Dinner With Friends

Tonight, the wife and I had dinner with some dear friends.  I have just retired from the military after a quarter of a century.  Wow, saying it like that makes it seem like a eternity and in truth, it has been.  I joined the Army in 1993 and finished yesterday.  My final duty station has been in Jasper, Indiana and to be honest, I had no idea what to expect.  Tonight’s dinner was a celebration of my military career and a celebration of new friendships.

Southern Indiana was a mystery to me and certainly to my Canadian wife.  We didn’t know what to expect.  One of the most pleasant things that has happened to us has been developing a relationship with new friends.  Without question Peter and George have become our dearest friends and without them we wouldn’t have been able to assimilate into the small community of French Lick.

Let me explain, I worked in Jasper, Indiana but my wife found us a beautiful home in the small resort town of French Lick.  Look it up on the inter-webs and you’ll soon see why French Lick is a resort town.  It’s a gem nestled in the Hoosier National Forest and well worth the trip.  So, that’s why we’re here.  Now, how did we meet Peter and George?  In an attempt to immerse into the community my wife volunteered at the local museum in addition to managing events at the resort, and it just so happened our friends Peter and George are pretty big deal at the museum and the rest is developing into a great friendship.  Who are these two wonderful gentlemen?  Well, let me explain.

Peter and George are partners and have been sharing life experiences for a long time.  They have stories that could easily become Hollywood blockbusters (I mean, Shirley McClaine would be jealous of their stories).  They have seen and done it all.  Peter actually went to college with my father and they knew each other, which I think is amazing.  I love that part of our story with these two.  My favorite part of our friendship with these fantastic guys is that, we’re just friends.  That’s it.  They are successful retired guys who don’t want for anything and simply want to be friends.  We are equally interested in finding friends who only want to be friends.  No pretense.  No agenda.  Just people who enjoy each others company.  We have other friends like this but many of them live far away.  Of course, they treat us like their children which makes it hard to pay bill.  Every meal is a fight to determine who pays but they are incredibly creative in getting their credit cards to the waitress before we can.  It’s like dealing with Gandalf which isn’t easy.  We love these two and are lucky to consider ourselves their friends.

Now, back to dinner.  Ballard’s at the West Baden Resort is a great place to dine mid-week. It’s casual with a hint of sophistication and it provides a great opportunity to enjoy the atrium of this world-class resort.  Peter and I had the steak and frites while my wife enjoyed the salmon salad and George chose the airline chicken, worst name for a meal ever.  I mean, who associates good food with air travel and George was sure to let the server know, as well as the risotto.  Risotto in the Midwest can’t compare to the dish served in Italy and since George lived there for years as a model (I’m telling you, these guys have some amazing stories which I may get into in future blog posts, with their permission, of course). The evening was fantastic.  The food was very good and the desserts, decadent.  There were stories told, laughs had and plans for future travel, discussed.  Personally, I haven’t laughed and enjoyed my time that much in quite some time and I think my wife would agree.  Honestly and a bit selfishly, we needed this night.

Thank you to our friends and we look forward to many more nights like this and we hope to add some adventure to our story with these two great men.

I’m a lucky guy.  I have a fantastic wife and some really good friends.  Raise a glass and toast the future.  It’s going to be fun.

The Struggle is Real

Haven’t had a day off in quite some time and I’m beginning to feel the anxiety associated with transitioning out of the army.  Non-military folks don’t get it.  All of my civilian friends talk about “job placement” and how easy it’s going to be to find a new job when I retire, but the truth is, it isn’t.  Nothing about retirement from the army is easy.  Sure I’ll receive a check every month for the rest of my life and sure that’ll cover a home and some expenses associated with a home but it won’t keep me where I’m at, financially speaking.  That’s the scary part.  I have no idea how to proceed and because I’m retiring from the Indiana National Guard all of my retirement/transition help is located about an hour and half away at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Fort Knox is responsible for assisting separating soldiers in every aspect, from medical to transportation and they do a good, efficient job but if you live far away they’re not much help.  In their defense, it’s not their job to find me a new life.  I learned long ago. No one cares about you in this world.  I mean, your family, hopefully cares, but in the grand scheme of life you’re on your own and I think, that’s the scary part.  My entire adult life has been taken care of by Uncle Sam.  All I had to do was, wake up in the morning and my day was laid out for me.  I’d accomplish my daily task and leave.  Everyday has been the same.  The tasks are almost always different and sometimes the “leave” part may be several days or months a part, but the format is the same.  Without this structure, I’m not sure which way I’m supposed to proceed.  I feel a bit like Brooks, the librarian in “Shawshank Redemption”, although my mental state is a lot better than his turned out to be.  That being said, I do feel the anxiety that he seemed to have upon his release from the big house.

A little dramatic?  Yes. But, I made a promise to myself that when I retired, my family wouldn’t have to go through any sort of financial lull while I tried to get my civilian footing.  This is proving harder than I thought.

Working on my resume is ridiculously brutal, in that, everything I write looks bad and/or poorly written even though I’ve done some pretty substantial work in my time with the army.  Every time I think it looks good, I re-read it and it’s pure shit.  I’ve sent it out to friends that have provided great input and I’ve adjusted accordingly but it still doesn’t read the way I want it to and the clock is ticking.

This entire process would be a lot easier if I had any idea of what I wanted to be when I grow up.  My friends that have retired from the army recently all have a plan.  Either they just want something slow and easy that gets them back to their “break even” number financially or they have a passion that they will enjoy upon retirement.  I don’t have any obvious passions and I’d still like to make some money in my life.  Funny thing about that last comment is that, yes, I want to make some money in my life but at the end of the day, I’d like to have the money in order to give it away.

Seeing people genuinely happy is something I love to see.  Unfortunately, because of the way I deal with things, I outwardly project that I am always disgruntled and mean.  That’s a shame because I’m usually in pretty good mood although I struggle with “dumb.”  When I see people doing dumb things just because they aren’t paying attention or are so self-involved that they fail to realize that there are other people affected by their actions, I become frustrated.  I often have to explain to my wife, who I love dearly, that I’m not mad or frustrated with her but I am mad and frustrated with a situation, usually caused by some outlying variable.

That came out wrong.  My wife is brilliant.  She is an aggressive go-getter and the only reason she is struggling now is because she blindly followed me down to Southern Indiana because she’s an amazing person , that only wants the people around her to be happy.  Something I desperately need to be more in tune with.  She’s my rock and I owe it to her to have something lined up in order to support her and to ensure she doesn’t notice a financial dip in our lifestyle.  And so, the struggle is real.

MC

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