The form that sat lifeless on my computer screen still managed to mock me in some subtle way. It symbolized the inevitable passing of time and the arrival of new things. My year in Ireland is coming to a close and my departure is impending. Every time a member of the Navy changes commands, they are required to be evaluated and this is done through the completion of a FITREP (fitness report). The form itself is not intimidating, just a series of fill in the blanks and short sentences, but the transition it embodies has me quivering.
I spent the last year of my life traveling around Ireland and Europe, drinking great beer, and engaging in intellectual conversation. My weekly Navy obligation was fulfilled through a succinct email to a supervisor, and the time passed each day was mine and no one else’s. My year in Ireland as a Mitchell Scholar was enlightening, challenging, and to put it simply, wonderful. Yet just like most good things, it is coming to an end. Upon the completion of my dissertation, I will drive across the United States and take up residence in Everett, WA on the guided missile destroyer, the USS MOMSEN. I will serve as a division officer on board and will begin working long, twelve hour days. After a year on Irish time, the transition back to Navy time will be abrupt and possibly shocking.
Since I began my year abroad, I have been receiving the same question over and over. “How will your transition back into the Navy be?” In August of 2013, I would brush the question to the side by saying, “I do not even want to think about that right now.” This winter when I resembled a lumberjack as opposed to a Naval Officer, I would respond with one word, “rough.” If I were to be asked the same question today, my response would be long, well thought out, and would embody the spirit of the following few sentences:
My year in Ireland has been amazing. I made some lifelong friends, traveled, and most importantly learned a lot about both myself and the international system. Despite all the positives of this year, I am ready to move on. I went to school to become a leader and a Naval Officer and that is what I am now ready to do. After this year of “me time” it is time to focus on working and doing what I have trained for. This past year has been crucial in developing my perspective of the world and has also served as an introduction to academia. It has been a truly remarkable experience and one that I would not trade for anything. This year of graduate education will most likely not be my last, but for now this sailor is ready to work.