I remember 1994 very clearly. It was, perhaps, the worst year of my life. It was the year that the United States military and I parted ways, and not amiable manner. This was also the year of the end of my first marriage, which really wasn’t a bad thing. However, getting cut loose from anything is not always the best feeling of all. For me, it is a constant fear that I try to learn to live with.
When I was growing up, I was not the strongest kid around. I was rather bright, and subjects and concepts came quickly to me. All of that made me a frequent target of the other kids, as is often the case with children or at least, that is the way it seems to be. I was typically the last one picked for any activity in Physical Education. I was frequently ostracized from all the other children after school. My friendships were never strong ones, which may have had something to do with the frequent moves my family made as a result of my father’s career in the United States Air Force. I learned a lot about being alone.
All of that, plays into a lot of the way that I am as an adult. Here I am, fifty-four years old, and in search of another job — trying to find another way to evolve my disparate skills into a new career or a new direction. Cut loose, yet again. That moment of rejection…
Back in late August, I was fired from the position I held for nearly five years (three days short of that particular point). I remember being called into my Director’s office at the end of the work day, to be faced with him and the Director of Human Resources. It took me all of ten seconds to figure it all out. I calmly accepted the paperwork handed to me, asked where I needed to sign, and listened as a meager benefits package was outlined for me. A set of medical benefits I never draw against during the little more than thirty days that it provided for me. It was another six days before I felt the sting of rejection I had braced myself for in the beginning. Six days was what I needed to let the numb feeling go away.
I remember that feeling quite well back in late April, sitting at a clerk’s desk at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. I had shown up in civilian clothes, and was roundly chastised for not wearing my uniform. What the Nine Hells did it matter? As soon as I touched ink to the paperwork, I was no longer a military member – I figured that the transition would be easier with me in my torn up jeans, tennis shoes, and my Motley Crue t-shirt. When I signed the paperwork, I was handed my copy, and asked to leave. No thanks for the eight years I did. It was a moment where I had to leave. And even with my defiant attitude – it still hurt.
Why was I asked to leave? Because I had made mistakes, in both aspects. In my recent job, I had made mistakes in a data request, which had ambiguous definitions. Even after trying numerous times to get in touch with the requester, I was never provided an appropriate set of definitions. So, I moved forward with the data request, so as to provide something to the requester. If the data seemed wrong, perhaps the requester would contact me then and we could find a way to resolve the issues. Instead, the requester provided the point that the data request was wrong, and I was dismissed for doing so. In the aspect of the US Air Force, I had missed a mandatory formation. My First Sergeant, who had a personal dislike of me, took that as a moment to have me dismissed from the service – as an individual who could not follow the rules. In both instances, had I been the supervisor, I would have chosen different paths to resolution. See, I had been trained as a Non-Commissioned Officer in the United States Air Force. Two different training schools. In both, teamwork and belonging were constantly stressed as necessary components. In both of the scenarios that I outlined, neither of those aspects were stressed, embraced or even acknowledged.
Yes, even where the aspect of rejection is made by individuals that I believe to be completely incompetent to be in supervisory roles, it still hurts to be cut loose. Yet, I hold very little in the way of hard feelings towards either individual. My First Sergeant was doing what he thought was appropriate for good unit discipline and order. An understandable and laudable position, even if I disagree with the manner in which he was doing so. In the case of my previous job position, the individual that set me on the path I am on now, did what she thought was correct…even despite the fact that she has never been trained as a supervisor nor has any clue how to be one. I cannot fault ignorance where actions like that are concerned.
So, how to get beyond the sting of rejection? Well, the adage that time heals all wounds holds true to some degree. Time does heal wounds like these, but the scars do remain. I am only six months past the point of being fired, so that wound remains somewhat fresh. It will heal over time. My release from the Air Force has had a lot more time to heal. The scar is there and always will be. Even though I parted from the Air Force in a terrible manner, I still hold my enlistment oath to be true – “…to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States against all aggressors – foreign and domestic.” I remember all my training, particularly that of being a Non-Commissioned Office and how to properly supervise subordinates. Build people up, don’t try to destroy them. Subordinates become loyal and trusting with you when you show loyalty, trust, and faith in them. And all of that takes time to build.
Will I always have a fear of being cut loose from a group? Yes. There is very little that keeps that nagging fear from the back of my brain. It is likely one of the deeper subconscious factors towards my working on my Path in Druidry on my own. Being in the position of being ostracized, left to find my own solutions to issues, and not being included as part of the group has certainly been a major factor on how I live my life. It doesn’t change my hardcore desire to be a part of a team. Nor does it change my perspective that team-work is essentially for getting things done. I am; however, wary of the people that make up those teams. I have run into too many people with power-hungry attitudes in relation to their supervisory roles. But wary or not, being cut loose is never a feeling or process without its extremely hurtful sting – and I know it far better than I really wish to.