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Old 09 May 2016, 02:54 AM
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Vanishing And so I sat beside the shore of San Diego Bay and wept

I was going to put this in First World Problems, but it's a bit long and my thread-start count is low, so, here goes:

I'm still coping with the loss of San Diego as an adopted home.

The prologue to this sad episode of my life was the time I spent there during the summers of 2008 and 2010. They were brief interludes of relative happiness between long periods of strain, depression, and perhaps the occasional, momentary lapse of reason. So, when in the Fall of 2012 I was offered the opportunity to select my next assignment, I chose a ship homeported in San Diego, a minesweeper to be exact. I would of course have to deploy periodically to the middle east, as crews rotated between Bahrain and San Diego to conduct operations and training respectively, but every ship deploys and I was content to know that for at least half the time I could look forward to life in San Diego. Perhaps I would buy a house and settle down in the area, "homesteading" as it is called, spending the rest of my career in San Diego if the Navy would let me. And why not? Once in an area, it is cheaper for the Navy to keep you there. But I digress...

I spent the first part of 2013 in training for my next assignment, arrived in San Diego in October of 2013, and was soon set up in an apartment in downtown San Diego. An apartment, not a house: my dreams of homesteading were wrecked by then...

Rear Admiral Allen E. “Hoke” Smith once observed that the US Navy had “lost control of the seas to a nation without a navy, using pre-World War I weapons, laid by vessels that were utilized at the time of the birth of Christ." He was referring to the impact of mines laid off the coast of Wonsan during the Korean War, over a half century ago. You see, the Navy's problem with mines then as now is that it tends to ignore, for years or decades at a time, the threat they can pose to operations. In a resource constrained environment, with a choice between flashy new aircraft, missiles, destroyers, submarines, and other systems that would feature well as the platform for a hero in a Hollywood film, and those slow, clunky, even wooden minesweepers, the Navy has a bad habit of diverting maintenance and training funds away from the minesweepers and indeed mine countermeasures systems in general, resulting in a decay of materiel and skills. Invariably, the Navy comes to the realization, in a panic, that the pendulum has swung too far and must quickly be thrust back in the other direction, lest a potential (or actual) foe take advantage of our lack of preparedness and close off a critical waterway like North Korea did all those years ago.

2013 saw just such a "realization" and by the time I reported to my next assignment, the entire crew was destined to be permanently based on a ship not in San Diego, but Bahrain (to improve retention of regional knowledge as well as foster an improved sense of ownership and maintenance of the ships that was lacking with rotational crews). And so it was in the Winter of 2014, barely four months after I had arrived in San Diego, I packed out my apartment, put the keys with the balance of my rent in the property manager's drop box, and piled my sea bags into a waiting cab for a one way ride to the airport. I began my thirties as I had spent much of my twenties: overseas, without a real home.

When I next came up for orders, my request was simple "send me to Norfolk." I said that because I knew how hard it was to get San Diego, particularly with so many people homesteading there. You see, to get San Diego before, I had used the "silver bullet" I got for my deployment to Iraq: that deployment gave me priority in selecting my next assignment, virtually guaranteeing the homeport of my choice. I had no such silver bullet this time around. Though I had lived several years in western Virginia and even grown fond of that part of the state, I had spent the last ten years actively avoiding duty in Norfolk: it was, in part, my disdain for Norfolk that led me to take so many overseas assignments. But by this time I was tired, I was on the wrong side of thirty, and I was done trying to settle down somewhere new: at least I knew Virginia and even spent a couple weeks here and there in Norfolk. Within hours I could drive somewhere I had lived before, some place I didn't hate so much. After so much time overseas, with the remaining time in the US spent in places I had never lived before, the prospect of escape within hours was at least something.

So they sent me to Norfolk, like I asked, but not without one final cut, the most unkindest cut of all: in a twist of bitter irony I was to meet my ship, the same one I had reported to en route to Japan in 2008, once again in San Diego. This time for only a brief stop on its way to Norfolk after its own extended time overseas. It was labor day weekend 2015, the summer was coming to a close, and for three days I was tormented with visions of what had been, those happy summers of 2008 and 2010, and what might have been, when for a moment I held the key to a future life in San Diego in my hands, if only, if only...

I'm sorry, I had something else to type, but I think there's something in my eye.
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  #2  
Old 11 May 2016, 02:24 PM
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My father did mine sweeping in Korea, in an LSD. He wouldn't even play the game minesweeper because of its name (I know, this has nothing to do with your post, but this is what it made me think of).

Seaboe
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Old 11 May 2016, 02:40 PM
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ASL, how much longer do you expect to be in the service?

Could you look forward to a (possibly early) retirement in San Diego? (Not ideal right now, I know.)
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Old 11 May 2016, 04:55 PM
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Grow where you are planted. Meaning, yea it sucks you're not in San Diego but learn to flourish where you are. Stop mourning what you don't have and start looking for what you do. Having been a Navy brat and having been born and raised in the area you are so disdainful of I can tell you there's a lot to enjoy about the area. It was true when I was a child and is true now. Explore the charm of Ghent. Get out to the ocean, not the over touristed Virginia Beach but find where the locals go (it used to be Sandbridge but that may have changed now). Explore the eastern shore. Get down to the Outer Banks. Enjoy the history of the area in which you now live. Head a few hours north and take in all that is DC. You can learn to love where you are, you just have to do it.
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Old 11 May 2016, 05:30 PM
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I didn't see any disdain. I saw sadness at not having his plans, which seemed tantalizingly close, not come to fruition. And I don't see him wallowing or any other sign of unhealthily refusing to accept his new future in Norfolk. He's pointing to the upsides of having chosen it.

ASL, I appreciated what you wrote on two levels. One, it was a touching piece of prose. It is a human sharing of emotion that I ... well, I want to say enjoyed, but that isn't quite right because it also left me a bit sad in empathy. I guess appreciated is the best word. Thanks for sharing it.

Secondly, I want to say that it also reminded me to appreciate the sacrifices--both large and small--that military service can entail. It is important to me, and I appreciate, that someone, well, many someones, are willing to go out on a boat that deliberately seeks out underwater bombs. And it is also important to appreciate that doing so means you can't live where you want, even during the time when you are not on that boat. So I just want to say that I appreciate what you do, and the sacrifices involved. I strongly suspect that you don't do what you do in order to be appreciated, but I know as someone who needs to feel on a personal level that my job is important, in the sense of making a difference--not in the sense of being a big shot, that it can be when others recognize the importance of what you do.

Finally, I hope you do wind up enjoying Norfolk while you are there, and that you find a way back to San Diego eventually, or you explore and perhaps even find a new place that is easier to get to. Good luck, and thanks again for sharing.
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Old 11 May 2016, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by erwins View Post
I didn't see any disdain.
To be fair to Gibbie, ASL did mention ". . .my disdain for Norfolk. . ."
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  #7  
Old 11 May 2016, 05:39 PM
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Some people do fit in particular places, and don't fit in others. Some other people don't, apparently, have that sort of attachment to place. Many people in the second category seem to fail to understand that other people do have it; that it matters; that it can massively affect the lives, for good or for bad, of those people who do have it.

ASL may have expressed disdain for a place he doesn't fit. However, Gibbie, it seems to me that you're expressing disdain for a genuine need. You may not have it yourself; but that doesn't mean it isn't real.
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Old 11 May 2016, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
To be fair to Gibbie, ASL did mention ". . .my disdain for Norfolk. . ."
Point taken. To be more precise, unless I misunderstood, he described his past disdain for the area being a reason for taking overseas assignments before taking the last San Diego posting, but then he chose Norfolk after that posting didn't work out as planned, and listed positive reasons for choosing it. So I would not say that he is currently being "so disdainful of" Norfolk.
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Old 11 May 2016, 05:44 PM
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Yea, and boy did it touch a nerve! Although, to be fair, I don't have any real desire to live there again. But let someone else decide it's not good enough...

ETA: Then Thorny, military life isn't for those people. I get needing to be a place, and being in a place you don't fit. But when you choose, of your own volition, to make a career of something that means you give up control over where you live, then you need to get past that. Else, retire, and take control over your circumstances again. I know it sucks to have to leave a place you love. I may be facing that myself in a couple of years time. But when you sign on to the military, that's part and parcel of the job and for your own well being you need to be able to find positive in the place you are.

Last edited by Gibbie; 11 May 2016 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 11 May 2016, 05:50 PM
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Is it kind of like an outsider criticizing family? "My [family member] is a piece of work .... Don't you dare criticize [him/her]!"
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  #11  
Old 11 May 2016, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Gibbie View Post
ETA: Then Thorny, military life isn't for those people.
Well, that's a point.

But some people wind up in the military because their other choices all appeared to them to fit them even worse; or because they felt they had no other practical choice at all. I don't know about ASL.
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Old 13 May 2016, 01:41 AM
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I saw where the Greek Festival is this weekend; haven't been in years but remember the food being very good and a pretty big crowd.

http://norfolkgreekfestival.com/
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Old 13 May 2016, 10:06 AM
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I saw where the Greek Festival is this weekend; haven't been in years but remember the food being very good and a pretty big crowd.

http://norfolkgreekfestival.com/
Yes, the food is excellent. Well worth the lines. And, there's beer, wine, vendors and entertainment.
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Old 13 May 2016, 01:24 PM
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I think most of us have a "road not taken" thing in our lives and it's hard not to look back with regret and wonder what could have been. We had the chance to relocate to Australia and it was a series of small things that decided us against going so far away from home. Then my husband's company folded . Believe me we could have wept. Even now I sometimes think about what could have been and wonder about how different our lives might be (good or bad really to be fair) had we taken that step back then.
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Old 09 June 2016, 07:22 PM
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I'm sorry I missed all of your responses until just now. After a few days of silence I figured the thread was dead with post one and then I got underway a few days after that. I guess I focused too much of the time between then and getting underway on ragging on people’s taste in clothing and I generally don't post underway.
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Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
My father did mine sweeping in Korea, in an LSD. He wouldn't even play the game minesweeper because of its name (I know, this has nothing to do with your post, but this is what it made me think of).
I hope it didn't strike too much of a nerve. If Korea was a forgotten war, minesweeping must have been among those elements furthest from the memory. As it happens, the last time the US Navy had ships sunk (commissioned warships, anyways) to enemy action was off Korea. Five of them, all due to mines. Four of them were minesweepers. It must have been terrifying, but it's not the kind of terror that lends itself to portrayal in film. It's not surprising that the national (perhaps even human) consciousness tends to focus on the flashier parts of war, though it is a bit disconcerting that even the Navy seems hard-pressed to remember what ought to have been important lesson in naval warfare. I think most of my peers, when they imagine what a war at sea would be like, dream about reenacting The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors from WWII, like some glorious cavalry charge. What your father did was, IMHO, important and took a lot of nerve and I wish we paid more attention to that kind of long, arduous service.

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Originally Posted by erwins View Post
I didn't see any disdain. I saw sadness at not having his plans, which seemed tantalizingly close, not come to fruition. And I don't see him wallowing or any other sign of unhealthily refusing to accept his new future in Norfolk. He's pointing to the upsides of having chosen it.

ASL, I appreciated what you wrote on two levels. One, it was a touching piece of prose. It is a human sharing of emotion that I ... well, I want to say enjoyed, but that isn't quite right because it also left me a bit sad in empathy. I guess appreciated is the best word. Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you, I appreciate that, and the rest of your post.

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Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
To be fair to Gibbie, ASL did mention ". . .my disdain for Norfolk. . ."
It's not at all unfair of Gibbie to accuse me of speaking disdainfully about Norfolk. To put it into context (which may or may not aggravate things even more) there is a general desire to avoid duty in Norfolk for several reasons, though mileage obviously varies. Some reasons I’ve often heard put forward:

a) It's a fleet concentration area, the largest in fact: lots of traffic associated with all those ships, especially the aircraft carriers. And god help you if you need to commute from Norfolk to Portsmouth or vice versa (but just trying to get onto Naval Station Norfolk from Norfolk is hard enough from about 0500 to 0900). I’ll admit that San Diego had long lines in some places too (though not as bad as I’ve seen in Norfolk).

b) Its nearest equal in terms of number/tonnage of ships, San Diego, has much nicer weather. More than once, when the "why do people [in the Navy] hate Norfolk so much?" discussion comes up, I've heard people say "Virginia Beach is nice, but it ain't San Diego." I tend to agree with that.

b2) Also in contrast to San Diego, it's not on the same level in terms of size and (for those who care about such things) night life and attractions in the immediate area.

c) There is a feeling, being so close to DC and having so many Admirals in Norfolk itself, that there is too much focus on appearance (does the ship look good?) compared to other areas. Certainly I never had a 4-star Admiral decide he wanted to hold his retirement ceremony aboard my ship while I was in Yokosuka or Bahrain. And that's just one example. Point being, with so many Admirals, Generals, and senior civilian officials within driving distance, Norfolk ships are a relatively convenient "backdrop" for ceremonies and speeches. We have a term for this, actually, it’s called “The Battle of Norfolk.” It has claimed many manhours.

Those are all among the reasons one might avoid Norfolk without having anything in particular against people who live in Norfolk. Some people also prefer Far East port visits to Mediterranean port visits, though I personally have never been to the Med and would love to go there. Though I wouldn't mind visiting Hong Kong or Australia again...

Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
ASL, how much longer do you expect to be in the service?
At least two more years. Then it’s a choice: do I walk away without a retirement after 13 years, or do I suck it up for another seven and hope/pray the last seven are less disruptive than the first 11?
Quote:
Could you look forward to a (possibly early) retirement in San Diego? (Not ideal right now, I know.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
Some people do fit in particular places, and don't fit in others. Some other people don't, apparently, have that sort of attachment to place. Many people in the second category seem to fail to understand that other people do have it; that it matters; that it can massively affect the lives, for good or for bad, of those people who do have it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
Point taken. To be more precise, unless I misunderstood, he described his past disdain for the area being a reason for taking overseas assignments before taking the last San Diego posting, but then he chose Norfolk after that posting didn't work out as planned, and listed positive reasons for choosing it. So I would not say that he is currently being "so disdainful of" Norfolk.
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Originally Posted by Sue View Post
I think most of us have a "road not taken" thing in our lives and it's hard not to look back with regret and wonder what could have been.
I hope I can adequately respond to all of the above very thoughtful posts together, since they seem to address the same general theme:

I would say, most of all, my disappointment is that I realize I have hit a “limit” in life. I’ve settled for something that I spent 10 years avoiding, because I’m tired. At this point, I wouldn’t even take San Diego if they offered it to me: I’m tired of moving. I had hoped to plant in San Diego and I have come to realize that to do so now would just be another disruption in an adult life full of disruption. Norfolk is, in a sense, my “settling city” rather than the city I wanted. It’s not that I can’t stand Norfolk, it’s that I am sorry to have to come to grips with my own limits and to realize I’d rather settle where I am than strike out for what I really wanted. It says more about me and the toll the last 11 years has had on me than Norfolk itself. To illustrate, this is a chronological list of places I’ve lived since 2005:

2005-2007: Yokosuka, Japan
2007-2007: Charleston, SC (it was for 6 months)
2007-2008: Balston Spa, NY (also for 6 months)
2008-2010: Yokosuka, Japan
2010-2011; Iraq (though most of what I owned was in storage)
2011-2013: Annapolis, MD
2013-2013: Newport, RI (for 6 months)
2013-2014: San Diego (for 4 months, as described in the OP)
2014-2015: Bahrain
2015-?: Norfolk, VA

And throughout much of that time, I wasn't even in the place I was supposed to be living: I was out to sea. In fact, since officially moving to Norfolk in July 2015, I've spent less than half my time actually in Norfolk. And not all at once.

In closing, I’m done. I’m tired of moving. I’ve spent more of my adult life in Japan than anywhere else, and even then it was disjointed by a year-long intermission. I can’t even tell seasons apart anymore: is this winter in Bahrain or spring in Norfolk? Shoot, might just be autumn in Japan, for all I know (who can tell, with pavement as far as the eye can see). Norfolk isn’t so bad (not bad at all, really, just not optimal in my mind) that I’d ask for another move, and another, and another to get away from it.
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Old 10 June 2016, 01:10 PM
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ASL, it sounds like you are a person who needs to stay put; who has wound up, for whatever reasons, in a line of work in which that is just plain not possible.

I can't come up with anything useful to say about that; especially as it sounds impractical for you to just up and quit. For what it's worth, you've got my sympathy. Good luck with the decision in two years; it sounds like a hard one.
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Old 10 June 2016, 01:29 PM
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I would say, most of all, my disappointment is that I realize I have hit a ďlimitĒ in life. Iíve settled for something that I spent 10 years avoiding, because Iím tired.
I'm sorry you feel that way. If your profile is correct, though, you're 31. It might be a bit early to accept a life limit like that. You're tired now, but you might not always be (I hope you won't).
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Old 24 January 2017, 09:36 PM
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This may be a bit long and a bit too random to put in the first world problems thread, it's really an extension on my comment there, but it sort of relates to this thread so I’ll let it sit here. I think I have decided I need to get out of the Navy. I can't do it right away, of course, and that's fine. I can last a couple more years. The worst part of my current assignment is behind me now, at least I don't have to go out to sea again (not for a few years, even if I don’t get out), and I'm using the time to transition to what I'd really like to do, at least on the side: write.

I don't really care if anything I write gets published or makes money, I just want to write. It has occurred to me more than once that there's nothing stopping me from writing in my current occupation, at least not theoretically. The problem is I have been so burnt out. Until a couple weeks ago, I could hardly muster the drive to stand in a shopping line at the grocery store, much less write a thousand words a day (beyond the thousands I feel like i have to write for work). And the feeling hasn't just been a day to day feeling that goes away in the middle of a long weekend or even after a couple weeks off. Twice in the last year I've taken 10 days of "vacation time" and not actually gone anywhere. I just didn't have it in me to go anywhere or do anything. "Nothing” has been all I wanted to do and all I have done, left to my own devices.

But things are looking up. After about a month and a half of, finally, not going out to sea and constantly operating I think I'm starting to settle back into somewhat of a normal routine (as in I can go buy a week’s worth of food every week without being gone for a month in the middle and being to burnt out to go out for anything but fast food before running out of food when I'm back again). I can actually spare some time to concentrate/focus on writing (on top of all the very dull, boring, highly technical BS I have to write for my job).

I'm working on a fictional story, but trying to draw on my experiences and use something Tim O'Brien called "story truth" in his novel The Things They Carried. The idea behind “story truth” is that mere facts may be inadequate to convey Truth. That sometimes you need lies (or rather fiction) to get the Truth across, even if you’re ostensibly relating something autobiographical. Because life isn’t just what happened: it’s how you felt about it. And, more broadly, facts can be misleading themselves when deprived of context, emotional or otherwise: like the difference between anecdote and data. Something may have happened exactly as described, but as an isolated incident it may not be representative of reality in a more general sense, Truth, if you will. O’Brien, for instance, described killing someone in one short story (by lobbing a grenade) and then, in a later short story (his novel is actually a collection of short stories) explaining to his daughter he never killed anyone in the war. It’s in this later story, IIRC, that he explicitly mentions the concept of story truth. He may not have actually killed anyone but, presumably (as evidenced by placing himself in a story where he very unambiguously killed someone), he felt like he had. Or had participated in the war in a way that he might as well have. He didn’t even want to be there. He was drafted but, as he relates in another story (encompassing probably a good bit of story truth) didn’t have the nerve to dodge the draft and/or flee to Canada. So he went to Vietnam, in spite of thinking it was wrong. I think they call that a moral injury, but I digress.

Anyways, I've been trying to think how I can convey what I feel about some things, “sad things” if you will, through a fictional story that draws on some autobiographical elements. To do it, I obviously can't just tell you how I feel. That would be clumsy (and not be nearly so interesting). I can't even just relate the facts of what happened that led me to feel the way I do, because the facts alone may not be enough to help someone so far removed to understand. That’s where the fiction comes in. But step one is I need to have an idea of why I feel the way I do. How else could I translate it into something you can relate to?

Things like why I feel guilty about something that you might say I have no right to feel guilty about. After all, what could I have done? There's no good reason to feel "guilty" about something that happened that I couldn’t possibly have stopped, right? I’m sure that’s the conclusion you’d come to if I just told you straight what happened. So I have to craft a scenario that would leave open the possibility for the reader to judge me as failing to act, or acting inappropriately and causing or allowing this thing to happen, perhaps through negligence (a convenient way of introducing shades of gray, negligence). I’ve decided my story has to place me closer to events than I really was. The reader has to be convinced that, while I didn't necessarily do anything "wrong" (certainly not in a legal sense, but maybe in a moral sense, through a failure to see what was going on right in front of me) I could have stepped in and saved someone, if only I'd been a little more perceptive/compassionate/caring/ or a better person in general. Because that's how I feel. I just can't come out and say that in the story. I've got to show it. With a lie. Or fiction. Story truth.

The consequence at the moment, though, is feeling the hurt a little more than I have before. Because I finally understand why I feel so bad, whether I really should or not. Perhaps it's all part of getting better, coming to understand why I feel how I feel about this. I couldn’t even parse these feelings before. I'm looking forward to getting over the Navy and doing something I am enthusiastic about again. And if I do end up staying in, it will be because I wanted to, not because I was afraid of losing the paycheck, the job security, the healthcare, the retirement, etc.
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Old 25 January 2017, 04:15 AM
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Iíve spent more of my adult life in Japan than anywhere else, [...]
I can relate to that. I have to go around to a bunch of locations for work these days. It's always the nicest parts; I mean, I'm not a soldier or a sailor. Yet, recently, in many of those faraway places, I've experienced a taste of something that I hadn't felt since I was, maybe, 13: homesickness. It's not bad, just a slightly unpleasant reminder that I love the place I live. I hope you can find a place like that. Maybe Japan!
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Old 25 January 2017, 04:58 AM
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Aww, we were just in Kyoto a few months ago. Should have looked you up ...
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