Register NOW

Closing One Door, Opening Another

By Liz Brown

I thought he would be the one to struggle.

When my husband separated from the military, cutting a 12-year old cord, I worried he would suffer an identity crisis. He was a Naval Special Warfare Operator from age 20 on — a young Frogman, an LPO, a Platoon Chief. Being a SEAL wasn't just a job title, it was a way of life.

After Rob decided to leave the Teams I would lie awake nights and stare into the space above our bed. My wide eyes printed a steady stream of questions on the ceiling. Will he find his place in the civilian world? Will he ever be as passionate about a job? Will he know who he is if not a SEAL?

The answer seems to be yes.

Rob got a solid job just two months after separating. He didn't love it and, instead of getting discouraged, quit to start his own business. I'm both surprised by and elated with the steps he's taken. The road from Little Creek to Life After the Military has not been entirely smooth, it's true, but Rob is facing every pothole and blockade head-on.

He's OK. My God, he's OK.

I'm the one who feels lost.

Some six months before Rob got out of the Navy I made a serious career change of my own. I was a journalist and reporter. Crazy schedules and life on the road was just… life. I powered through six and seven day work weeks and I toiled through nights and early mornings. I wrote on-scene, wherever the action was. I was on a plane eight, sometimes 10 times a year, flying all over the country and sometimes abroad. The highs — a blockbuster interview, some breaking news, a front page piece — were exhilarating. The lows were only low by comparison.

If I didn't actually take time to catch my breath I might have fallen onto my face. And the possibility of collapse was dear to me.

My job wasn't important; I neither saved a life nor took one in combat. But that job gave me an identity I took pride in.

Yes, I surrendered it willingly. Walking away from journalism was my choice, and I made it with confidence. What I didn't think about was how much that walk would change me.

I was so focused on helping Rob navigate his separation from the military that I shrugged off my own transition. Now, I work in a job that helps with our financial stability, but little else. I complete tasks without feeling accomplished. I sometimes write press releases for my company, but am certainly not a Writer.

As Rob said: "You feel like you've lost something."

He is wonderful to listen. Sometimes, we have conversations about my professional struggles, and I feel like an absolute ass. Beside me, on the couch, sits this person who cleanly closed a chapter that spanned more than a third of his life. Me? I turn one page and lament feeling directionless.

Luckily, the guy who married me did it on purpose. Rob has never made me feel foolish for spinning my wheels. What's more, he supports me as I try to figure out where to go once I pull myself out of the mud. It's possible the former sailor might have a thing or two to teach his girl about civilian life.