BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — I don’t mean “the parachute opened in just the knick of time as I plummeted to the Earth” kind of save.
I was failing college classes and getting into trouble. I didn’t care if my decisions lead to jail or death. I was too busy recklessly living in the moment while not giving a thought to the future. I knew I needed to make a decision.
So I raised my right hand and took that leap of faith as my parents did.
The Air Force taught me the discipline I needed to live a meaningful life again. I was finally exposed to my purpose. I was instilled with the core values and learned how to live with ambition. I began to live not only for myself, but for the men and women standing beside me. Most importantly, I was given the tools to be successful, and I learned success requires a great deal of resiliency.
Air Force bases around the world designate at least an entire day each year strictly to learn about and practice resiliency. It’s been drilled into my head since the day I stepped off the bus at basic training with the staff sergeants’ screams introducing me to military life. I’ve heard the four pillars of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness over and over.
So why do I care? And, more importantly, why would I write about something I could recite in my sleep? Because we never know how we are going to react to something until it happens. We can plan for every scenario, but until it unfolds, we have no idea how we will react. I believe it is resiliency that helped me plan for the challenges I thought I might never face.
Resiliency is the ability to return to original form after being bent, compressed or stretched to our breaking points. As Airmen, we are constantly encouraged to become stronger by creating a balance of the four pillars: mental, physical, social and spiritual. I know that I must be able to care for myself before I could care for others.
As I transitioned into adulthood, I was disappointed in the 18-year-old I saw in the mirror. Looking back, I know it could have been worse, and others may have traveled more difficult paths, but everyone handles circumstances differently, and it was enough to spiral me into a depression. I realized I needed help.
Now, I practice resiliency on a regular basis. Whether it is working out, volunteering or doing anything that simply brings me joy, I am able to create a much more stable frame of mind. When something devastating might happen to me again, I know it will take everything I can muster to get up and keep going. I know now that being resilient is my only defense against life’s guaranteed hiccups.
I write not only to be an example of the effects of resiliency, but in hopes that others can find strength within themselves as well. One of the greatest things about resiliency is that it’s never too late to build it.
I was taught how to stand up against life’s curve balls, and, for that, I credit the Air Force with saving my life.