Veterans are quickly becoming a bigger part of the American population. We now make up slightly more than 10 percent of the U.S. population but there are many, many more civilians. Depending on the very careful, well-thought out decision I know you made on where to live, you may not ever see another vet. So along with all the other things you need to know about getting out of the military, now we need you to learn how to not be in the military anymore. You’re in for some culture shock.
A lot of civilians do not show up to things on time. They sure as hell don’t show up 15 minutes early to everything. They also eat their food at a normal pace. And there are so, so many slow walkers out there. But they don’t have the same ingrained training you do. Does that make you better than they are? Absolutely not, and you can’t let that get to you. Civilian life can be stressful enough without adding to it unnecessary and stupid irritants.
There are so many ways to confront the stress of everyday life. Your new civilian job is highly unlikely to give you the same time to PT as you had in the military, but working out is a great way to burn off the stress of walking behind an entire school of people who don’t seem to have anywhere they need to be anytime soon. The internet is full of ways to lead a low-stress life. You can find out what juice cleanse Gwyneth Paltrow is using this week or you can try some yoga with pro-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. The point is that you do something.
The Marine Corps Community has five mindfulness steps you might find interesting, because no one knows a stress-free life like the United States Marine Corps.
1. Don’t give negative thoughts more than 5 or 10 minutes of attention.
2. Focus on the positive. This could be a new job, a good book or a great hike you’ve enjoyed recently.
3. Change your activities. This could be as simple as moving from one room in the house to another. When you find yourself starting to think negatively, start washing the dishes or put a load of laundry in the washing machine. The idea is to remove yourself from the location where your negative thoughts occurred.
4. Go for a walk. Nature walks are really great at defusing heightened reactions from a memory of your past.
5. Talk to someone. Sometimes simply sharing your worries with another person can help you feel better. A trusted friend can provide support and help you focus on the present.
Those are just suggestions. A little trial and error and a little experimentation will help you find out what’s right for you. Just remember that drugs and alcohol aren’t the answer. They will eventually just become a problem in their own right while compounding the rest of your problems. The world has enough homeless, addicted, alcoholic veterans to take care of and we don’t need one more. That being said, be sure to look out for your brothers and sisters while you’re at it.
It’s great to identify as a veteran but since most vets leave the service at a very young age, it’s important to remember that your life is really just beginning. The military is not the only thing you’re gonna do with your life. It’s not even the best thing that you’ll ever do. To ensure you make it, you need to know that money will be tight for a while.
There’s nothing wrong with buying a Grunt Style shirt to go with your new Propper pants and backpack, but rein in your spending. You or your spouse might face periods of unemployment. Not having many of the base services you became accustomed to will strain your budget. And you may need a brand new wardrobe for your new life. Unplanned expenses come up all the time, but if you have a budget, you will survive.
There are a lot of budget styles out there to look at. Tailor one to your life. But the simplest budget is the 50-20-30 budget: put 50 percent of your paycheck toward expenses, 20 percent toward your savings, and then you can blow the last 30 percent on whatever you want – because you still need to have fun in life.
That’s all civilian life is: meeting your needs, managing your expectations, and setting your own priorities. Only now the Armed Forces of the United States isn’t meeting, managing, or setting any of that for you. So feel good about buying that scooter, going to Coachella, or ordering $20 of avocado toast, which is what I assume the kids are all about these days.