EL PASO — I constantly find myself going over and over the decision I made more than a year ago. After serving in the U.S. Navy for seven years, I decided to put away my flight deck boots and step into some new shoes. It’s these “new shoes” that throw me off my equilibrium and make me question myself.
Up until three months ago, I started off my week knowing exactly what I was going to wear, how I’d do my hair and the extent to which my makeup would be done. I never painted my fingernails a funky shade, never highlighted my hair or had one too many drinks on a casual Sunday night. It would be dark when I left my house at 5 a.m. and be dark when I arrived at 7 p.m., six, if I was lucky. It was a routine that I was used to, single military mom —over caffeinated and sleep deprived.
The reasons for the decision I made were simple: I didn’t want to leave my girls (ages 5 and 20 months) again, and I had two years of college left hanging in the overhead (and I wasn’t getting any younger). Because my children were being raised in a Navy daycare center 10 hours a day, I felt guilty disciplining them. I felt guilty because I was too tired to make them healthy dinners 5 nights a week, so chicken nuggets and sopitas was a regular. There were many reasons I felt like a bad mother and having to go on deployment (had I stayed in) would be the absolute end for me. In 2005 I left my oldest daughter, Izabella when she was only 5 months old, when I returned she was 14 months —and walking. Sure, I called her everyday, read books on tape and sent them to her and made cards at every occasion that I missed —but I still missed a lot I would never get back. Add another child to the mix and leave her too —no way.
Now the college, my 10-year high school reunion is coming up and I’m still not done??? Something had to be done. I don’t complain too much about that because I wasted a lot of time my first two years in the Navy —partying too much and getting off track. After I had Izabella, I hit the books again, or at least the “online versions.” Because of my strenuous schedule and the brand new “joys” of motherhood, I could only take a course or two every semester, and online courses at that. I’ve realized online courses are not good for procrastinators- like myself.
Now, I start off my week not knowing what I’ll wear, but wondering what I’m going to make for breakfast. The way my hair looks no longer matters and if I want to wear scarlet red nail polish and rock 80’s blue eyeshadow, I can. I do have some struggles that I try my hardest to be optimistic about. I struggle with the fact that I’m not 18-years-old and in college —I’m 27— I’ve been around the world, married, divorced, kids —the works! I feel a little behind the curve, but I try to tell myself that it’s okay, at least I gained experience. Another big change in my life is that now I’m in a healthy relationship, complete with an extra hamper of laundry and compromise. When I was single, I had no one to reason with (except my five year old), no one to “run things by,” and no one to look sexy for (believe it or not, sometimes that’s work in itself). There are some things I miss, like not having to buy a new wardrobe with every season or the camaraderie of my “shipmates.” Oddly enough, I still find myself trying to stay connected to the Navy, even if it is browsing through The Navy Times or www.navy.mil.
The Navy was good to me and I’m proud of my service but I don’t regret the decision I made. Yes, I still ponder my “what if’s,” I question the unknown and worry that seven years of my life went down the drain (like some pessimists tell me). I wonder and wonder and go back and forth but in the end I come to the same conclusion: I am no longer in the Navy –I’m a full time student and finally, a full time mom.