For those of you who don’t know, I’m a veteran–USAF, 1986-1994. When I left active duty, our children and I followed my husband around the globe for 11 more years before he retired. My two decades with the USAF taught me a lot of things, like hospital corners. I’d only heard about them until basic training. I still use them every time I make my bed.
Then there’s t-shirt folding. I bet you didn’t know there’s a specific way to fold a t-shirt. Leave me a comment if you’re curious and I’ll describe it in detail.
There is one thing I learned that stands out above everything else: Embracing The Suck.
Full disclosure: We didn’t actually call it that. I didn’t know there was a name until I saw it on Facebook a week or two ago. Although I haven’t verified* it, I think it’s a phrase the US Army uses. We didn’t name it. We lived it.
Embracing The Suck comes into play when the phone rings at 3 a.m. and you learn you have half an hour to get to work. If you’re a single airman, that’s hard enough, but we were a dual military couple with two toddlers. We had half an hour to get ourselves ready, get the babies out of bed and take them to day care (thank goodness the director got the call before any of the other commanders, so they were ready for us). After reporting in, we got to work 12 hours, pick up the cranky babies, eat cereal for dinner, and crash. Sometimes we did that for a week straight. If we were really lucky, we had a heads up the night before so we could pack extra clothes in our kids’ backpacks. After Desert Storm started, that usually happened about once a quarter.
Embracing The Suck means you get to work with the flu; leave your family for several months with 18 hours notice; deliver equipment to aircraft on the flightline regardless of the weather; follow orders (usually stupid ones) with no explanation; keep your mouth shut when the Base Commander acts like a jackass, run PT at 7:00 a.m. in 90* heat and 100% humidity. And we had it the easiest of all the services. That’s why they call us the Chair Force.
Embracing The Suck in my 20s was good character building. It beat the whiner out of me, made me finish growing up. People think I’m nuts when I say Desert Storm was the best thing that ever happened to me. My husband deployed when our son was three weeks old, and he was gone seven months. I was still active duty and came thiiiiiiiiiiis close to deploying myself. I would have, if I’d been ordered to, but the hubby was over there, I had an infant, and my long-term child care givers were trapped by snow in Idaho. The chief agree to push me back a rotation, but by then I’d already cross-trained into a field for which I was better suited.
Over the years, I’ve been grateful for the experience in trying times. These days, I draw on that experience every day. Traffic here is a bear. Good thing I know how to Embrace The Suck.
*If you can verify it, please leave a comment