Right out the gate let me tell you that I have been living with chronic depression and anxiety for, well, most of my life. Despite the jovial, irreverent facade most people see during the day, the core emotional reality I experience nearly all day long, every day, is a dark melancholy, a Black Hole. No magic wand will ever make this go away. I’m jovial and upbeat for others and for myself. Sometimes I can fool myself into forgetting the Black Hole exists.
At least, for a little while.
The upside to this is that I’m a pretty clever writer, poet, and very empathic leader. Still, sometimes I’d trade all my linguistic acumen and rhetorical genius for a life NOT lived feeling eternally isolated; trapped in a crushingly silent bubble, separated from the thriving humanity visible on the other side of the transparent prison wall.
I wrote with excitement back in October of last year about deciding to retire. Well, since then I have been advanced to Chief Petty Officer. I have left the Training Department and am currently the Operations Leading Chief Petty Officer and Production Leading Chief Petty Officer for a worldwide deployable command. I have over 20 Sailors deployed right now that I have oversight for. I supervise two managers and their teams running the Operations and Production Departments. I was asked for by name to temporarily act as the Leading Chief Petty Officer of United States Fleet Forces Command’s Public Affairs Office next week while their Senior Chief Petty Officer is away.
Right as I get ready to retire I hit the Big Time as far as the Navy is concerned. It’s a good end to a career, I suppose. However, in the quite emptiness of my own house, I find myself beset by the crushing isolation of life and wonder what was it all for?
What has one actually, truly achieved if they value one very simple and non-material thing…but fail to achieve it even while completing grand adventures and accomplishments?
What is one to make of their life if they grew up valuing something very simple, very small, and very right, but utterly failed to achieve it even while attaining some of the great heights of power and influence the world values?
The one thing I ever wanted was a family. I’d trade all the globetrotting and military accolades for just coming home to someone who gives a damn about me and for whom I care. Yet…it seems that one simple thing is something I’m to be denied and forever fail to find.
Well-meaning friends tell me to “let it go” and stop looking. To basically just stop being me and stop wanting what I want. If I stop looking and stop wanting, they say, then I’ll find it.
That makes sense.
I want something that everyone says is supposed to be the right thing to want and the one thing that really lasts—family. But because I want it very much I’m not ever going to have it unless I stop wanting it.
Again (please note the sarcasm here), THAT makes sense.
Don’t get me wrong. I live. I explore. I read. I go to the movies. I find places I’ve never been and things I’ve never seen. I try to keep making me better. I get out and I live.
But the inevitable return to the empty house awaits. The brutal quiet that mocks me with its reminder that I failed in the only promise I ever made to myself—that I would not be alone. I’m 45 years old and managed to achieve a lot while failing at the one thing I actually valued and wanted. I’m a visitor to everyone else’s family, but never at home with one of my own.
When I retire all the influence, authority and prestige I have in the Navy will fall to ash as quickly as paper in a fire. The “big time” in the Navy (or anywhere) is an illusion, ephemeral and fleeting. As soon as the uniform is off you are effectively nobody again. Assuming I find a decent job and don’t crash and burn financially then I’m just the new guy at some new place.
Fine. That’s how life works, but that’s why family is so important. Fame fades; family lasts. Without family to share it with…well, I wonder, what was the point? What was it all for?
Really. After 20 years of work, sacrifice, duty, deployments, war, stress, and inspections…but no family. Still facing everything alone with no one to share anything with. In a way, I admit I feel betrayed by life. It’s petty and stupid, but I’ll be honest enough to admit it. It seems like everyone and their grandmother always said if you value family instead of wealth, you’ll find family. I didn’t. I found an empty house, 20 years of life gone, and an unknown future that promises the same isolation as the past. So…
What the hell was it all for?