From Activist to Active Duty

How I Eventually Decided to Enlist in the Navy

< I’m in the white and black stripped blouse >

December 1st, 2016, I enlisted in the United States Navy. I ended the year, a very painful and difficult year, enlisting to the military. A decision I never thought would come so late. I always wanted to join the military when I was just a girl. I would see my older cousins wearing their uniforms looking tough and professional and I knew that one day, I too would don that uniform.

I never thought that 2016 would be the year I’d enlist. Having gone through such a hard year and running out of options, I realized this dream again and having debated for months and months and long nights of no sleep, I finally did it.

Having no education, a passion for advocacy, and being poor, is just a mix that leaves me with not many opportunities. I come from a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. I grew up being told that dreamers are crazy and the only way to succeed is to either marry a wealthy man (which is funny because I’m a lesbian) or to work and pay my own way through college. Minimum wage in my country is $3.50. I wanted to be a software engineer and a graphic designer. How is this going to work?

A few years into working right after high school and a few credits at our community college, I finally saved up enough money to attend a University on a nearby island called Guam. So I flew an hour and forty-five minutes there to continue my education. I majored in Computer Science and was acing my classes, making my way up the ladder to success. After a year, my dad passed away and so I withdrew my classes that semester and left back home to tend to my family.

“I buried my father and I told myself I needed to get a job and get myself back on track”

It was 2013 and I’ve just come back home with nothing to show for and a broken heart because of the loss of my dad. I was so angry and disappointed in myself. I learned of my dad’s passing through a Facebook post and I was in so much shock I didn’t talk for the first 3 days. You can only imagine the amount of pain I was in. I buried my father and I told myself I needed to get a job and get myself back on track. I enrolled again in the community college and started working full-time at our college’s online lab. In the same year, realizing the LGBT community needed a safe space, I created a Facebook page for the LGBT community in Palau. After that I just focused all my energy into that group as well as taking classes and working full-time.

You see, I never got the chance to grieve over my father’s death. Well, the truth is, I never allowed myself to grieve. I spent the next year advocating for human rights in my country, traveled to Tonga for a human rights conference, invested my free time in my girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend), worked ridiculous hours at my rental agent job, as well as drinking excessively and taking drugs. I was on the path of self-destruction. I had no time to grow nor did I allow myself to. I blamed myself for the loss of my father and just let myself fade into oblivion. The year 2013 was a drunken year and honestly it flew by so quickly I don’t even remember half the shit I did, besides jumping off a near 50 ft. rock island into the ocean. I spent the next 2 years traveling back and forth from Guam, transferring colleges and going on an alcoholic streak.

“…it just looked like I was partying and being a normal 20-some year old.”

The following year (2015), my girlfriend left me and moved to the States causing me to fall into an even deeper abyss. I continued on my destructive path of dehumanization (my journey into alcoholism). My self-loathing behavior was, however, very inconspicuous. I didn’t want anyone knowing what I was going through and it was easy to hide my internal struggles and alcoholism because it just looked like I was partying and being a normal 20-some year old. You never really know what anyone is going through.

I internalized all my emotions and drank away my problems. I was a train-wreck, no, in this case, I was a shipwreck.

A United Nations invitation to attend the launch for the Free & Equal Pacific Campaign in Fiji became my saving grace from the monotony of Palau and my drinking spree. I spent some time in Fiji contemplating my life and wondering where I want to go after the trip. I didn’t want to come back to Palau because I felt I had no purpose and had no one to come back to. My return from Fiji allowed me to transit through Guam so instead of transiting through and returning to Palau, I decided to cancel my ticket and stayed on Guam. Thus, began the fuckery.

< Oath of Enlistment >

It was 2016. The worst year of my life, I believe. It was my year of complete chaos. I drifted into different destructive relationships and failed suicide attempts (leading to the creation of this). Methamphetamine, alcohol, strip clubs, fake friends, and all fucked up things imaginable, controlled my life. I finally hit rock bottom.

Then one day, I woke up and I was tired of all the bullshit. I got rid of all the negative people in my life. All of the people that doubted me, looked down on me and were pretty much the toxic energies that held me down, were all blocked out of my life. Slowly, everything started to fit into place. I contacted my recruiter and started processing my papers then, I swore in.

I was debating with myself a lot on whether or not I should enlist. Being a human rights activist and having a voice, was very important to me. Joining the military and being Uncle Sam’s bitch wasn’t appealing, but all jobs have their own restrictions, right? I thought, “Why not? Free education and travel as well as gaining experience within the military. It could really help me with my advocacy work later on.”. So I did it. After months of moving back and forth from different houses and being broke, I guess basically being homeless, and being in a different country all the while trying to rush my papers into being sworn in and getting a good rate in the Navy, I finally did it. I swore in, packed my shit and came back home and been waiting for my ship date.

I went through so much just to enlist. Now, I’ve got a month and few weeks left until I leave to Recruit Training Command in Chicago and I’m excited as fuck. I needed this. I needed something concrete. I wanted to ensure myself that I had a future to ease my soul and have a sort of plan. I’m a wanderer, I might as well wander in the Navy and maybe I’ll figure out the rest later. The great thing about having gone through all the shit is that now, I’ve finally found peace and a piece of mind.

Yo, Navy! Come at me, bruh! I’m gonna make you my bitch! (I mean that in the most respectful way).

Doing a Part II of this because I feel I didn’t explain some things enough. Stay tuned for the ‘sequel’!

Palauan in diaspora with a passion for art, writing, and cups of tea on rainy days.