So I've been going through a month-long five-step interview process with a company I'd like to work for. They help new college students handle the challenges of school, balance other demands on their time and energy, and access resources that will ultimately help those students stay in school, graduate, and meet their personal goals.

I'm also having this interesting awareness that I thought I'd share--

I was writing my book, and writing about the "standard soldier" lifestyle. How he usually has a buzz-cut and a big-ass man-truck with a killer stereo. How he loves to eat beef, and prays to God before dinner every night. How nearly everyone who populates his world is physically fit, heterosexual, and between the ages of 18-45. And I got to "talking" about how different Army social norms are from Civilian ones. Here's a piece of what I wrote:

In many ways, I still haven’t finished assimilating into this larger and more diverse civil society. For example, an Army Wife could not be friends with a man who was not her husband. It raised eyebrows. Just being seen riding in a car with a man who was not your husband was enough to make you a hot topic at the next FRG potluck. Is she having an affair? Does her husband know? Is her husband away on a mission right now? Does anybody here have a husband who knows the poor bastard well enough to tell him about his wife’s affair when he gets home?

I met a married friend for dinner at a noisy sushi restaurant the other day. We were discussing his research and my job search, so he suggested sitting beside me at the oversized table, instead of across from me. It’d be easier to hear without spitting at each other and yelling out about this book he’s writing about a lesbian love affair in the 12th century. Already nervous about having dinner with my friend, and not his wife (to whom I know he is totally devoted), I had to stop and think about what it means to sit on the same side of the table as a married man in a civilian context. I only knew what it meant in the military one. Of course, in the military, we wouldn’t have been eating a meal together, or discussing lesbian love affairs and 12th century politics, at all.

Of course, in this new context, and with this particular person, it didn't mean anything at all, except that the restaurant was noisy! It's just interesting to realize that I became an adult while inside the military arena, and that I've had to learn to be an adult all over again as a civilian.

And there are still occasionally situations that I haven't dealt with in a civilian context. When they come up, I'm reminded all over again of this clash between what I originally learned, and what is appropriate/real now. I guess I'm a life-long-learner on many different fronts indeed.

Another facet of this process occurred in my "job-shadow" interview yesterday. I was talking with one of the Student Coaches, and she told me that part of her strategy for working with these college students is to realize that nobody makes huge life-altering changes. To be realistic in helping them set goals, and in recognizing that "success" and "progress" for a student with poor study skills and a terrible GPA is different than for a prize pupil. According to her experience, after working with hundreds of new students, the goal is to help these students see their current situation clearly, and then take baby steps forward from there. And I don't know that I particularly disagree...

But I had to realize that part of what sets me apart from general society is the fact that I've made huge life-altering changes in who I am and how I operate and process new information and make decisions MANY TIMES. That I'm not afraid of learning new and better ways to be. (Though LB can tell you just how stubborn I am about asking for help-- I'm still working on that one.)

I've had a lot of fear and challenges in the past few years. But in the past few months, since I got serious about writing this book that remembers my life in the Argmy, I've also had a lot of examples presented to me of just what seriously tough shit I've lived through, what unfair or unexpected challenges I've overcome, and how strong and neat of a person I really am now, on the far side of those major life- and self-changes. I'm proud of who I am now, and I'm learning to appreciate just how awesome my accomplishments in this lifetime are. It's heartening, when so many other things seem to be falling apart.