The simple, one word question, why? can carry a multitude of explanations. It's something I have asked myself many many times throughout my life. When we lose our "why" we tend to lose motivation, or sight of what our objective is.
The last year or so of my active duty time, I found myself asking the question, "Why am I still doing this?" I had lost my why... my reason for being a part of the military. Ignorantly enough, when I enlisted, I was under no false pretense about joining during a time of war... I wanted to fight, I knew I had something to give and, going into combat was exactly where I needed to be. I say ignorantly only because I think a lot of us have that attitude going into boot camp. That very naive attitude about war, that quickly disappears the instant a fire fight breaks out, or mortars start walking onto your position. My why, very rapidly went from wanting to fight... to fighting because it was the only option... my wants and attitudes became seemingly irrelevant. My why, at that point, was to survive and to help my Marines survive. That why, kept me in the fight. It gave me focus, purpose, and drive. It governed every aspect of my life.
And then, that why… my reason for being, became obsolete. I was no longer in the field, or deploying. I was no longer serving in the capacity that I had enlisted for. The question, "why am I still doing this?" started to reverberate in my head monthly, then weekly, then daily. It was time to separate.
May 1st of this year was 5 years since I left active duty. In those 5 years, I feel like I have lived 5 lifetimes. And in those 5 years, I have come to be a part of an unbelievable community of people. A group of men and women leaning on, and learning from one another. A group that found each other through surfing, through yoga, and through the desire to keep finding that "why."
I was recently talking to my good friend Connor, whom you all may know from his stellar surf reports on Instagram. We were laughing about the fact that for the previous few days, we had been in the water for 10 hours, instructing a group of veterans participating in a mini travel camp with WSF. The reason it was funny was simply because the conditions had been completely awful. If there had not been a group in town that needed instruction, we would not have been anywhere close to the water for that long. That being said, we had a blast getting these folks standing up on surfboards and riding waves! Windy, drifty, messy small waves... everything Folly beach surfing is known for but, the joy and the thrill these men and women were experiencing made treading water in a chilly ocean for 10 hours seem like nothing.
Why we do what we do now, made total sense to me at that moment. I don't always feel like getting up early, putting on a damp wetsuit, and getting to the beach before the traffic starts but, I know when I get to 3rd West on Folly Beach, there's going to be 4 or 5 other instructors showing up, thinking and feeling the same way I do. We show up for each other. We show up so we can pass our knowledge and experience on to our new participants. We hold each other accountable.
That was something that I needed desperately when I left active duty. Left to my own devices, I may go into a depression where leaving my house or even my room is incredibly hard. Having my squad around me, to hold me accountable, to help me share the stoke, has proven invaluable.
We are often our own worst critic. There are stigmas we place on ourselves when it comes to things like disability ratings, or what our jobs were on active duty. Those stigmas don't come out of nowhere. I lost count of how many times I was told during my process of leaving the military that I was broken, or how difficult life was going to be for me on the outside. Ignorantly again, I chose to believe a lot of those things. The transition periods between military and civilian life can be very rough. Had I not found my community, my tribe, my misfit gang of pirates and beach bums to love me through that process, I may still believe those outright untrue things about myself.
I know there are many men and women out there that need what we do… that need to get plugged into a community like this. Those people are my why. I want to share as much as I can with as many people as I can.
Your personal whys may change as situations in your life change. That is the beauty of this life, everything is temporary. Find your why.