“Netflix and Chill sets up a realm in which women are in control of their sexuality. Now we have an environment in which women can choose whether or not they want to have sex and how much of it they want to have without any of that social backlash such as slut shaming that we see that can be incredibly emotionally detrimental.”
The words had been said. What an awkward topic. I didn’t even agree with the side I was on! As I stood at the podium, my heart racing, I looked up and I saw my dad. He was trying so hard to hide the overwhelming grin on his face. I think it was awkward for him too. Hell, it was awkward for the whole audience! I kept on, “We are given an environment in which we can have much more sex. Why is this good? Because there are so many benefits of sex.” I looked up again. There it was, my dad’s signature laugh. He doesn’t just laugh, his whole body laughs. It’s infectious! I lost all concentration, “Oh my God, my dad is laughing so hard!” The entire audience, including myself, burst out in some much needed, tension easing, belly jostling laughter.
At the end of the show, I got a lot of praise for my ability to speak so seriously and easily about a topic that can be difficult to talk about at all, sex. I appreciated the praise I was receiving, but I knew my performance wasn’t perfect. I knew that I had replaced my filler word ‘um’ with ‘so’, and I knew that I had missed a few points that I wanted to touch on. But these were just things I could work on, things I could fix. What was important to me was that I stood at the podium to deliver an imperfect speech. What I cared about was the pride I felt in myself for not just getting through it, but doing my best with the opportunity I had. What mattered to me were the compliments I received at the end of the performance, because that’s what gives me the encouragement to get up and do it again and strive to be better every time. But there was honestly nothing sweeter than hearing my dad say that glorious five letter word, “I’m proud of you.”
During my pursuit of a career in the Navy, I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. I kept the entire process to myself for the most part. It wasn’t until I was becoming much more sure about my decision that I started talking to very select friends about enlisting in the military. By keeping it from certain people it wasn’t that I didn’t respect their opinion, or I didn’t trust them to respect me in my decision. It was because I knew that certain individuals that cared deeply about me would try to change my mind because they didn’t want to lose me. I wanted to formulate my own opinion about my future before I brought my decision to awareness. One of those individuals was my dad.
I told my dad I enlisted right before I went to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) because I needed family information on my application for the Navy. I have never been so nervous to tell my dad anything in my life. During that week I used the excuse that I needed to do laundry at his house and I brought my laptop with me to finalize my application. For a while I was too nervous to bring it up so I just sat watching T.V. with him trying to come up with the words to start the conversation. I finally gave up and opened my laptop to continue my application. He got up to take a couple dirty dishes to the kitchen and nonchalantly asked me what I was up to on my laptop.
A huge nervous grin overtook my face, I opened my mouth in that ‘I’m about to say something’ gesture, and all that came out was a long drawn out “Well…” I was frozen in fear of what his reaction would be. My dad just stood there with a quizzical look on his face. He knew something was up. “Uh oh, what is it?” he invited. I blurted out, “I kind of sort of enlisted in the Navy.”
The burden had finally been lifted. The weightlessness of it felt so good but I was a prisoner of my anticipation. His response? “Oh.” His eyes blankly staring down at a coaster on the coffee table. A few moments went by before he turned around and walked back into the kitchen. After a minute or two he came and sat down next to me and helped me fill out some information. Nothing was said about the information bomb I just dropped. My skin was crawling with uncertainty and insecurity. Would he approve? Was he proud of me? What if he didn’t support my decision, would I still enlist? I think he felt the same uncertainty because he said he was going to bed all of a sudden.
Perhaps that was just an excuse to breathe.
Thirty minutes later he came back down the stairs and sat horizontal to me with furrowed brows. He had so many questions for me. When did I decide to enlist? What job did I enlist for? Why did I choose the Navy over the other branches? Then he told me something that took me by surprise. When my dad was about the same age I was, he enlisted in the Navy to be a pilot, but was unable to pass strict medical standards for pilots. An overwhelmingly deep understanding of who my dad is as an individual overtook me. I had this immense feeling of pride in the both of us. A strengthening of a bond between parent and child.
That weekend I would find that I would be faced with the same choice. I too was not awarded the job I originally sought out. To become a Navy paralegal, it was beneficial for me to start out as a yeoman, but that spot was taken.
Prior to this experience, I thought that growing up as a girl makes you inadvertently develop a distance in understanding between father and daughter. Yet, in the culmination of events, I could see how wrong I was. We were not that different after all. What brought us distance in understanding were our differences in life experiences. What brought us closer, was seeking out a similar interest, experiencing the same process, and being faced with the same life choice. Stay in the Navy with an alternate job description or finish college in pursuit of capitalist gains. I had to stand in his shoes and feel how uncomfortable it is to make a decision with drastically alternate implications on how your future would look.
This close bond with my dad was something I always sought growing up and it’s only going to get better as we grow older and I get further into my career in the Navy. I feel very lucky to have this kind of relationship with my dad. For a lot of people, having a close-knit family has always been a given in their lives. For people like me, it is something you have to fight for. If you’re reading this knowing exactly what I’m talking about, it’s important to know that it is possible to have this kind of close bond with someone you look up to. Sometimes it just requires the ability to stand in their shoes but these things take time and life experience. In order to get where I am today I had to put a lot of trust in my abilities to reach my goals. Moreover, I needed to work on myself, to curate myself into an individual who is happy from the inside out, not the outside in. When you experience life from a place of individual contentment, that is when you are able to look at the world with deep understanding and open yourself up to look at circumstances from another’s point of view. Then suddenly, life doesn’t seem so harsh anymore. Life is good!
Trust yourself, follow your passion, and the rest will fall into place.
I didn’t see my dad for a while after MEPS and since I had decided to see if I would qualify for CTI (linguist), I had to return to MEPS to take the DLAB (Defense Language Aptitude Battery). My goal was to qualify for Category IV languages like Mandarin or Farsi. I needed a 110. There isn’t really any way to study for the DLAB so I was a pile of nerves the entire way there. I almost could’t believe it, my final score was 119! It was beginning to feel like I was made to take this path. Everything just fell into place.
When I saw my dad next I was so excited to tell him the good news. He was looking at future Sailor Connors Navy CTI! What an awesome feeling! But there is still nothing sweeter than hearing my dad say that glorious five letter word,
“I’m proud of you”
If you are ever in the same or similar position I was in, just know that there is no good way to tell someone you are enlisting in the military. It’s a huge life decision and everyone has a different reaction when they are trying to digest shocking information. Some people will be mad, others will be really excited, and some will be supportive but unsure that you are making the right decision. You will feel those emotions from them whether they put them into words or not. You just have to rip the figurative Band-Aid off and let them rationalize the news in their own way. Don’t try to explain yourself and let others guide the conversation. Those who oppose your decision still care about you very much, but they wouldn’t choose the military for themselves. Those who are unsure will come to understand over time. What matters is that you remain confident in your own convictions, that you are proud of yourself, and that the decision to enlist is yours. Enlisting should not be in an effort to make someone else happy. If you can make someone else happy in the process, well that’s just the cherry on top. 🙂
I’ve included the Santa Rosa Junior College Speech Night that I participated in. For the rare forensics fans out there, I highly recommend you watch the entire performance. This year the Santa Rosa Junior College Forensics Team won the overall collegiate national championship for debate season sweepstakes. This is the first time in history that this has been accomplishes by a two-year institution. It is very clear I have an enormous amount of respect for these individuals who invest the majority of their time into perfecting the art of critical thinking and speech. These are just a handful of the individuals who will be our future legislators, teachers, TED Talk speakers, and professional philanthropists who will benefit the future of our beloved United States of America.
To watch my speech or see my dad try to hold back his laughter, go to 44:40.