A saying that could summarize my military career would be, “Hurry up and wait.” A time-honored saying that echoes through the minds of everyone who has every served in the military. The patience that comes with this is one of the things I thought would be a big quality I’d take away with me from the Marine Corps. Day in and day out, we would wait — wait for formation to start, wait for an officer to show up to the formation, wait for the safety brief at the end of the week, wait to be released for the day…etc. I could go on all day about how much the military makes you wait. But my God, how civilian life has changed my opinion of that. Instead of waiting for formations, officers, and safety briefs, I am now waiting for people to get out of my way at Walmart, on the road, and in the hallways. I am now waiting for professors to show up to class on time and to actually teach something worth taking away. I thought I had patience instilled in me from the military, but I find myself being even more frustrated now that I’m out.
When I first got out, I noticed it driving in my hometown. I would get into town and immediately get behind some old person, usually in an older Buick of some kind, and they would be going exactly 5 MPH under the speed limit. They would just take their sweet old time getting to wherever they were going, and when it came time to finally turn off somewhere, grandma would turn with the intensity of a 120-year-old tortoise. Just aggravate the heck out of me, especially if I had somewhere to be. This, combined with running into them in Walmart just adds fuel to the fire.
It seems like no matter when I go to Walmart, or anywhere else, I run into that slow person or the person that just gets in your way and doesn’t move. This absolutely drives me up a wall and makes me want to unsheathe my knife-hand and verbally berate them like a drill instructor. The only thing that keeps me from doing that is the understanding that not everyone has common sense in the civilian world, and most don’t have a silent intensity to get out of your way either. I have to take a deep breath and just be patient with them. Kind of like waiting for the first sergeant to shut up so you can go home for the weekend.
I first really developed this patience when I was in my MOS school. I remember waiting for hours on end, before our class picked up, for a working party to come around; we would all try to avoid it because the working parties all sucked in the 100-degree heat in Twenty-nine Palms. If we were lucky enough to not get put on a working party, we would wait all day in this “breeze-way” for the day to end. We did this for about a month before we picked up with a class. Once we picked up with a class, we were constantly waiting for our instructors to show up, waiting for class to start, waiting to be dismissed for the day…etc. Things didn’t change once I got to my unit.
Once with my unit, we would wait for things to do, formations to kick off, field day to start, and safety briefs to start and get over with. It was a never-ending, viscous cycle of waiting. I am convinced, if you added up all the time spent waiting in the military, in a 4-year period, you could easily have a full month of time. Towards the end of my enlistment, I got used to the waiting. It didn’t bother me anymore, and I thought that once I got out, it would be even better.
Of course, I was wrong in thinking that; however, it’s a different kind of patience that I need to work on now. Waiting for someone to show up for a meeting or class doesn’t bother me. I did that type of waiting for the past 4 years. The waiting that mostly bothers me now is for people to get out of my way, either driving or walking. In the military, everyone moves with purpose/intensity. Out here, only a select few do, and they mostly take it too far and almost run you off the road.
I have taken the quality of patience away with me from the military. I would also say I still have to work on it. There are many new scenarios, now, where patience is a virtue, and I still need to work on that quality. I have to remind myself that this isn’t the military anymore, and that most civilians are slow and lack common sense. Eventually, it will get better.