I grew up as the “only” child. The youngest of 3, my brothers were 8 and 12 years older.
I was a quiet learner, seeing the world from the edge, analyzing, taking it all in. I focused on understanding the data, the hard skills, not truly understanding the reason for or the nuances of soft skills.
As I got older, that turned into choosing a careers that was more solitary – technology, regulatory compliance, HR and Admin and now Farming. I spent a lot of hours alone typing away in a cube, closet and server room.
I was happily a workaholic, drinking up knowledge, only seeing the value of time spent completing a project.
I scheduled my water consumption and restroom breaks based on the least impact to my productivity. Choose cars based on fuel tank size (less trips to the gas station), and multi-tasked with every sip of coffee.
I rarely took time to stop and chat. When I did, I admit I wasn’t present; head down point A to point B, hyper focused.
Fast forward to Career 3, U.S. Coast Guard. My first deployment was for the oil spill Deep Water Horizon. From the beginning to the end, it was long days and quick work. I pilled empty copy paper boxes to made a standing desk. It took too many extra seconds to sit and stand again, running from eyes open to eyes shut.
A few weeks in, I started working for two larger than life Master Chiefs. Every morning I would arrive early, make coffee and try to get a jump on work. Every morning one of them would come in, get coffee and abruptly halt my work.
What’s the day look like YN2? Did the crew make it to the field?
What the?!… didn’t he read my evening report?
Would you like more coffee Master Chief?
All crew safely in the field, 50 went to Houma, 25 to Venice.
100 check in at 0800, we will need more berthing. I’m working on that now.
0800 is in 17 damn minutes! I can literally hear the minutes ticking away. I swear government issued clocks are purposely meant to torment me!
But as the days and weeks went by, what started as morning stressor, an annoying pest distracting my focus, became something I looked forward too. I time to chat, to listen, to learn and most importantly, connect.
My evening report was only a one way communication. Morning coffee was all of that and pearls of wisdom, moments to clarity and the sharping on my soft skills. Which I obviously needed.
This continued in some fashion throughout my time in the Coast Guard.
Pulling out my tactical travel pot and making coffee for the crew as we waited for the weather to break.
Trading Ace, half-filled carafes for jugs of water as we pasted from night to day shift.
Hanging my mug on the Chief Mess wall.
Quiet mornings before the armory opened.
The smell of the random cup brought to me mid-day by a tired crewman, to say hello.
My first cup after returning home.
A to-go cup to start each afternoon of IV treatment.
Decaf Americano please. The cup helps keep my hands warm as I sit quietly alone again. Wondering how something so tiny could have changed my life so much.
Marking off the milestones, 20 days on, 14 days off – Round 1 ✔ 20 days on, 14 days off – Round 2 ✔, 15 more rounds to go.
Mission focused, no time for chatter. Even 18 months into remission, taking time to chat is almost as hard as it was pre-Coast Guard (hence the 2 months gap in weekly rambles).
This holiday break we had a more than a few impromptu visits. As so many years ago, my mind started to wander …I can hear the clock tick…
As the smell of coffee filled the air, I remembered Master Chief's questions, Ace's good morning and that cup that warmed my hands.
This was the exact work I needed to be doing. Mission Accomplished.