There are a few things at which I’d say I’m “okay” at doing. I can get back on a horse after a year or two and jump a clean round of eight. I can trick people into thinking a lemon cake mix and some plump blueberries are made-from-scratch cupcakes. I’m basically the best at wearing the same bra for a week before washing it. I can fix nearly anything with Moroccan mint tea and whiskey. Sometimes I even remember to make 5050s for my vacations…and funeral.
But being here is a struggle. Not because of the people or the location or the environment or the differences or the food or the work or the lifestyle.
Being here is a struggle because of me.
Attempting to give 100% in every aspect to everyone usually means I’m failing at one or two things. Sometimes the Reserves take a hit, sometimes Trenton takes a hit, sometimes my house takes a hit, sometimes my social calendar (what?) takes a hit. But over the last two weeks, I can’t seem to get anything right. I can’t seem to figure out my niche at home, at work, in the Navy, in the classroom, in Sicily…
And it’s no one’s fault, really. It’s my terrible life approach of setting ridiculous expectations, then being disappointed when I don’t reach them. For example…
Trenton James Andrew. My most important goal is to raise Trenton to be a wonderful, kind, thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, intentional human being. But, you guys, he’s just a little brat lately. Like, this growing a teenager thing may be the death of me. He won’t hug me and I miss his little squeezes but I’m trying to also teach him the importance of big ideas like managing his body and consent so I can’t force little hugs from him and it’s LONELY. And, you guys, I think he thinks I’m genuinely an alien being and he complains about everything and he doesn’t like any house we look at and he doesn’t like most food now and this growing a teenager thing is downright hard. When does he return to normal?
My job. This job is awesome. The leadership is awesome. The people are awesome. My chain of command is awesome. People look out for me and take me underwing and are kind and inclusive. But, I’m not the public affairs officer (PAO) I need to be. And, let me be clear, my leadership team is FANTASTIC and has not made me feel guilty one single day. But I’m not nearly as present as I need to be in order to strengthen our strategic, operational, and tactical approach to public affairs. And in order to do that, I need a darn house.
House hunting. We have 90 days once we get here that are primarily dedicated to house hunting. For some folks, it’s nice because they can send their spouses out during the day to look at houses and join them on the weekends to look at the good ones and make a decision. I don’t have that kind of structure so I try to use one day a week to house hunt, and, of course, most nights and every weekend. By 1000 today, I will have seen 43 houses.
To be frank, some of them did not come close to what I requested. For example, on one tour I was shown seven duplexes even though I asked for a stand-alone villa. However, these duplexes were considered villas because they did not share a common wall. Language matters. Anyway, I like one of the 43 houses, but I’m waiting for the house to be inspected by housing. Monday I found a house I liked so I went to housing Tuesday morning to commit to it. Wouldn’t you know, the couple I held the door for walked in and took it! Can’t make this stuff up. But, in all fairness, they sent an email on Monday committing to the house a little after 1000 and I sent an email at 1547. So, I lost that race. Read more about my priorities and preferences here: House Hunting: Priority or Preference? BLUF: I’m living out of a suitcase, recycling about 12 work outfits, and can’t seem to find a house that likes me back.
Navy Reserves. In my new unit, US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), we support one major exercise a year: Eager Lion out of Amman, Jordan. I’m super excited to support as the US PAO this year, alongside our Jordanian and Pakistani counterparts…BUT. BUT I signed up for this exercise thinking I’d already have a house and Trenton would already have a routine and things in Sicily would already be running smoothly. And the logistics behind going to Jordan have been absolutely mentally and emotionally draining. Every time I think we’re good to go, something happens. Just yesterday, defense travel system (DTS), the system used to book our travel, cancelled my flights. Just because. God-willing, I leave on Friday. Bigger picture, I need to figure out if the Reserves continue to be a good fit for our lives. I have an overwhelming feeling lately that I’m not any good at being a Navy Reserve PAO and while it’s a sad thought, it deserves my attention. Just, maybe it deserves my attention next week from a tent camp in Jordan…
Also? You’d never believe just how much you miss from home when you’re stationed overseas. It’s the little things: missing visiting my auntie at the hospital when her breathing becomes too much, missing Sondra’s big move to the big old PacNorWest, missing Lori’s second Civilian of the Year award for being the best damn civilian PAO in our world, missing Bretticus’ super sad farewell with my COMSUBPAC PA Ohana, missing my sweet beautiful Charissa give birth to her first child, missing odd trips to South Carolina to see my sister just to cook a bunch of stuff and argue and adventure, missing calling my mom every morning just to be pesty and ask all the questions she always seems to have an answer to, missing intense financial and ethical dialogues with my dad, missing Dan-O’s promotion to be the first GS-29 I’ve ever met, missing my lovely niece and her girlfriend’s big move to Oregon, missing the Roegge’s change of command–and the speechwriting!, missing dressing up and making signs for the science march with Erin, missing giving the keys to my house to Aisha and Jeff and their kids and wishing them a few wonderful years of adventure, missing mentoring sessions with Jan and Sandy and Mark and Marlene and learning aspects of leadership and life I never even thought about; there’s so much I miss.
You guys, the past two weeks have been overwhelmingly draining. Missing the mark over and over again and looking failure in the face and choosing to brave it again the next day is just tough. But I believe things will get better–I will get better. I’ll be patient with Trenton and in 10 years maybe he’ll call me in the mornings and tell me about his life and this time I’ll have all the answers; I’ll learn the intricacies of my new organization and will become an asset to my team; I’ll seek out mentoring and counseling from Navy Reserve PAOs who have gone before me.
But, for now, I’ll pour another cappuccino, review the Eager Lion public affairs guidance, ready myself for my 43rd house today at 1000, and continue to send letters and flowers and oils and vino and chocolates and Starbucks cards and so much love from overseas back home to all of you.