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It’s Veteran’s Day and while, in my personal life, I pretty well wear that identity on my sleeve, I only mention it in my blogging life periodically. I thought that today would be a great opportunity to break that trend.
The other day, I ran into a friend of mine that, even though we live in the same county, I only see every couple of weeks. As we got to talking, she said something that really got me to thinking. She said that, when we first met 3 or 4 years ago, she could see that I was kind of lost and all over the place, but that she has been excited to see me “blossom” over the past year.
It got me to wondering what she meant by “blossom” and just what had changed over the past year or so. I mean, I’m still incredibly busy writing, photographing, substitute teaching, volunteering at church and school, cooking for the family, and raising three young kids with activities all the time. It’s not like things have slowed down or that I have any more time. If anything, I’m busier now that I have ever been.
So what’s the difference? I think it all feels more natural now. What changed?
Ever since I got back from Iraq in 2003, I’ve been trying to find my place in society. When you spend such formative years in a place where everyone is looking out for each other, it’s hard to adjust to the civilian world where people tend to look out for themselves first.
So for over 10 years, I have struggled with PTSD, trying to take the path that I was supposed to in an attempt to be productive and to support a wife and three kids, but finding over and over again that such a path would never work for me.
Through most of that time, I never really took the chance to find myself. I was always searching, wandering, but I kept getting pulled away from the journey to do a load of laundry or drive kiddos to preschool. I could never really just focus on figuring out where I fit and too often, I felt like I was running away from something.
Then Beth entered me into a contest for a press trip to Chile. I wound up winning the trip, buying a nicer camera for it, and rediscovering my love for travel and, more importantly, for exploration. You see, for all of my time spent exploring myself, it never struck me to look at myself as an explorer.
Most importantly, once I slowed down and started seeing the world more clearly (through the proper lens, if you will), I was able to see what my PTSD was doing to my relationship with my wife and kids. In my effort to do the best by my family, I had probably given them my worst. I hadn’t driven them away, but I knew that denying that I had a problem would do it eventually. It wasn’t that I had to change; I had to stop thinking that I needed to.
Over the past year or so, very little has changed, but everything has changed. I still suffer from PTSD, but I have accepted it and have asked the family for help. I still stay busy, juggling a lot of tasks, but I have accepted that this is how I will be productive. I still spend a fair amount of time on my own, no longer in hiding, but as a necessity of my work. And, as much as possible, I try to involve my family in my work.
My friend said that she was excited to see me “blossom”, but what she really meant was that she was happy to see me at peace, accepting of myself and of how I fit into society. To be honest, I’m pretty happy about it as well.
Have you struggled to find where you fit in? How have you come to terms with it? Leave a comment and share your story!