The Journey Begins – Leaving Florida

I said goodbye today. I said it a lot. I said goodbye to coworkers, to supervisors, to friends, and to acquaintances. I said goodbye to a city I both love and despise. However, I also said hello. I said hello to some friends who I haven’t seen in a long time and probably won’t see in even longer.

Today was about the people in my life. For so many years, I overlooked how important these people are. It was only recently that I realized that life takes meaning from our personal relationships and the relationship we have with the society in which we live. Let me tell you about some of these people:

I said goodbye to two guys who were my roommates over the past several weeks. Cameron and Sinjen gave me a place to stay while I was in transition between selling my own house and moving out of the area. After living alone for over four months, walking downstairs to a roomful of people or jumping in on an impromptu game of Monopoly came as a welcome source of enjoyment each day. Both of these young men are on their way to doing great things for Naval Aviation, and I wish them the best in all of their endeavors.

I also said goodbye to a group of coworkers with whom I was able to bond over the banality and quotidian struggle of office life. Because of the similar time in our situation, Will and I got to experience the progression of emotions we felt toward the office. In the beginning, we had hopeful idealism for the improvement of a clearly broken system, but we both found ourselves sliding into the acceptance of our defeat. Fortunately for the office, a much more experienced member has joined the team. With any luck, CWO2 Carr will be able to remove the need for that office to exist at all. Sadly, I was unable to say goodbye to Destiny today. Over the past few months, I learned a great deal from her about the machinery in the military that exists behind the scenes, and I have gained a new appreciation for the struggle they endure to ensure that the vital minutiae of the administrative process keeps that machine moving.

In using their spare bedroom to change out of the uniform for what could very well be the last time, I got to say goodbye to Kate. Unfortunately, I missed her husband (and my former roommate) Kyle who was briefing for a flight at the time. I’m glad I have been able to keep in touch with those two during my time in northwest Florida. Maybe someday our paths will cross again at a future duty station.

Finally, I said goodbye to a city in which I had some of the best times and some of the worst times of my life. Pensacola offers a plethora of opportunities to its residents, but it just never seemed to offer the things that I’m looking for. Despite having some amazing food (Global Grill, Joe Patti’s, and Tin Cow to name a few), I never really connected with the city. On the way out, I passed a few memorable locations for the last time: the area around Angel Cove, the apartment complex Luisa and I lived in for 7 months; NAS Pensacola, where my naval aviation career began with such sanguine hope; and Davis Highway exit that I drove weekly in visiting Luisa at the university or returning home from a day in Pensacola. Although there are so many good memories attached to that city, I’m just fine knowing that I will probably never see it again. There are too many other locations in the world to dwell on just this one.

I said more goodbyes, but I also said hello. I said hello to Shannon, a friend whom I had not seen for many years. We grew up on the same street but mostly lost touch after she moved to Florida for college, met her husband, and settled down. She now has two beautiful children and works both full time as a mother and part time in a career. I’m pretty sure the time commitment adds to more than 24 hours each day, but she somehow makes it happen. Her accent may have gotten a little thicker, but she hasn’t changed a bit.

Shannon

At the end of today’s drive, I got to see two friends from school. Melissa and Cory met at the academy and have managed to stay together through each of their first deployments. Cory recently returned from the Persian Gulf and is taking some well deserved R&R, and Melissa continues to do more than demanded of her on her ship here in Jacksonville. She’ll be leaving early in the morning to put in another 16+ hour day on the boat. I can understand why all she wanted to do tonight was sit on the couch, eat leftovers, watch reruns of AFV (which is really just the old school way of watching stupid videos on Youtube). I don’t envy the life of a surface warfare officer, and I hope I can vindicate my fortunate turn of fate in being allowed to leave the service. These men and women make the Navy what it is. I’m glad I got to know a few of them. I hope our paths cross again one day.

Melissa

In the morning, I start the longest leg of this drive up to Arlington, Virginia to say hello to some relatives. The car is performing fantastically well, and the bum is holding up well in the less-than-luxury seats. To keep my mind occupied, I have been steadily marching through my aural journey through Westeros and the free cities with audiobooks. The drive has become quite an epic.

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