It’s a known fact that most creative service members enter the military, identifying their artistic gifts before enlistment and still decide to yield the right of way for serving their country. However, the real conflict appears when returning to civilian life.
It’s common for military members to delay their creativity, joining the military and choosing to figure out their new career as it evolves.
At least, that was my experience. The job I wanted when enlisting wasn’t available, so I accepted the closest position and skillset that appeared on my match sheet while being interviewed at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). At that time, I was naive and figured any job would work as long as I could enlist.
As a child vocalist, I grew up in a small Southern California city (which took years to get on the map). Hollywood was 25 minutes away. I attended school with classmates whose parents were in the film and entertainment field. Until I decided to join the Army, I thought it was a given for me to embark upon that career since it was a lifestyle for those around me.
It was common to walk down a street in a subdivision to visit a friend and see musicians like the “Average White Band” practicing in one of the group members’ garages. It was such a norm that I thought neighborhoods, worldwide, were just as similar. I envisioned myself being one of Luther Vandross’ background singers and one-day touring the world with his band.
As I became a teenager, I was indecisive between being an entertainer and serving my country. My intuition pointed me towards Hollywood, but my financial abilities directed me towards being a soldier. I figured, somehow, I’d be able to practice my artistic skills while I served. So, I did the latter.
It wasn’t such a bad idea. Performing allowed me to learn additional skills along every tour of duty. Years after I joined the Army, I began noticing the elevation of my creative skills. It was unavoidable—especially when touring South Korea and touring with the “All Soldiers Talent Show” around the country. I couldn’t resist participating.
Each time I became involved, my confidence grew, and I found an internal place of happiness I’d never felt before. It was more of what I imagined myself doing at its core.
There was just one problem. It wasn’t something I could do daily. The entertainment tour would soon come to an end. So, I began volunteering for creative projects during special events. It didn’t matter the occasion (birthdays, promotions, holidays, etc.); if it was happening in the unit, you could believe someone involved me.
For years I’d wish a position in the Army’s Band was available at my enlistment time. Don’t get me wrong; serving in the military was a part of my journey. However, I often wonder what my life would have been like as a youth if I had given attention beforehand to my natural gifts and talents?
Life would be entirely different for myself and many other people if creative mentoring were available before exiting the military.
After transitioning from the service, I felt it would be a waste to learn a new profession and start again. Initially, I was hesitant, yet I still could not shake the desire to be creative, and it took me years to have enough courage to “Live Out Loud.” When I did, I experienced the total opposite of allowing my career to go to waste.
Thirty years later, I recognize acquiring military skills enhanced my abilities to use the camera more deliberately. My abilities became sharper and allowed me to see things differently, engaging in art ignited a healing process, and I found freedom in being authentic. The soft skills were invaluable, and acquiring project management skills enabled me to bring reality to a lifelong vision.
I realize it’s never too late to use our talents. Serving increased my self-esteem, connected me to God, and allowed me to express my passion while offering my gifts to the world.
Become clear about your life’s journey and eliminate many dilemmas when transitioning from one career field to another. Maybe you’re at a crossroads of figuring out “who you want to be when you grow up?” Would the transition be less stressful? Less daunting if you pursue your dreams? Remove the inquiry of operating in your creativeness and let it electrify your passion.
Sistah Soldier is an inspirational leader who helps veterans, women, and entrepreneurs step into God’s call for their lives, discover their voice, own their creative skills as they’re reinventing themselves during a transition. She’s the CEO, Host, and Executive Producer of SHE VET iNSPIRES Television Show and the Executive Recruiter for SHE MediaTech™.