Final Count Down

September –  October –  November –  December  –  January  –  February  –  March –  April

My final countdown.

I’ve spent a lot of my life counting down – and I’m pretty over it.

In 2002, I entered into the US Coast Guard Academy as a Swab.  Knowing “Days to Go”  until significant events was part of our daily required indoc. As a matter of fact, we’d have to recite a countdown of days to go (until graduation, football games, Thanksgiving/Christmas/Spring break…)  while we were counting down the minutes to go until formation.

Let’s just say the emphasis was not on living in the moment. There was always something better promised on the horizon.

Starting in 2003, I started keeping a count of days to go until my own graduation. Not saying I didn’t enjoy my time at school, I did – but I was always looking forward to something else. Maybe that’s the design of a military academy; you focus all of your energy on reaching for that dangling carrot so you don’t focus on the menial tasks and bull shit rules “the man” wrote up for you.

Just waiting it out.....

In 2004, I took on more of a leadership role at school; not just keeping my own head count of days until the end of the week/semester/year, but creating events for other people to look forward to – like nighttime Frisbee games and a midnight poetry club. Tick Tock, Tick Tock.

In 2005, I needed a reality check. I took a year away, lived in the moment and moved to an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico where I tended to children and local feral dogs.

Mexico 2005 - 2006

In 2006, I returned to the Academy with my eyes set on the finish line. My countdown was the only thing that got me through my first real heartbreak and the ever-restrictive grip that the Academy’s chain of command maintained on us.

On May 23, 2007, I thought my countdown was over.

I made it!

I was wrong.

I received orders to report to Coast Guard Cutter STEADFAST out of Astoria, Oregon. Initially, I loved being on the cutter, but with an ever-deteriorating command climate, it wasn’t long before I found myself counting down again. Number of patrols before transfer season, days left in a patrol,  hours on watch, minutes before liberty could be granted. It was 2 more years of ever-counting down. People made paper chains that they could physically shorten by tearing off a ring for each day they were closer to transferring off the cutter. No one was immune from it.

GET ME OFF THIS BOAT

In June 2009, I transferred to New Haven, Connecticut for a job at Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. I was in a long-distance relationship and quickly began count downs for weekends I would spend with my fiance at his parent’s house down on the Eastern Shore of Maryland or trips we planned to take together.

When we broke up in December, 2009, I kept a count down for how long until I felt better. My heart had just gotten smashed and my poor ego was shattered when I found out about the girl he dumped me for a few weeks later. Maybe by spring time, I’d feel better? Maybe by summer I wouldn’t miss him? Maybe by the fall, I’d have forgotten all about him? I started looking forward to a change of seasons. Change brings promise. I was counting down again to this illusion of promise on the horizon.

In July 2010, I stopped my countdown completely for 47 days. I was deployed to the Unified Area Command in New Orleans, Louisiana to assist with the Coast Guard’s response to the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill. I worked 16 hour days, at the side of public affairs professionals from the Coast Guard, FEMA, USGS, NPS, NOAA, the White House – you name it, they were there. Every day, I was learning something new. Within my first week, I’d become a resident expert – I was treated as if I had been writing news releases and talking points and setting up press conferences etc. my whole life. There was no countdown. I was in it – every minute. And when the boots came off at the end of the day, I slipped into a pair of heels and enjoyed the wonderful hospitality New Orleans has to offer.

Taking a few minutes to sleep in New Orleans - something I didn't do very often...

Post-deployment routine brought me back to my count down. I realized, I had to find things to look forward to, or I wouldn’t feel satisfied with my life. When you are at peace with where you are, you don’t need to count down to anything. When you feel valued, when you feel like your contributions are appreciated, when you feel like your work makes a difference, you don’t need to look forward to anything else.

September –  October –  November –  December  –  January  –  February  –  March –  April

I’ll be looking for some sort of Public Relations job outside of the Coast Guard. Not sure if I’ll end up in marketing or media relations or something with a journalistic nexus. I’m still trying to decipher the mysteries of the “outside world.”  There’s a lot out there, so I’ve been talking to people, getting advice, asking questions like, “School now or later?”

More and more people have been suggesting that I try my hand at journalism. I hope I’m brave enough to do that.

I love writing. I know I’ll always write, it’s a need for me. Most days, I feel like I live to write.  Writing gives me an internal electricity that makes me keenly aware of my heart beating. But, as far as writing to live – I don’t know. I’m scared to seek full time employment as a writer. I hate to think of my rent check and grocery bill being dependent upon this fickle gift I am constantly afraid of losing (or may not really have – gifts are so relative, after all).

Either way, I trust that the days to counting down until things get better are over….almost.

September –  October –  November –  December  –  January  –  February  –  March –  April

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About ermodi

i like champagne and nachos. i watch people’s mouths move when they talk to me and judge if they are a good kisser i like to write with fine-tip Sharpies because i think it makes me look confident i bite my nails i think doing the dishes is a very lonely chore i think “autumn” is the prettiest word in the English language. i believe in love – or, at least something that resembles love, but i don’t trust this idea of forever.
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4 Responses to Final Count Down

  1. I hope things get better for you soon.Takecare.

  2. sukanya says:

    yay …living in the moment is underrated, Maureen. Go with your instincts and do what you love.

  3. T says:

    Come live with me while you pursue your dream!! I’ll charge you essentially nothing for rent if you walk Theo while I’m at work…

    … I’m quite serious.

  4. Ermodi says:

    T – I might take you up on that. Let me know if you hear of any cool jobs in Seattle and I’ll jump on it!

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