Sunday, September 29, 2013

LA-versary :: Guest Post by Jessica of The Jessica L Blog

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I am a glutton for change and instability.

Born to old-world Asian immigrants, my future threatened to be easily predictable had I chosen to follow the advice and strict prodding my parents had forced on me while growing up in L.A. It would have gone like this: go to school, get good grades, go to church every Sunday, don't date or spend too much time with friends, spend all my time with family, go to college, get degrees, buy a house, date, get married, have children, and then have parents move into house and take care of parents. I can't knock the choice to follow this path, mostly because a majority of my cousins chose to follow it to a "t", but this wasn't the road I wanted my life to take, and that should have been okay with my family. But it wasn't. Finally fed up, I left UC Santa Barbara one day and moved to Houston without telling anyone. The abrupt move shocked my sister and two of my best friends who were closest to me, and it deeply wounded my mom. She didn't speak to me for two years after I left.

I was "poor" in Houston, and I racked up debt. My boyfriend, at the time, was turning out to be not such a good prospect. But at least I had my freedom and could make my own choices. Realizing that I needed to do something more to survive financially, I started going back to school. I moved into my own apartment and worked two jobs so that I could support myself. I had no car and had to take the bus everywhere. I had no cell phone. I did have some money left over to have a good time whenever I could with my girlfriends. But eventually life became exhausting, and I realized that I was living to work instead of working to live. After a second failed attempt with my then ex-boyfriend, I finally moved back home to L.A. and continued going to college again.

It wasn't long before I became restless and craved adventure. I decided to join the Navy only months after receiving an acceptance letter to UC Riverside. It took me first to Great Lakes, Illinois where I graduated boot camp and the technical school for the rate\job I had chosen. Afterwards, I was sent to Yokosuka, Japan to a "forward-deployed" aircraft carrier. Translation: we were always gone. When September 11th happened we were gone even more. I struggled trying to take college classes. I struggled with managing finances and other personal issues that young inexperienced Sailors were challenged with. The upside was that I was learning so much about the rest of the world and what we provided as a Navy. The rigors of constant deployment and long hours were balanced by some of the best sea stories that I will have the pleasure of telling after I leave active duty service.

After my three years on the carrier were completed, I was transferred to another ship in San Diego. My mother was battling breast cancer, and I wanted to be there for her and my family. After her surgery, I completed another deployment in the Middle East, and was able to look for a place to live and even bought a new car. I was working myself out of debt and bettering my finances. I started to take a few more college classes here and there and had chosen a major: Criminal Justice. Then more unthinkable things happened. I was asked to extend, so I could go to another school and perform another specialty. This particular "skill" had a Selective Reenlistment Bonus attached to it- meaning money! Of course, I took it, finished the school, and reenlisted for another 6 years in the Navy. I was able to pay off most of my debt and by almost paying off my car I was working on rebuilding my credit.

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In between this all, I may have skipped one or two failed relationships. I ended them for various reasons, but what they all taught me was that I should never have to compromise who I am to be with someone, that I shouldn't have to settle, and that there is certainly nothing wrong with being single. I had to move again after my time had been completed in San Diego. And that's when I was chosen to go to Iraq, boots on ground. After leaving San Diego, I transferred back to Illinois, only to be told that I had a few months to prepare for deploying to Iraq. I had to quit school again and became a secret basketcase. Having left my friends and life back in San Diego, I felt pretty lonely. But change and having to start over from scratch wasn't new to me; this was just something else, I told myself, that I could look back upon and laugh at when I'm old and senile.

Needless to say, Iraq changed my life. Of all the bad news and negative coverage that was plastered all over the radio and tv, there was just as many positives that people were choosing to ignore. I'm not going to go into detail for many reasons, but another deployment, kept me from spending and allowed me to reflect inward. I was eradicating the bad stuff out of my life by the very fact that I was far away in another country: the 33 year old ex-boyfriend who lived in his mom's basement, played Guitar Hero all day, and delivered pizza for a living. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, if I didn't want kids, didn't want to retire, and didn't want an adventurous life.....the other ex-boyfriend who lived a double life who tried to reconnect with me before I left....I was a magnet, it seemed for the wrong guy. I had to look deep within and figure out why it was that I kept ending up with these types of guys.

And so it is here that I leave you with what Stephanie wanted me to write about: struggles with change or a story of independence. There's no real moral here. No mind-blowing words of wisdom. Just a shared acknowledgment that life can be difficult and that life is beautiful all at the same time. I once desired a life of stability, or rather a more traditional life. But stability is an illusion, a mistake even. I do know change is imminent, struggles build character, and whoever said life is suppose to be fair??? No, I don't need a trophy for overcoming pain, and, no, I don't believe I, or anyone else for that matter, should get an A for effort. But what I want to do is make sure that I'm making a great story of my life. Yes, it's going to have shitty moments. No, not everyone is going to agree with it. But it's my story, and I want to make sure that it's worth telling.

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(Jessica now resides in San Diego with her husband Scott and their three adorable dogs. I've gone down to visit her multiple times -- you can read all about them here -- and when she's in the LA area to see her parents, we make sure to meet up. I love this lady and I'm so glad we met. She has quickly become one of my best friends over the past couple years. Be sure to head over to her blog for more inspirational stories, and don't forget to check out her pretty paper giveaway here!)
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