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Why Color at All When You Can Melt the Crayons and Make Art

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

It’s been almost 5 years since I signed my DD-214, dropped off my uniforms at the base thrift store and drove away from NAS JAX without so much as a glance in my rearview mirror. As the 5th anniversary of my DD-214 and my last official day on Google’s payroll loom ahead, the unspoken stress of it all is starting to take a toll.

Dance Team @ USNA Commissioning May 2014


Transitioning out of the military is not easy. It’s one thing to join the millions of job seekers and try to crack the algorithm for finding traditional employment. It’s a completely different ballgame when you’re left to your own wits with an entire world of opportunities to figure out which adventure to choose next.


Being in the military was easy. In the Navy, you have a finite number of career paths to choose from, and more often than not, your input doesn’t hold a lot of weight. You have job security. You have a built in friend/co-worker network. You have a fairly narrow scope of hobbies that fit into your schedule and fall within formal and unspoken rules. You know that you’ll be fighting red tape, and you expect to have to break free from institutional regulations and norms to do something outside the box.


It’s limiting, but it’s safe - as long as you color inside the lines.


Coloring outside the lines with my mother-in-law :)


It has taken 5 years for me to realize that searching for the next set of rules to follow is extremely limiting. For the most part, I’ve always prioritized job security and financial stability, which worked for me until it didn’t. I kept my head down, buried myself in my work, and delayed the need to figure out who I am by keeping busy. This tactic helped me transition from being a cyber intelligence analyst, to working as a management consultant, and eventually led me to Google - a company many view as the pinnacle of the corporate world.


And then, suddenly, I was laid off.


I’ve always encouraged people to “get creative” and “think outside the box” when they’re transitioning out of the military, but seldom have I seen people do just that. I don’t even feel like I’ve been successful at it. However, I’ve come to deeply admire the entrepreneurs, the actors/actresses, artists, bloggers, chefs, etc. who threw away the playbook and figured out a completely new way to exist. To me, that’s what freedom looks like. That’s the life I should be living, but I’m not.


Wandering around the SF Google Offices during a work trip


Up until now, I feel like I’ve played it too safe. I found “stable” corporate jobs with cool perks, and kept my creativity almost entirely outside the workspace. My creative outlets became my dirty little secret - a side of me that I kept tucked away and anonymous. But why? Because I was afraid that I wouldn’t fit in? Because I kept my red-tape radar up and assumed that being unconventional would be an uphill battle?


Well, I got laid off anyway.


So now here I am, going through a whole different identity crisis. I’m no longer just a veteran transitioning out of the military. I’m the disabled veteran, wife to a transitioning active duty Marine, ex-Googler, blogger, analyst, researcher, graphic artist, entrepreneur, fashion designer, baker, with a propensity to hang upside down from a variety of objects, who is in the process of re-discovering herself and figuring out how to convince her ex-pilot husband to live a remote life in their converted plane.


Wish me luck!


Studies show that hanging upside down improves brain function. Trust me, I've done my research.


The moral of this story is that I wish I started acting outside the box rather than just thinking outside of it a lot sooner. However, I know I’m currently at one extreme end of the spectrum, and that not all veterans going through major life changes have the flexibility to live completely outside the box. If that’s not accessible, there are still ways to process some of these conceptually difficult hardships that veterans face when transitioning out of the military.


Some of the creative resources for military families I’ve discovered along the way include:


  1. Veterans in Media & Entertainment (A network that unites current and former members of the military working in film, television, media, gaming, music, and more)

  2. Creativets (A nonprofit whose mission is to empower wounded veterans to heal through the arts and music)

  3. Operation We Are Here (Healing arts for military & veteran families)

  4. Armed Services Art Partnership (A creative community that provides free art and comedy classes to veterans, service members, military spouses, family members, and caregivers)

  5. United States Veterans’ Artists Alliance (USVAA) (USVAA provides opportunities for veterans in the arts by highlighting the work of veterans in the arts, humanities and entertainment industry along with the contributions veterans have made to the rich cultural history of our nation since the Revolutionary War.)

  6. VR&E Benefit for Disabled Veterans (VocRehab for re-training/education in a different career field - I’m seriously considering utilizing this to go to art or fashion design school)


I’m still very early in my process of living the creative life I want to live, and learning how to “let go” and channel my thoughts and feelings (...I know right?!) in a productive way. However, I took a fairly big step this morning and re-wrote Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” from a different perspective. Do any of my more talented vocalists want to record it?


‘Till the next rainy day,

S



Last Night - Her Story

Remixed by: Shanon Morris


Last night you let the liquor talk

I do remember everything you said and you said it all

I told you that I wish you were somebody I’d never met

Oh baby, baby I am telling you that I’m over it

I’m glad it was our last night

You kissed my lips

I tried to push away but you grabbed my hips

That bottle of Jack you downed a fifth

You told me your lies & let it slip

You, I kinda wanna fight

And say some shit I mean

I know you’re gon’ wake up wanting you and me


I know that last night you let the liquor talk

I do remember everything you said and you said it all

I told you that I wish you were somebody I’d never met

Oh baby, baby I am telling you that I’m over it

I’m glad it was our last night

Thank god it was our last night

I’m glad it was the last night that we break up

You get my tail lights in the dust

I call my daddy, all in a huff

In the middle of the night, you pull right back up

Yeah my, my friends say let him cry

Your friends say what the hell

I wanna trade your kind of love for somethin’ else


Oh baby, last night you let the liquor talk

I do remember everything you said and you said it all

I told you that I wish you were somebody I’d never met

Oh baby, baby I am telling you that I’m over it

I’m glad it was our last night, I said I had enough

I do remember everything you said and you said it all

I’m glad I packed my shit and slammed the door right before I left


Oh baby, baby I am telling you that I’m over it

I’m glad it was our last night

Thank god it was our last night


I told you that this time I don’t want you to come back again

Oh baby, baby I am telling you that I’m over it


I’m glad it was our last night

Thank god it was our last night



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