“Are you fucking kidding me?” you mumble aloud to yourself.
You keep scrolling down through your Facebook feed…
And there’s another one.
Another wild night on the town in some international city with desirable company.
“He just got that job and is absolutely killing it” you think to yourself.
Then you look around at the plywood box that is your 6x8ft “room” that you happily share with another smelly asshole for the entire deployment.
Social media further slips the “grass is always greener on the other side” idea and mentality with every time you log on.
Without fail, you will see glimpses into your civilian friends and family’ lives that are very different from your own. Vacations that didn’t require a DA31, living in an actual city as to be compared to a military town, professional success, and living the highly glamorized life of being young and free are all some of the usual suspects.
Each time that you see these posts or hear the successes of your civilian counterparts you may get an immediate gut reaction of “Screw the military, I want that, so I HAVE TO GET OUT.”
Your gut reaction could be legitimate.
Maybe your gut just has shit for brains.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL LIFE
Remember that people don’t post their bad lives on social media. What you are seeing is the carefully curated and sometimes staged highlight reel.
The worst offenders are the ones who call themselves “hustlers” or “entrepreneurs” who haven’t accomplished anything except getting themselves really good at “faking it until they make it.” Some max out their credit cards, rent a beach house, Lamborghini, private jet, etc. for only a few hours so that they can stage a photoshoot of their “life” along with models.
This shit isn’t real.
Life is not your Facebook or Instagram feed.
Each day is a grind and anyone who says that they are happy all of the time is full of shit. We are not designed to be happy all of the time. Think of the caveman in the wild just trying to survive the day. When he is walking alone in the woods do you think it’s a leisurely stroll? That he is whistling without a care in the world, picking flowers?
He is constantly on guard for predators and a good day is when nothing tries to eat you. That same mental programming is still present in your brain today. Only the technology and environment has changed.
Comparing your life to others’ is a sure-fire way to degrade your mental health
Included in your evolutionary programming is your tendency to compare yourself to others. This was a very beneficial trait in the early stages of technological advancement: a caveman sees another caveman with fire and thinks “I WANT THAT” and in time learns how make his own fire, tools, shelter, clothing, etc.
Sure, there is a time and place for comparison, but in today’s world it will only make you a sad bastard.
When you compare yourself to others, you are most likely not doing a true comparison. You are most likely comparing your perceived self against your perception of another person’s life.
Your perceived self is only what you currently focus on about your current situation, most likely the negatives: living in the barracks, lack of control over your time, pulling security in a frozen mud puddle, etc. It is much easier to focus on the negative in our lives than it is to focus on the positive.
We are much more likely to remember an insult from a decade ago than a compliment a month ago.
And your perception of another person’s life is just that: a perception. It is only one view from a single vantage point – through your eyes. You can only see what you can see; which is only what others want you to see. You can’t see their internal dialogue or how unhappy they are.
Solution? Develop a habit of gratitude and focus on what you already have. Stop looking outward and look inward.
The military can be a sweet deal
Face it, when you are in the military, you pretty much live in a bubble. Outside economic variables and forces will hardly ever impact your life financially (sorry Coast Guard) since you are in a recession proof industry.
With small exception, the DOD (again sucks to be a Coastie) is pretty good about getting you your paycheck on the 1st and 15th every month. Not to mention that if you are a good boy, after 20 years of service you will receive retirement income – which is almost non-existent in the private sector.
Fall off the ladder when you were cleaning the gutters because you failed to maintain three points of contact? No problem! Hobble your broken ass to the on-base hospital, show your military ID, and boom! Healthcare at no cost to you. If you have never shopped for health insurance, you do not know how good of a benefit this is.
Granted you are getting treated by a witch doctor that went to South Central Who Gives A Rats Ass Medical School, but hey! Can’t beat free!
Additionally, your career is already mapped out. You have a good idea as to what your next position will be, how long you will be in it, and what will be expected of you. On the outside, there usually is no direct path – everyone has to figure it out on their own.
Still focused on the dollars and cents? Do you know how much you make when you take into account all of your benefits and all the taxes you don’t pay (BAH, BAS, HFP, tax free deployments, etc.)? An E-4 with 4 years of service makes well over $45,000 a year.
And most importantly remember that
The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s just a different color
You don’t like giant bureaucracies and slow-moving organizations? Too bad, they are everywhere. And the military is definitely not coming in last place. Corporate America can be just as bad, full of unnecessary meetings, red tape, and bullshit in general.
More importantly, the private sector is not full of the same type of people that you have grown accustomed to… other service members. Very few people on the outside can relate to your service let alone your very dark sense of humor and proclivity to profanity.
You will most likely be surrounded by people who did not serve and cannot relate. Even if the other guy in the platoon is from a different place and is very different from you in almost every way, you are still comrades in arms. You both stood with your right hand raised and swore an oath.
At the end of the day, you both serve. You both wear the same uniform. And if you seeing a man hurt wearing that same uniform – you will use every power at your disposal to help your fellow comrade. And he or she will do the same for you. Period.
How much is that worth to you? How many likes or followers does that compare to?
EXPECTATIONS – REALITY = HAPPINESS
The grass only looks greener on the other side because you have stopped watering the grass under your feet. Take stock of what you currently have and be grateful.
Hunt the good stuff.