For my entire Air Force career (all seven years, that is), I went back and forth between wanting to serve for a full 20+ years or separating when my commitment was up.
This decision to separate was filled with fear, anxiety, stress, shame, and guilt. On active duty, choosing to separate becomes a dirty little secret that no one talks about until your very last day. Perhaps the most challenging part is the fact that I couldn’t speak to anyone about it. Although it may be different for enlisted members, for officers, telling anyone you are considering separation is a guaranteed way to kill any chance of having a successful career. Instead, we are constantly told to shoot for colonel and keep quiet about anything less.
Even though more than 80% of military members will separate before retirement eligibility, the topic of separation is taboo. Now, having been a veteran for an entire year, I can say that separation was the best decision I could have ever made. Although transition can be challenging for most people, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, especially if it’s time. So, how do you know if it’s time?
You dread going to work.
The last position I held on active duty was my favorite position during my seven years of service. I had a fantastic team of people I worked with, and the workload wasn’t overbearing. Even still, I dreaded Monday mornings. I didn’t have the typical Sunday night blues, but a no kidding, miserableness that made me drag my feet as I got ready to walk out the door.
Feeling this way when you are in a job you dislike or a difficult season can be expected but feeling this way when you have a job you would typically enjoy is a sign it may be time to separate.
Additional signs may include:
- Dreading Sunday nights because you have work in the morning.
- Struggling to find enjoyment at work (no matter what you do).
- Rushing to leave work “early” frequently.
Money is your only motivator.
Whether it’s a paycheck on the 1st and 15th, or the “guaranteed” retirement, there may come a season where money is your only motivator to show up to work. In an environment like the Armed Forces, where your responsibilities can directly impact your country or the lives of its citizens, this becomes a huge problem.
The military requires sacrifice from every single member that serves. Would you be willing to lay it all down for money? Most wouldn’t. Money can most certainly be a motivator, but it shouldn’t be your only motivator.
If serving your nation and protecting U.S. citizens doesn’t motivate you to bring your best, it may be time to pursue a different profession.
You feel called to something else.
A wise friend once shared with me that there was no shame in leaving the military. For years I struggled with feeling called to take my talents elsewhere but feeling ashamed of not wanting to serve anymore. She reminded me that I had already served my nation proudly. Accepting this allowed me to lay down any guilt of dreaming about a different career.
Perhaps you have a dream or a passion but are unsure if you should pursue it. If you are feeling called to do something else, know that it is okay. Be brave enough to chase your dreams.
While individually, these signs may not mean it’s time to separate, if you found yourself agreeing to both or all, then it’s probably time to separate. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. You have served your country, and believe it or not, very few people can say that.Read comments