring and most of the positions required years of experience which I didn’t have, even the words within the adverts were alien to me. It was at this point in my journey that I hit rock bottom, swallowed my pride, stuck my hand up and asked for help.
I finally reached out to the RM’s charity, and after a great deal of effort on their part they secured me a ‘CV push’ on a graduate scheme for one of the UK’s biggest defence contractors. Feeling way out of my depth again I gave it a shot. After weeks of interviews and a final assessment day against 25 other grads, I was surprisingly offered the position. Without even having a degree, I managed to achieve something that was unthinkable at a time, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t become conscious of what was going on around me and asked for a helping hand. The role challenged me mentally, it taught me a lot and it showed me that we as veterans, do add value where we think we might not.
Whilst we are geared up in the forces to achieve everything we want in our military careers, we are never really taught how to adapt once we leave, how to fail and accept we might need help. For some the realisation comes too late, and for others it doesn’t come at all. Remember we are not alone, that someone out there has been through the same shit and someone out there has made it out on the other side. For us a community, we have a responsibility to look out for one another. Reach out to your oppo’s, go for a wet and keep dreaming big, because it will come.
Stay frosty sailors.
To find out more about the RM charity, the support that they offer or even career opportunities, visit https://theroyalmarinescharity.org.uk/