BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Posts Tagged ‘transition’

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – The Quarter-Life Crisis

Posted by danielleac on October 24, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

The Quarter-Life Crisis

(This week’s blog brought to us by Liz Mclean, an Air Force Academy graduate from a small town who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years, both stateside and abroad. She left the service as an O-3.)


The concept of the “mid-life” crisis should hit around actual middle age; this dramatic era of self-doubt where people start agonizing over the imminent passing of their youth.

Stereotyping of course, it is what I like to call the Peg Bundy syndrome:  age 55, suddenly transitioning to leopard print leggings, spiked high heels, big hair and ruby red lipstick in search of an undefined dream or goal.  The result of the crisis may end up as this burning desire to make significant changes in essential aspects of day-to-day life; specifically in career and work-life balance. It becomes this constant yearning to find the next challenge.

But for a military woman, what happens when that mid-life crisis occurs at the younger age of 25? The world had best be ready for the women veterans who are going to be taking the world by storm with their eternal ambition.

Liz on Duty

Picture a disciplined military academy college alumnus with an additional graduate degree, who has served stateside and/or overseas in a leadership role in a time of a war. Picture a woman who has tackled any logistical nightmare placed in front of her, impacted lives across varying spectrums, traveled the world for business or pleasure, exhausted her own humanitarian efforts, is financially secure, wears camouflage with her hair neatly in a bun and a tube of lipstick in her back pocket, likely found a significant other (who depending on the female, may or may not have been able to keep up with her), pushed the limits of nearly every physically demanding event… and still has this burning void in life with this undefined definition to “succeed.”

The question starts becoming, what’s next? What do you do when you still have self-doubt because you don’t want to sit back and just relax…but want to continually make a difference on the quest to break away from mediocrity? For me, I am hoping the answer ends up as I join the civilian world where I have to continually prove myself with intellect….while signing up for an Ironman in Texas to prove myself physically. For some of my closest military friends, the answer has been to venture towards medical school as a second career, go back to become a pilot after already serving 5 years as a Maintenance Officer leading hundreds, teach English to Japanese forces, or start her own non-profit organization.

People may squabble over the concept of twenty-something year olds feeling like they have a lack of meaningful goals in their lives: we know we are still considered ‘young’ and have our whole lives ahead of us. The fact of the matter is, when you have accomplished as much as these women in the military have in such a short period of time, there is a feeling of not knowing where to find that next challenge so we don’t look back at age 55 and say “I wish I had accomplished what I wanted when I was younger. “

At the end of the day, these ladies simply wonder, “What’s my next challenge or goal to achieve? Am I doing well enough? I need more.”  

                     Stay tuned for more from the life of Liz McLean….

Posted in Gen Y, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Uncategorized, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

More Than a Label

Posted by sailorcindy on March 18, 2009


In the Navy, everything you need to know about someone can be summed up in three or four characters.  CDR.  LTJG.  SK1.  BMC.

My identifier was YN2, which meant I was a yeoman (the name of the job I performed) second class (E-5).  For three years of my life, I identified myself and others around me through these seemingly-arcane acronyms that immediately allowed us to find out how much respect (or lack thereof) we owed to someone else.

When the time came for me to leave the Navy, I found myself uncertain of where my place would be in the “civilian” world that didn’t automatically place labels on people.  How on earth would I be able to measure myself – and others – without this regimented system?

When I first read BPW’s research and discovered that 44 percent of the women they spoke with still did not feel fully transitioned out of the military (with an average amount of time out of the military being seven years at the time of the survey), I was not at all surprised.

military-service-cartoonIt’s one thing to leave the military, find another job, and begin a new life.  It’s completely another thing to totally lose your identity.  From my first moments in boot camp, I was taught to become a Sailor.  And somewhere during my time in the Navy, it actually happened.  My three-character identity became more important to me than my identity as a daughter, sister, friend, and wife.  I was YN2.

Perhaps my transition from the military would have gone more smoothly had I not begun working for the Navy again as a civilian after my separation.  Being at a Navy command only reinforced the fact that others still had their identities, but I had been stripped of mine.

I was now just Cindy, just another civilian.

More than once I found myself wishing I was back in the Navy where I had real responsibility and pride in the work I did.  I missed knowing that I was YN2.  At least in the Navy I knew what my job was.  At least in the Navy I knew I could be promoted from YN2 to YN1.  At least in the Navy I knew how to dress for work everyday.  At least in the Navy I knew my job was secure for 20 years.

I sympathize with my fellow women veterans who had all these same doubts – and for those who still do.  I do not know that there is a magic formula to stop feeling that way.  For me, it happened when I removed myself from the military culture and began to surround myself with people who did not ever identify others by three-character titles.  These people understood that the military was simply a small part of what I had done in my life – they somehow knew, as I had been unable to understand, that the Navy was not actually who I was.

That although I had once performed the tasks of a YN2, I was not actually – in the physical sense – a YN2.  It was only at this point that I was able to regain part of myself and discover my own identity once again – the kind of identity you can’t simply pin on your collar or state as part of your name.

A good friend of mine from my Navy days visited me a few weeks ago.  At one point, he commented, “You are so different from the way you used to be.  You’re so much happier now.  You’re so confident.

His words really struck me because I realized that I had completed my “transition.”  I no longer think of myself as a YN2 – or worse, as a former YN2.  I may not ever forget the label once placed on me by the Navy…but I no longer have to be controlled by it.

photo credit


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