2016

I don’t know why but I always feel the need to write something really profound at times like this.  I’m not sure if I will manage profound so you might have to settle for incoherent rambling instead!

As another year draws to a close I find myself getting really emotional.  The reason?  The reason is that I miss people who are no longer with us. I want them here. I don’t want to go into another year without these special people in my life. My gorgeous Mum, my second Mama Denise, my Grandma Doreen, Grandad Bill…all these people and sadly many others, there are far too many to mention…I miss them every day and would give almost anything to have any small amount of time with any of them.  The family and friends that we have lost are always with me and never more so than on New Year’s Eve.

On a more positive note 2016 has been OK for me and my family.  It’s true that professionally I am not where I would hope to be by now but personally I am in a place I thought I never would be – a mother. I have returned to work after a long period on maternity leave and am happy. Returning to work after so long out of the office was massively daunting. I had lost all of my confidence.  I struggled to even  answer the phone on my first day back but, thanks to the amazing support of my Manager and colleagues after a few weeks I was back in the swing of it.  Work is my solace, it is my place to be me and where I can focus on something other than my daughter, partner, house, car, cat etc etc It might sound selfish or ‘unmotherly’ but I don’t care. It’s the one thing that I do for me and I love it. I could never be without work. Another huge positive is that our beautiful, crazy and wonderfully wild daughter is happily settled in an amazing nursery and is flourishing. The change in her is there for all to see…she is exceeding all the developmental milestones and we couldn’t be more proud. My other half, Mr A  is still working hard for his family in his bonkers job that drives me mental. Racking up more road miles than I don’t know what but he does it and without (too much) complaint…albeit being held together by elastoplasts and neurofen at times but still…We also spent lots of quality time in the form of lovely days out across Yorkshire with Grandparents and extended family who are all happy and in good health.

All in all it has been a good year for Team Aleksic and whilst it hasn’t been without its challenges we are still here, together with love in our hearts and that’s all that matters.

So, I would like to take this opportunity to say, from my happy heart to yours…I hope that 2017 is all that you hope it to be ❤

My Heart On My Sleeve…

 

I’ve recently read back over some of these blog posts and they mostly appear quite negative re the the Army. So tonight whilst laid in bed struggling to sleep as sometimes happens I was thinking about some of my better times in the Army and it made me think…Was it all that bad??
I pondered……
In the early years it was all learning, living! There was no time to even stop to take stock, new people, new places, new experiences, new feelings, breaking all the rules, all the time and not giving a shit about doing it…Then things got a bit weird and a bit tough but after a hard year in Aldershot/Canada/Kosovo it all seemed to fall into place – there was a period of absolute bliss. This was when I was serving with the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment in Colchester. Here everything just felt right. I was happily married, I was flourishing in my role, I was extremely fit which helped given the Regiment I was with. Even the Op Tour to Iraq (Telic III) was brilliant. I loved it there but all good things come to an end – sadly it all ended under a cloud. I was sexually assaulted by some young, new Private whilst on a night out with friends. He didn’t know that I was part of the Regiment and he also didn’t know that I was married to someone from the Regiment. That ended badly for him and my Husband was subsequently Court Martialled, dismissed from the Army and that was the end of that.

I guess that’s when things began to fall apart – I was posted to Winchester on the Recruiting Team…there was LOTS of separation, lots of nights out in various towns and Cities & lots of Lucy starting to unravel. I made some bad choices. I think I felt that I had missed out on being young & doing all the things that young people do. Ultimately my marriage broke down and it was mostly my fault – I’ve never really ‘said’ that before but yeah, it was mostly my own doing…With that in mind I handed over my married quarter and accepted a posting to the other side of the planet. I literally ran away from everyone and everything…
Brunei – what can I say about this place. This was where I put all my problems to the back of my mind and I partied and I partied and I partied and I partied! This particular 18 months of my life was just a big vodka induced blur. We were a group of about 15 single, young people in the prime of our lives, we were thousands of miles away from anyone that knew us and we had lots of disposable income. We drank in the bar on camp most nights but we REALLY went for it on a weekend…that buzz of finishing work a few hours early on a Friday not knowing what crazy stuff you were going to get up to later on. Getting ready in my room with the music blasting at max volume knowing that everyone was going to be just so up for it was amazing! We would smash shots and drinks and whatever the barman had and when he closed the bar we would crack out our own supplies and there were plenty of them – we would party, hard til the sun came up & then some. People across the Garrison heard about our wild nights and everyone wanted in so we let them. Here I travelled to some amazing places, I fell in love with all the wrong people & saw some bizarre and wonderful things. I shared this experience with a small group of people and looking back only we will ever know how mad and how special it really was. Sadly though over the course of this posting the people changed and so did the dynamics of the group. It was no longer an all inclusive unit who did everything together as a small family but it fragmented into ‘the lads’, some singly couples and a few others – me being one of the others. I asked to leave here and headed back to the UK.
I arrived at Wattisham and was greeted by the same bloke that had greeted me in Brunei – always nice to see a friendly face when you go somewhere new. I calmed down a lot over the course of this posting. I worked as the REME Wksp Clk and it was a happy time…It was a relaxed atmosphere even though I was always ridiculously busy. About a third of the way through this posting was when it dawned on me that my relationship with alcohol was no longer on my terms…I went to the Drs and was immediately sent on 4 weeks sick leave, I was having a break down. All those demons I have tried to party away came back at me with vengeance when the party stopped. My mind was a fragile mess, I couldn’t cope with it all anymore..I was in a toxic relationship with someone that had more issues that me – it all just had to stop. I had lots of counselling, I was dry for 8 months and as a reward (I begged to go so I could save money to buy my own home) I completed a mentally & physically draining tour of Afghanistan. After this Tour I met a man who wanted to be with for the rest of my life – he was everything to me & we moved into a rented house together after 6 weeks. We had only been in the house for a few weeks and I learnt that he was cheating on me with 2 other women. I was devastated but I continued with the relationship as I thought it was early days and people can change – little did I know at the time but I should’ve walked away there and then as 5 years later he would do it again and leave me more broken and destroyed than I knew a person could be…
Anyway, Wattisham was my home for 3 years but I was burnt out from it. I worked so hard there & I was ready for pastures new. I somehow instigated a move to Catterick – I didn’t know the Unit at the time but it turned out to the be the Queens Royal Lancers. Turns out someone had been done for fraud and sent to Military Prison so that was my in! Another great time at the start…I was the Wksp / LAD Clerk for their tiny rear party (The Regiment was in Afghan on Op Herrick), this was the slackest I had ever been. Most days I literally did NO work, I just sat at my desk, talked shit with the lads, went on the Internet, drank brews, ate Frickies & watched Jeremy Kyle! But all things must come to an end and the Regiment retuned and I moved back to a Sqn – B Sqn. Another great bunch of lads but I had so much going on in my personal life that my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. Something terrible had happened to me and I needed the Army’s support – it never came. The people that should’ve wanted to look after me & protect me just didn’t care. I had given the Army everything I had over the years and when I needed it the most it let me down. This is where I became so disillusioned with the Army I knew I could no longer continue in it.
So yeah, it doesn’t seem all that bad…of course there were bad times throughout all of the postings. Things that happened to me, the attitudes of some people, the way you are treated, spoken to, exploited etc. But then there is the other side of it – the other people, the good people, the great managers, the ones that you forget when you want to be mad & when you are angry, the ones that did support you…these people as great as they are and I could name them one by one of you asked me to from Posting to posting, these people somehow sadly fall away.
I still think that the Army is fundamentally flawed as an organisation and hate certain people in it for how I was treated but then these are only my views and my experiences…I hope it wasn’t this way for everyone. And just for clarity – this post isn’t about looking at 14 years of life through rose tinted spectacles…it’s just me trying to be fair and balance things out in my mind.

What Will Be, Will Be…

I’ve recently learnt that in this life things truly do happen for a reason…you may not know immediately know what that reason is, you may never know but you must trust that it’s there.

My late 2013/early 2014 was horrific – my world fell apart. In all honesty if it wasn’t for a kind, calm, wonderful volunteer at the Samaritans I probably wouldn’t be writing this now. The only thing I had as a constant in my life was my work – my colleagues were amazing, they guided me, they held me, they gave me confidence when I had none and then BOOM! My world changed again…but for the better.

A terrible thing happened but that lead to the most extraordinary set of events that leave me where I am today. I am in the best place personally & professionally that I have ever been.

So, the below quote could not be more accurate and is now my mantra. I now make my choices and trust that whatever happens – good or bad, is what is meant to happen so I just let it go and move on ❤️

Interview as an internal candidate…

So the time has come when my 12 month fixed term contract is almost at an end (just over 3 weeks to go to be precise) and I essentially need to be looking for another job.

Now I know that you might be thinking that I have left it too late and potentially I have but I just don’t feel the same level of anxiety about maybe being jobless that I did when I left the Army. Rightly or wrongly I am quietly confident in my own knowledge, experience and ability to believe that I will get a job when I start applying.

 In the mean time the position that I have been employed in for the last 12 months has now been added to the Company headcount but to ensure fair process the job had to be advertised, hence I have essentially had to apply for my own job! So ok, it’s not exactly the same role – there are new responsibilities added into the mix but the bulk of the role is what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months. So, like any other applicant I filled out the application form, revamped my CV and submitted them to my current manager. The deadline passed and thankfully I was invited to an interview.

 Interview day came and strangely I found that I was more nervous than I was for the initial interview. The interview panel consisted of my current team leader, my current supervisor and an employee from Corporate recruiting who I have sat opposite for the last year – all people I know not only professionally but personally and socially. I decided to play it as professionally as I could given that I knew everyone on the panel as friends not only as colleagues. I did the same amount of prep, wrote notes, took all my certificates etc exactly as I did the first time. The interview started a bit tentatively for myself but as I noticed my voice wobble after question number one I kind of just told myself to ‘get a grip’ and that ‘I knew these people and not to panic!’ One of the biggest difficulties I faced came when answering their questions – I knew that my Team Leader and Supervisor know what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months because they have been there doing it with me but you HAVE to act as if they don’t and tell them all the necessary details as if they are total strangers. There was also the reluctance to ‘blow my own trumpet’ about things I’d done to my current Managers for fear of sounding arrogant….but I blew it anyway!! After a few questions I felt myself (and them) relax and the interview began to flow. It lasted an hour and half and I felt relieved when it was over.

 I still haven’t had the outcome of the interview so can’t say it went fantastically, the interview could’ve gone terribly for all I know but I didn’t get that vibe…even if I haven’t got the job I know that I did my best and I just wasn’t the right person for the job.

 Another part of the situation that was bizarre and another first for me was that the only other applicant / interviewee for the position was my best friend in my team and we both knew each other were applying from the off. It wasn’t like in the Army where they keep everything a secret from you and you have to keep it from each other – we had complete transparency. It was initially a bit awkward between us but we’re both grown ups (just about!) and after a little chat one lunch time about it all was normal with us again…The fact that each of us genuinely wanted the other to do well was probably the main reason for that.

 All in all it was quite a unique experience that I’m glad I’ve gone through.

10 Things I’ve Learnt…

  1. Most civilians are hardworking, professional and conscientious.
  2. Whoever told me they aren’t are both deluded and a liar!
  3. I actually enjoy the commute – it gives me time to switch from work mode to home mode.
  4. Having less money doesn’t mean you have a rubbish life, it just means you appreciate things more.
  5. Driving within the speed limits is more fuel economic and will save you money in the long run.
  6. The gym is enjoyable when someone isn’t screaming in your face telling you how rubbish you are.
  7. It’s ok to be professionally ambitious.
  8. Real Managers don’t encourage you to go out and get drunk on a week night – its not acceptable.
  9. It takes ages to get a Doctor’s appointment.
  10. It’s amazing to go to bed and wake up with your most precious loved one every day.

Health and General Well Being….

Well, its nearly been 2 whole weeks since I left the Army and with regards to my health and general well being I am much improved. 

During the last 18 months of my career I was desperately unhappy in my life and this was predominantly down to being in the Army, not because of the Organisation itself or the Regiment that I was with but just everything that comes with being in the Army. The not knowing from one day to the next what you’re going to be doing or where you’ll be, the loneliness of the block on a night and the separation from your Family, Friends and home comforts to name just a few…Over those last 18 month I was also medically downgraded so my ability to do fitness dropped, mix that in with low mood/anxiety and no support network and I ended up gaining nearly 2st in weight.  In the 2 weeks since I’ve left I have dropped nearly 10lbs in weight just by having a routine, having proper kitchen facilities and doing fitness that I can do ie Swimming, bike riding, On the contrary to what I’ve been told for the last 13 years – There was no pain but there is some gain!!  

In the block I never used to sleep very well at all, maybe it was to do with the baby elephant living above me who used to randomly Hoover and play soft rock at 3am or the drunken revellers trying your door on their return from a night out on the town or the super uncomfortable paper thin mattress….Who knows? But what I do know is that most nights I would wake up multiple times with the fear of god in me that I was late for something!  Anyhow, I’m now sleeping all night without waking up which obviously leads to a happier, more productive me! 

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that my stress levels have dropped significantly.  Like I mentioned earlier I have suffered throughout my career with anxiety and towards the end it was so bad, panic attacks.  I felt constantly on edge that the Forecast Of Events was going to change and I was going to be sent away for ‘X’ amount of weeks or that someone was going to go sick so I was going to have to pick up a weekend duty at short notice and cancel my plans.  I’m actually frightened to tot up the amount of money I’ve lost on holidays and concerts and sports events because of some last minute dicking! These feelings have now more or less subsided, I feel 100% happier that I am now in control of me and if I don’t want to do something, I don’t have to do it!  

Saying all of this above makes the Army sound terrible, please believe me when I say this….It’s not.  It’s amazing, it’s given me 13 fantastic years for me to learn about me whilst experiencing some of the most scary, wonderful, unique experiences a person could want in life. The time just came for me to move on…. 

The Army literally saved me but now it’s time to save myself, time to take the leap of faith into the unknown and hopefully flourish in my new life as a Civilian surrounded by my beautiful family and fabulous friends.

Moving Forward….

So my last day in the Army came and went without incident or event and then I was home, with my Fiancé and suddenly I had a very peculiar feeling wash over me…It was a mixture of utter relief at being out of the Military environment but also a new heightened level of anxiety. This was it, I had left the Army! It was a moment of absolute realisation that it was over and there was no going back. I felt like I was now walking on this tightrope; excited, scared but on my own and there was no big DPM safety net, there was no Army to catch me if I fell.

I also had a bit of an identity crisis. Who was I now Id left the Forces? For my entire adult life I had been known to people at home in Leeds as ‘Lucy from the Army’ and now I was just ‘Lucy’. Corporal Saunders was dead and gone and only Miss Saunders remained. What would define me now? What would I become?

The tough bit actually is not answering your own questions but when people who learn you have left the Army quiz you to the n’th degree on your future plans…What are you going to do now? Where are you going to work? Where are you going to settle? How do you think you’ll cope? Answering people confidently with the ‘dream scenario’ when inside you feel as though you just want to scream out – I dont know!!!

It can also be quite overwhelming moving into civilian life. All of a sudden you are back in your family home doing things that are quite alien to you, things that you would never think to do because you are away from Mon – Friday and possibly the most difficult thing, trying to fit into somebody else’s life. The only thing i can say about this is to give yourself time, dont be too hard on yourself if something goes wrong but also ask your wife/husband/partner/parents to be patient with you and to try to be flexible – whether you want to admit it or not IT WILL take everyone in your Family some time to adjust to your new life.

On the positive side, your life is now in your own hands and you really are masters of your own destiny. If you have planned your exit strategy well, attacked your Resettlement with vigour and enthusiasm and have a good family around you then you will be ok. Remember that positivity breeds positivity and you have already done the hard part by just being in the Army!