MY WATERSHED MOMENT 2
My Watershed Moment
There are many memories that have happened in my life that are important to me. It is very hard to select one that has really changed or impacted my life as an individual. Considering I am just about half way through my illustrious life building a bank of historical memories that I would like to recall and some that I would like to erase for good. As I look back, I think the one event that really turned my life around was joining the Navy, 20 years later and I must say it was a decision well made. As I graduated high school my thought process was to be the first person in my family to go to college. Here I am an 18 year old boy from Queens, New York having to travel more than an hour to college, taking two buses and a train. Now this does not sit well with someone when it is in the middle of winter and you feel like the city is just eating you up.
It was at that point where I figured college life was not for me. Transitioning from a place where I knew plenty of people to an environment that was completely made of strangers also contributed to my decision on leaving college. Now here I am attending college, it feels like things have come full circle; I am now laying the foundation for my children setting the example that I did not have while I was growing up. As for my future, I am looking forward to gaining more experience through more watershed moments and hopefully I have the awareness to enjoy the transition from the ending to the new beginnings. Situation Analysis
When I was 18 years old going to college living with my parents, I have made up my mind to drop out of college and join the military. I did not know which service I was going to join but I know college was not for me. The one thing that surprised me was the reaction of my MY WATERSHED MOMENT 3
parents; it was a reaction of being more supportive than disappointed considering I was going to be the first in the family to go to college. As I went to each recruiting stations, I could feel nothing but anxious, scared, and sadness. The next step was to explain my decision to the rest of my family and friends. No matter how they took the news, all I knew was things were not going to be the same. After all I was going to start a whole new lifestyle and end connections with friends that I have had for the past 10 years. This was the first step to a new beginning and I knew it was going to affect many people especially myself. The Five Stages of Endings
In William Bridges’ book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes (2004), he states that a life transition is the psychological process where we slowly recognize the details that are within situations we are faced with. According to Bridges (2004), when faced with life transitions we go through three distinct processes: Endings, The Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings. Endings being the first stage which is broken down into five stages: disengagement, dismantling, disidentification, disenchantment, and disorientation. I will try to explain how I went through each of the stages of endings.
1. Disengagement: When I first thought about the meaning of disengagement I truly did not understand it. As I thought of the moment of disengagement, it would have to be when I stepped onto the bus for boot camp. As soon as stepped through the bus doors and hearing the doors close behind me, it felt as though I stepped into a whole new world, I was in a place where I knew no one. It was more apparent when we arrived at boot camp. When we stopped in front of the processing center I can already hear the company commanders yelling, something I was MY WATERSHED MOMENT 4
not use to. This was definitely a culture shock for me, one that I was not use to and comfortable with. I thought this would be an easy transition because my cousin had entered the Army just months before I joined the Navy. So I figured if he can do it, than I can do it. 2. Dismantling: Even though heading to boot camp was a shocking experience, I was in for a rude awakening. My dismantling started to take place when the recruiter took me to hotel where all the new recruits were staying for the night so we can all go to the airport together. This took me away from what was the normal routine of going home and sleeping in my bed. My dismantling continued when they sat me in the barber’s chair.
I was known amongst my friends as the guy with the “good hair”, not any more. When the barber picked up those clippers I knew it was not going to be good. As the clippers buzzed through my hair, I felt like a new person. Than the next step was to take off all our civilian clothes, put them in a bag and label it with our last name. It felt as though they were stripping me down of my identity in order to mold a new person or sailor.
3. Disidentification: I believe my disidentification began within the dismantling stage. Once my personal possessions were taken away from me and my hair cut I knew I had to start and find my new self. I remember trying to hang onto who I was throughout boot camp but slowly realized that was not going to happen. I quickly came to my senses seeing that this was the company commanders’ world and they were there to make you that new person. Once I have come to my senses I was willing to let go of my identity that I used to have and started to become the new me. “That is when it is important to remember the significance of disidentification and the need to loosen the bonds of the person we think we are so that we can MY WATERSHED MOMENT 5
go through a transition toward a new identity” (Bridges, 2004, p.117). As boot camp went on I found myself becoming more mature and dependable within my unit. I was designated master at arms by the company commanders, this was the first time I have ever been in charge of anything and I was proud of myself the accomplishments that I have achieved so far. 4. Disenchantment: Starting with the first day of boot camp is when I believe I encountered disenchantment. “The disenchantment experience is the signal that the time has come to look below the surface of what has been thought to be so” (Bridges, 2004, p. 121). As I lay in my bunk, my mind would race about my family, friends, and significant others. I knew my family would want what was best for me but I did not know if that was the case for my friends. I would always wonder if my friends would be there for me if I ever needed them in time of need. As for my significant other, was she truly going to wait for me while I was trying to make my life better?
At that point I had to get them out of my mind in order to make my experience in boot camp the best it can be. I knew if I was preoccupied by the thoughts of untrustworthy friends back home my training and experience in boot camp would be a wasteful 8 weeks of training. 5. Disorientation: My disorientation goes back to the first day I stepped off the bus at boot camp. It was cold, the snow was up to my shins, and I had three to four company commanders yelling at me for no apparent reason. It was a whole new world for me. I kept on repeating in my head, “What did I do?” I did not have my family and friends to turn to for encouragement, I really felt as though I was in another world. When it would be time for lights out that is when it occurred to me that I was all alone. The next two months in boot camp were MY WATERSHED MOMENT 6
very difficult, especially at night when I had time to reminisce about the great times I spent with family and friends. Even though the toughest part of the military was boot camp, it was the beginning of my new life. The constant comparison of what my life used to be and what my life was going to be like made for a very difficult transition. When I reported to my first submarine is when things started to get better. I started to open up to crew members; they essentially became my second family and new friends. I was in an environment that allowed me to express myself and it made me feel like accomplished something when my ideas were utilized to make things better within my division. My Neutral Zone
I believe I reached my neutral zone when I decided to join the Navy. When I arrived at boot camp, I automatically noticed the way people acted and the surrounding area was different from what I was used to. While boot camp always had the hustle and bustle of activity I found myself in the neutral zone while in my bunk. Every time they would say lights out, I would think about my future plans and how am I going to make the best of my time in the military. Another aspect I thought about is the new friendships I will be developing and old ones that will become a memory. As I returned home from boot camp, I visited some old friends and it seemed as though they were all strangers to me. They all were doing things that were not familiar to me and were recalling things that happened while I was away. It made me feel secluded from what was going on in the old neighborhood. At that moment I started to realize the experiences of boot camp, reporting to my first submarine, and the people I have met throughout the process, I MY WATERSHED MOMENT 7
have come to appreciate the structure and the way the everyday life of the military is conducted. I realized that my old self had to come to a close and a new chapter in my life needed to begin. I knew a better lifestyle was waiting for me in the future which included independence, opportunity, and freedom in making the decisions based on my own thought process without interference from friends and family. New Beginning
I knew a new beginning has occurred for me when I woke for the first time on a submarine while underway. For the first time in 19 years I was not able to say good morning to my parents, sleep in my own bed, and say hello to my friends on the phone. I was anxious to learn new things not only from the technical aspect of submarines but to learn from other people. It felt as though I was reenergized in the way I saw life and the goals I had set for myself were becoming reality. I knew people were counting on me to make decisions that will not put them in jeopardy while I was on the boat. I also had to reinvent the way I acted towards others, especially to the higher ranking people. Before, I was in the military I would call people no matter who it was by their first name as though we were friends. As my new beginning started, I think back of all the time thought about how things should have been instead of taking in and acknowledging the transition to a new beginning and new life I was encountering. Reflective Analysis
In my lifetime I have experienced many watershed moments that have played a big part of my evolution from a young boy to adulthood. When I was faced with difficult times and decisions as I was growing up, I could do nothing but learn from those experiences and share MY WATERSHED MOMENT 8
them with my children. We have to prepare ourselves for new opportunities that come our way and move on with whatever we are facing. Change will always be peeking around the corner and no matter how hard we try to stop it, it cannot be done. So, I have learned whatever change you are faced with it is not worth the stress that comes with it. Just make the best of it, adapt to it, and challenge it only if you feel it jeopardizes safety and well-being.
Bridges, W. (2004). Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes, revised 25th Anniversary Edition: Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.