‘The military and I have an agreement.’ This is what I told myself.
Not a real agreement, just one I believed in to help manage the stress that comes from regular uncertainty. In the seven years we have been active duty, it had become a pretty reliable lie.
“We will do the good and hard humanitarian work our country calls us to do, and in return for all the hard parts that is this transient life, the military will give me as much stability as it can possibly offer.’
I believed that back in August.
But then we pulled out of the middle east in the most abrupt way and this belief I had came crashing down.
In the most confused fashion my husband and his unit deployed in response to our exit from the middle east within twenty four hours. Several units did. We spent August to December separated. It was our second separation of the year.
Separation with only twenty four hours notice for an unknown amount of time with limited directive is at best a significant emotional event. At worst, it’s loneliness, anxiety, depression, and a deep temptation to ask your spouse to drop their papers and get out of the military – I faced all of the worst, in an empty house, all by myself, for months.
Ironically, if you were to look at my calendar from November of 2021, on a mid-month Wednesday you would see an event highlighted in yellow to put a blog up answering this question. It turned out however, that I was in the throes of reality learning the answer that I was not yet ready to publish.
I thought answering my ‘why’ question would be easy. I had already built the blog and one would assume if someone has already created something, they must have their purpose figured out. But figuring out your purpose and your ‘why’ is a lot of self-discovery, and that’s never a clean or tidy process. It’s why so many of us go to great lengths to put it off. The process of looking deep within ourselves is often depicted in movies as a post-conflict self-reflection in a garden somewhere with a bird or two, but the reality is that finding our ‘why’ is a lot of emotional boot-stomping and shit-kicking.
Those months were hard. I was alone, looking down the barrel of another lockdown. The months were naturally dark with few short sunny hours in the day, if the clouds permitted sun at all. A number of my friends had moved away due to military relocation, and my partner was gone indefinitely. I had nothing but ample time to think.
I sat in my empty house and realized I didn’t exactly have my own ‘why’ figured out.
Life alongside the military means coming second, even if you are married to the most dedicated partner. Your needs will always come second to the demands of the military. Your time will always come second to the requirements of service. Your career will always be of lesser importance. Where you live and with whom you become friends will always be connected with the conditions of life in active duty.
I’d gotten so used to my ‘why’ for moving or changing or pivoting being attached to the military, I forgot to ask myself what my own ‘why’ is. Heck, the reason the blog even started so many years ago was because of the military. But when you are sitting on the floor by yourself, and the answer to ‘why’ is again ‘the military,’ you have to come to quick terms with why you need your own ‘why.’ Eric’s abrupt absence not only allowed me to intimately feel the affects of policy (which in this case felt like shit, by the way), but shined a spotlight on the importance of having my own ‘why.’
I learned quickly how hard it is to do hard things without an answer to this question.
Unpacking my own shit was hard to confront.
It’s hard and scary work looking deep within yourself and unravelling everything it is you know, everything it is you believe, and every vision it is that you have for yourself. It can make you feel isolated, alone, and pretty pissed off all at the same time.
It can also be pretty freeing. As I sat in those messy, vulnerable moments with myself, it was there alone that I could figure out my ‘why.’
Why Policy Matters to Me
The most unnerving part of the twenty four hour deployment for me was not that my husband was called forward to do his job. That’s part of the gig. I do not make the mistake of believing life is fair or that I am a victim. It is not, nor am I.
The hardest part for me was rolling over to find his side of the bed cold and empty, with no clear idea of how long he would be gone, and no control over the situation.
That’s policy, at the very lowest level.
It felt a little like what it feels like every time you turn on the news. We are all asking the same questions. ‘Wait, who is in charge here? What the hell is happening? When is this going to end? Is this really the best way? How can we do this differently? Would a different approach change the outcome? How can I help?’
That’s all policy. It’s how we tell the story of our communities, country, and world.
The very lowest level of policy is the way in which individuals experience systematic decisions made on their behalf.
I have lived in most of the major regions of my own country, and lived in and travelled almost all of Europe. I have learned what I love, and what I want to change. I have learned what I care about, and released from my focus that which distracts from my greater calling in life. And while the world is filled with beautiful people and innovative minds, the more I go, the more I realize apathy and confusion are a universal common denominator.
Policy, and the work I care to do in it matters to me because I know very real people’s lives would look very different if they knew how to approach the system.
And people matter to me.
This matters to me because I know what it feels like, in the most intimate ways, to be affected by policy and the decisions of others. Loving people is my highest calling, but those are empty words if I care nothing about the systems that have a very real impact on your life. The best way I know how to love people is to work to improve the things that have a real impact on their life, in such a way people are empowered to live how they determine is best.
This is the best way I know how to serve people, the world, and my country.
It’s what my husband does. Turns out, it’s what I do too. And it’s a very worthy cause.
Thats where this blog comes in.
Just turning on the news will tell you that a number of the systems in place aren’t working. Everything that we eat, drink, read, watch, learn, purchase, transact, breathe, consume, build, and destroy is a product of policy.
Every habit we have made peace with and every reality we are at war with is touched by the decision-making mechanisms that create policy, ultimately deciding the outcomes of very real people.
This matters. People matter. I matter. You matter.
If I tried to care intensely about everything I care about, my head would explode and I would feel like I’d accomplished literally nothing. My energy would be spread way too thin.
What I trust though is that if you are reading this blog it’s because you care about something just as intensely as I do. You probably also know what both good and/or bad policies feel like.
Maybe it’s the environment, social justice, education or mass media. Maybe it’s none of these or maybe it’s all of them.
What I know is that central to anything and everything we care about and how those cares exist in the world, most importantly to the people we love, is policy.
That’s the torch I can carry, and it’s the one I have chosen.
I’ll help to make understanding policy, power structures, decision-making models and consequences more accessible so that you can go out and feel a little bit more capable and empowered carrying whatever torch you have picked up.
And why do that, you ask?
Well, considering it’s the whole reason we are reading this post…
Because I know how policy can affect the head, the heart, and the very temperature of your bed sheets.
Because loving people means fighting for their right to self determination. The best way I know to do this is to help you understand the key structures involved in changing the world, so that you can go out and change it. Knowledge is power – cue the truthful cliche.
Because poor policy limits people’s right to self determination, which is key to preserving the parts of this world we love the most, while creating space for innovative solutions to the parts of us that need to change, without an oppressive use of force.
Because loving you is my highest calling.
And for this ‘why,’ I will keep coming back, even on my hardest days.
Happy 2022. Let’s get to work.
To comebacks that are stronger than setbacks,
A few points to add:
The only way I know how to write this blog is to be equally in the world, as in the space to make sense of what it means to be in it and of it…and then write about it. Because of this, this platform’s pieces are produced with some irregularity. If it seems I have disappeared, it’s only because I am either actively doing something, or processing what I am about to write. I may change as a person over the years, but none of the words come cheap or easy, so I go quiet from time to time. Loving my work means loving the very human, irregular parts of me. My closest circle knows it as my ‘rabbit-hole.’ You are welcome to call it the same thing.
I write about travel because life has afforded me the opportunity, and I know if you feel inspired to go out into the world, you will have a real world understanding of people and policy you can’t get from the internet. This is essential to creating better solutions to everything.
As much as I try to remain a neutral resource, I am not a neutral person. My work will reflect my motivations, and candidly, I am highly motivated. Because of this, I hope I earn your trust, but I hope I am not the sole source of your information. I have no business having that kind of power, and you shouldn’t freely give it to me.