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One of the biggest struggles that I’ve experienced thus far during my time in Seattle is that I don’t know what “normal” is for my own generation. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hilariously out of touch with almost everything other people in their late 20s does or thinks. I married early, had kids early and bought both my first ever pair of Sperrys and my first Yeti within the past year. And unless you count the PGP event down in Austin from back in March, I’ve still never been to a restaurant and actually had brunch.
Shit, I wrote an article about Birkenstocks and during the submission of said article I called them “Birkensocks” because I legit thought that’s what they were called. Hat tip to Chill D’Breeze for having my back and fixing that so I didn’t look even more like a jackass than I do in my normal life up here in Seattle.
One of the numerous challenges that I am facing up in Seattle might be some form of identity crisis, if I’m being completely honest here. Other people my age are just now considering getting married and most certainly don’t have a son with two more boys due in the next 6 weeks or so. Given that the people I can actually tolerate in Seattle is less than 5% of the overall population, I’m working with an incredibly small sample size of people to connect with. Throw on top of that cultural clash, that I’m already “different” than the 95% of people in this country who aren’t Veterans, and the fact that I’ve hit the major familial life milestones incredibly early, and you get a dude and his wife who are fairly lonely up here. Add in the fact that my wife is measuring at around 10 months pregnant (you read that right, #thxtwins) and we can’t exactly get out-and-about during the summer.
If I had to determine who my best friend up here is after spending four months in Seattle, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you. The person I associate and resonate the most with is actually 20 years older than me. Mix in the fact that I work in HR, which is an overwhelmingly female organization, and even my options for “work friends” become fairly limited. Sure, maybe this is a combination of my lack of general apathy towards the majority of this population up here and my inherent differentness from them. Veteran integration back into the “normal” world is something that almost all of us struggle with. I had a fellow PGP Veteran shoot me an email after an article I wrote saying please don’t tell me “Happy Memorial Day” where we talked about some of our life experiences that we don’t exactly disclose to others.
It felt good to have that conversation because that stuff is inside of us and impacts how we interact with others whether we know it or not. Those experiences are things that have had monumental impacts on our life but are also things we don’t regularly talk about. Because I sometimes don’t even acknowledge those things about myself nearly as much as I should, there is a certain apprehension in just suddenly making new friends in a new place with new types of people.
The struggles around this stuff is one of the reasons that I work in the ‘Veteran Space’ for my current job, and the chance to impact that is literally the only reason I moved to Seattle. I know that I’m not the only former service member having this internal conflict, as evidenced by the 22 suicides a day within the Veteran community, and my goal in life is to drive that number all the way down to zero. With that being said, the answer to that is not simply pretending these differences between us and the rest of the country do not exist.
With all of this being said, one can notice that there is obviously a nice big melting pot of “differentness” between myself and the PNW. The main challenge with this, though, is what while Central Texas is absolutely flush with former military, the City of Seattle is just a little short in that department.
If you take anything from this, let it be this: if there’s a Veteran friend or coworker that you know, take them out for a beer. Don’t make it seem charitable, but make it known to them that they aren’t alone. 65% of us will leave our first job post-military within the first two years, and one of the main reasons for that? A lost sense of comradery that we experienced while we were in the military. Back in those days, we all joined the same organization, for the same reasons, with the same goals and for the same(ish) paychecks. Those days are gone for us now. What was once a very structured life that didn’t require a whole lot of existential thoughts has been turned completely upside down.
I didn’t write this as some form of sympathy tour for poor Kiawah; I’ll figure things out here sooner rather than later. Maybe it’s a vent, maybe I should check out therapy, or maybe I’m finally sitting down and recognizing what the problem is..