In my travels I often ask people what they love about military life – what’s in it for them. I find that nine times out of ten their answer is one of the following:
#4. Devotion to duty
#947. Financial security
#432. Health care and dental coverage
#319. “Battle Buddies”—all in the same boat, fighting the same “battle,”making the bonds much easier to form than they are in civilian life
I think it’s safe to say that we all have something in common. We stay living this life because we have gleaned from our service – pride, paycheck, health benefits, and friendships. That gave me extreme comfort this past November when we published 1001 Things to Love about Military Life. However, I don’t think that is all that this life is about. To me, there are many more little things to love. I find those mostly when I am tuned into WIIFM – What’s In It For Me.
Zumba instructor, Claudia Hillard leads her class through dance moves at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego’s Fitness Center. Photo by Lance Cpl. Katalynn M. Rodgers
Here’s my personal example:
#324. Free access to some of the most amazing fitness centers in the world—and the inspiration of all those fit Service members working out there
In the months leading up to the book we didn’t do much but focus solely on the book and meeting deadlines. In all of the late nights and crazy email sessions I somehow lost track of me. I didn’t realize it at the time; my nose was to the grind.
It has been six months or so since the last time I set foot in a gym. I have gained 25 lbs from not taking care of myself and suffering through a medication-induced depression (even though military healthcare is a wonderful benefit always be your own advocate – the wrong medicine can really mess you up).
Today was the day I would keep my promise to get back to “me”. I was headed back to Rinehart gymnasium to a Zumba class. Admittedly, I was scared to death. I don’t know that I can explain to you why. It wasn’t like I’d never visited the gym or never taken a Zumba class. I just was.
Completely tuned to WIIFM – that’s how I got myself there; some strict self-talk about why I needed this for my health, my mental state, and how it was a free benefit of military life that I wasn’t taking advantage of and utilizing – I opened up the door to the gym. I was immediately greeted with a giant smile and a “long time, no see”. I smiled back nervously (frankly I knew she was right), and scanned my id.
I fumbled as I found my “spot” – I’d lost my permanent spot I’d had for months from being a regular. As I stretched I looked across the gym. My thoughts left WIIFM and I started to drift into the new air space of others. I saw many women all making choices – positive choices – to change their little corner of the world.
I nearly died today. Ok, I’m just kidding – I survived. It felt great! The first step was the hardest; it always is.
Isn’t that what 1001 Things to Love about Military Life is all about; taking 1001 little steps to celebrate the choice of positivism? Cracking open the book to discover them is the hardest step. Choosing to find the courage to dive into a mental exercise in celebrating the things to love (like care packages) even if they come with something we hate (like deployment). Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the frustrations and negative spiral (I call this the “weeds”) of this life that we forget to tune to WIIFM.
So, what is in it for you? There is extreme pride, generous health benefits, and amazing friendships to be had. Don’t stop there; there are many other benefits you can be reaping right now. Remember, this life is not just your servicemember’s life; it is yours. Make the most of it – and milk it for everything its worth.