Birthdays and holidays have always been “different” for me. I can’t recall when it all seemed to change but at some point during my Marine Corps career, I just stopped viewing them as a special day. I would volunteer to stand duty on holidays so that those Marines that were married and had families could be home. I never made mention that it was my birthday because I felt no need for the Marines to go out of their way to do anything. Don’t get me wrong, they usually did and I was appreciative. I just stopped looking for it or expecting it and honestly felt uncomfortable with gifts or a cake. I viewed my mindset and actions as an act of selflessness. The problem however, is over time I became cold towards not just holidays but, towards just about everything. Now, as I celebrate my 43rd birthday today, I still feel somewhat the same way like “just another day” but I have also opened up in order to enjoy things more often. I don’t regret viewing things the way I did in the past because, well, me being that way allowed a lot of Marines to be home with loved ones. I think my cold-hearted view towards birthdays and holidays followed me into retirement simply due to habit. Those who serve understand the word “institutionalized” all too well. We become that way because it is what we are comfortable with; it is routine for us and vital for success and survival.
Today I sit, being 2+ years removed (retired) from the beloved Corps and I look at how much my life has changed. Six months into retirement my outlook was vastly different. I missed my brothers and sisters in the Corps but not so much the daily headaches and politics I dealt with consistently. The problem was that my focus was more on throwing shade on what I disagreed with vice thinking of the green blooded family members I missed. Now when I look back, I think of all the great memories and friends/family I made along the way. I sit, as of today, a 43 year old feeling very accomplished and abundantly loved. Being a single dad, my world revolves around my daughter. She is the sole reason that, little by little, I have grown to really enjoy holidays and birthdays again. To see her excitement and the huge smile on her face as she hands me the custom birthday card she drew for me; that brings me joy. I cherish every second of the tight embrace of her squeeze as she gives me my birthday hug. The little things that at one point I did not have and later even still inadvertently overlooked mean so much to me now. What I realized recently is the reason why I am so accepting of love and affection and gifts when they are given is one simple thing; I have learned to love myself again. My 42nd year taught me a lot about life, friendships, business, money, family and so many other things. The most important thing I learned through my 42nd year- how to love myself again, to see my own value. I am thankful not only for all the smiles and blessings that have come my way but, for the hardships as well for they have taught me the most valuable of lessons. I am excited for the upcoming year and the things I plan to accomplish. Stay tuned - it will be one for the record books!