Friday May 16th marked my last day in the Coast Guard. Well I guess technically I'm on terminal leave until July 4th, but I can start growing my beard now and let's face it - that's all that really matters.
It was a bittersweet day for me. As I mentioned before, I'm very proud having spent the last five years in the Coast Guard and will always look back on this time favorably. I've gotten to go places that I wouldn't otherwise have gone, I crammed in a lifetime's worth of leadership lessons and specialty training that has helped me grow both in and out of uniform, and I made some of the best friends that I've ever had. It's that last part in particular - the Coasties I've met along the way - that makes leaving so hard.
Shout out to all my CGA amigos. Special thanks to Adam, Alex, Phil, Andi, Tommy, Patty, Noah, Flan, Trevor, Mike, Keely, Emily, Luke, Craig, and Jason for 9 years of good company and endless support.
Shout out to my CGC ACTIVE shipmates. Special thanks to Tim and the 7 cubic meter stateroom we shared while plotting adventures across oceans and up mountains.
Shout out to all the consummate professionals at MSST Seattle. Special thanks to broom closet homie Raf and my band of brothers - Yoda, Lumpy, JD, Tobie, Coconutz, Rojo, Slam, Squishy, Lassie, Moose, Dick, Mark, Ryan, Billy, Tomas, and Crema.
And sorry to the 1.3 million people that I forgot to mention by name. Best wishes to all the Coasties for continued success in their careers. May your remaining time be filled with fair winds, calm seas, fallout funds, and unlimited special liberty chits.
Lots of folks ask why I decided to get out. While I'm confident in my decision, it's quite difficult to explain and there's no concise "stock" answer. And even what I'll write here won't capture the whole story. Lots of little reasons, a few big ones, but nothing scandalous. The Coast Guard has been good to me - it's an honorable profession with great benefits. I was frustrated with the bureaucracy a good bit, but that's not reason enough to leave. The people are awesome, but it's not much fun to have to say goodbyes and pick up and move every few years. One thing that helped my decision was knowing that regardless if I stayed in or got out, I was still going to have to leave my current job and my great coworkers this summer. That's not a way to live. I hope to have a little more control of things like that, to find a place to set some roots and build a lasting sense of community.
I got to do everything I set out to do in the Coast Guard - travel to exotic lands, drive ships, stop some drugs, arrest bad guys, save a few people, fly in a helicopter, and shoot lots of guns. Looking down the road at my next tour, and the remainder of a career, I struggled to find a path among the options offered and felt my enthusiasm waning. I'm probably the type of guy better suited to the lower levels of the officer corps, when it's still part of the job to get out there with the troops instead of spending most of the time at a desk, regardless of how important the job is for the good of the service. So better to end on a high note I thought, then invest much more trying to figure it out only to certainly end up at the same decision a few years later. Leaving at the top of your game is the only way to go, and I think the Wizards Michael Jordan and Radio Shack Lance Armstrong would agree.
The biggest reason of all that I decided to get out, is that I feel called to a different vocation and want to pursue it wholeheartedly. I believe that the Coast Guard was absolutely what I was supposed to do from 2005 - 2014. But it's not what I'm supposed to do anymore. Everyone has that one thing that they would happily do the rest of their lives for free, or knows how they would spend their days if they won the lottery and money was no object. I won't spend long on the soap box, but I will remain long enough to say I think we should try and live like that every day, starting today, before we look back and realize it's too late. I've had a few experiences in my short time alive to help me put that into perspective. I recognize that some folks might have certain responsibilities (wives, children, etc) that give them less options. But I've found myself, and not by accident, without those obligations for the time being, and able to take some risks in the hope of richer rewards. So I'd like to see if I can't try and make a living spending my time outside, planning trips and logistics, working with small groups of motivated people, building self reliant wilderness skills, and promoting a mutual sense of adventure and conservation. What would you do?
So here's to the end of one exciting and rewarding chapter and the beginning of the next!
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain