Over the course of 20 years, I went from being Pvt. Burton to Sgt. 1st Class Kilpatrick. Somewhere between here and there, I lost Leah.

As much as I swore I would not drink the Army Kool-Aid, I got institutionalized. I got immersed in the culture. We have a whole different language and a way of relating to each other than what you find in the civilian sector. The two worlds are not always compatible.

On the whole, my transition has been successful. I completed the Transition Assistance Program, and, I must say, it was successful at meeting its purpose. I have a job. That’s the objective.

But as I perused LinkedIn one day, I commented on a post by one of my former sergeants major. The next thing I knew, one of his followers, Annie Brock, sent me a private message inviting me to attend her 3-day seminar for transitioning servicemembers. I was game to take advantage of any program that I felt could help in my transition, so I jumped at the chance to attend.

About a week or so before the seminar was scheduled to take place, I received a box in the mail with what I can only describe as a weird assortment of supplies in preparation for the seminar. The workbook made sense, but the marbles and the Legos threw me for a loop. What in the world were we going to do with these?

Brock and her team taught the virtual seminar under the umbrella of her 501c3, the Leader Transition Institute. We started on a Thursday evening at 7 p.m. I had just enough time to get off work, pick up the kids, and throw some chicken nuggets in the oven to tame my two little savage beasts.

I had no idea what to expect, but I was ready for whatever came … or so I thought.

On Day 1, Brock said that we needed to be honest with each other and with ourselves as we embarked on this journey, and I thought, “Sure. How hard can that be?”

We went through lesson after lesson and practical exercise after practical exercise. We learned about our own brains’ tendency to be resistant to change. We defined what we felt was our own individual purpose in life, our past experiences, our motivations, our goals, our dreams, and I was onboard for all of it.

Then we came to talking about the things we let stand in our way. The lies we have told ourselves or that others have told us that have hindered us from reaching our dreams.

I broke.

As I sat in a Zoom classroom with my camera on, trying to put into words my own debilitating fear of failure and not only write it down, but say it out loud, my eyes burned. My vision got blurry, and tears dripped onto my workbook.

Brock calls it, “Doing the work.” Being 100 percent honest with yourself and doing the work to really discover who you are, what you want, what dreams you want to fulfill, and to know that are indeed capable of achieving them is not as easy as it sounds.

I absolutely value the skills and resources I gained from TAP, but I will be forever grateful for the experience of being shepherded through the mindset shift that is necessary for a successful transition from BDUs to business suits.

Tomorrow: A Q&A with Annie Brock on her program for transitioning servicemembers.

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