I can’t believe that I am leaving Paradise tomorrow. I got here almost 20 months ago to the day, went on an extended 8 month deployment, and actually lived on the island for 11 months. Crazy, huh?
This has been a hard tour. Actually, this has been beyond hard. Difficult, monstrous, and challenging don’t really do it justice either. I’ve never worked so hard or been so hurt so much in my life. My job was like jumping into a shark tank — there was no choice other than to swim fast and hard or be eaten in the process. I worked for a demanding, mercurial man who challenged me every single day — who made me a better Officer in the end though it was not a particularly pleasant process. I learned that no one really teaches you how to do this job , no one tells you what to say when your 19-year old Sailor asks you what do I do when my mom dies? How do I live without a mom? or explaining to friends and family that you work on Saturdays and yes, most nights you work exceptionally late. No one tells you what to do when you have to stand by helplessly watching a Sailor who is not able to be resuscitated because he took his own life and certainly no one prepares you for the frantic Thanksgiving call just 5 months later or the metallic smell of blood or the bright oxygenated blood stains against a gray deck. I knew that this job wouldn’t be easy, but I never imagined that it would be so hard.
Do you know what I did when I walked off the brow for the last time yesterday? I slept. I slept hard because I am emotionally, spiritually, and physically drained. 19 months at a dead sprint and now I get to do it all over again. God help me.
The interesting thing is that even though something is hard and has caused you pain, it doesn’t necessarily make it a bad experience (Ahem, childbirth). I enjoyed my time here. I worked with some amazing people and met some awesome friends and Sailors. I learned to love wholly and hard and not worry about being hurt. I poured everything I had into my department and my ship. I gave of myself in a way that I have never done before. Though my last month onboard was particularly awful due to my own Fortunato at work, God still used the experience to teach me that His love for me is unfailing and that in this world we will always have trouble, but He has overcome the world.
It’s tempting to dwell on the bad days and Fortunatos of the world, but one (or 3000) bad days does not a bad life make. And so I will remember the best of times here, I will choose to love and rejoice in how far God has brought me (in no particular order and in pictorial form):
Last words: Last week at church, Waxer (our Preacher), said something revolutionary. He was talking about how you can so easily get caught up in the petty thing of life and waste a lot of your precious time trying to defend yourself from the attacks of others. He said this: dogs spend all night barking at the moon, and the moon just stands there and shines. So keep shining. Don’t change who you are because it will make other more comfortable or happy or like you better. Keep being the You that God created you to be. Stay Glamourous!