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Life, Love, and Locey

Follow the Yellow Footprints

yellow-footprints

 

The decision to join the Marine Corps was not an easy one.  I was in a tight spot in life. I was unable to fund my college education, find a job in our dwindling economy, and I was lost on the path through adulthood.  I was over weight, had just gotten out of a relationship, and was really starting to feel down on myself and feel like a complete failure.

Once I made the decision to enlist, I began focusing on the immediate goal.  I had to drop 40-50 pounds!  I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life and working out was something I definitely didn’t enjoy.  I couldn’t remember the last time I made an honest effort to exercise or start eating healthier.  Since I had nowhere to be, I decided to dive headfirst into an exercise routine.  My [first] weight-loss journey started in February of 2010.  I went slow and focused on building strength and endurance first.  I made EVERY Physical Training (PT) day at the recruiting station and did more on my own as well.  I would get up at 4 a.m. to join my parents with their running group and  I was eventually able to run 5-7 miles without any problems.  As I focused on my health and fitness, the weight started coming off, and it felt amazing.  By July I had made weight and was sworn in to the delayed entry program as I waited for a “boat space” to open up for boot camp.

By August 2010, however, I started to get scared, unsure, nervous, and doubted my decision.  I contemplated backing out, but what would I do then?  This was the only thing I could do to ensure I was able to finish college, get out on my own, and to be financially independent AGAIN! Just as my fears and nerves were getting the best of me, I got a call one October afternoon and was informed that a spot had opened up and that it was up to me if I wanted to leave early, or wait until my scheduled date of January 18, 2011.  I knew if I didn’t leave then, I may never go…or it would get harder and harder for me to say my goodbyes and follow through with the commitment I had made.

leaving

On November 28, 2010, I tearfully said goodbye to my parents as my recruiter picked me up.  It was that morning that I started the BLIND journey to Parris Island, South Carolina.  I left with only a small backpack that contained just the essentials to get me through the night and onto the plane in the morning.

The next time I would hear my mom’s voice would be in the wee hours of the morning 2 days later.  I had finally arrived at the Recruit Depot and our first order was to call home to let our families know that we had arrived safely.  This wasn’t a joyous event.  We had a script in front of us that told us what we were to say, nothing more, and hang up.  It was probably midnight their time.  I heard my mom’s half asleep voice say “Hello?” as I started saying “my lines”.  I was interrupted by the drill instructors and told I had to scream them out.  I barely kept it together and I said what was needed and hang up.  It took all my strength not to cry.  I was 24 years old. I was homesick and scared, and the only thing I wanted was my mom.

Boot camp had its ups and downs.  We never knew what to expect from hour to hour. because once we got the routine down everything would get change to keep up on our toes and always guessing.  But that’s all part of the training process.  It is a never ending cycle of lessons and pushing you beyond your limits.

I remember the first mail call, which was about a week later.  I was heartbroken.           I didn’t get anything.  I really needed something from home that day. Finally, the next day I heard my name called and I couldn’t have been more relieved.  All I wanted was a letter from my mom, but that’s not what I got.  To my surprise it was a letter from my dad.  We hadn’t gotten along in….years by this point.  So needless to say, I was very disappointed that it was HIS letter I received first.  The feeling faded quickly as I opened and read that FIRST letter.  I enjoyed all of my letters from my mom, grandma, cousins, and friends, but to my surprise, it was my dad’s letters that I needed the most.  It was like we were finally getting to know each other.  All the tension, tears, and fights of the past were just washed away.  We built a strong father-daughter relationship the old fashioned way, through letters.  It was like he really knew who I was and I finally realized just how alike we are, which is probably why we butted heads so often – and still do.

10891854_1386772011624707_7804095020812415414_nFast forward to Family Day, February 2011.  On this morning, my company started off with our “Moto Run,” our families watching from the bleachers.  I was surprised that morning by being selected to hold our Company Colors.  I was excited, but now also very disappointed.  I had made sure that my parents would know my exact spot in formation so they could pick me out.  Being selected to carry the Colors meant that they wouldn’t be able to find me.

When we got to the parade deck I immediately began scanning the crowd looking for someone…anyone.  The first person I saw was my dad.  Tears immediately filled my eyes as I knew he saw me too.  We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity.  After completing our run we were sent back to our squad bay to clean up and then we were released to spend the day on base with our families.  The day passed quickly.  I showed them around base, ran errands to pick up my pictures and Marine Corps ring, showed my family other platoons from various Companies in various stages of training.  My dad got a real kick out of watching a male recruit continuously recite the “report” as he stood on”rifle watch” for his series.

 

The next day was graduation, which actually got rained out about halfway through the ceremony.  I was disappointed at first because we spent so much time practicing and worked our butts off for weeks.  That feeling faded quickly when I realized that only meant I could leave the base and reunite with my family NOW.  We gathered all my belongings from my squad bay and hit the road! 10891886_1386772374958004_4496503688386332948_nWe spent the day in Savannah, Georgia, where I got to enjoy my first off-base meal!!!  – which was a big deal after eating like a rabbit for 13 weeks…

My flight back home wasn’t uneventful though.  Once we were at the airport I realized I left my garment bag, with every uniform item inside, in our hotel room closet!  Luckily my sister and brother-in-law had an adjoining room and we left the door to theirs unlocked.  My brother-in-law was going to try to make it to the airport in time, but he would have missed us.  So instead they immediately shipped it home and I received it in just enough time to prep my uniforms for recruiting duty!

After two weeks at home I left for another month of training, Marine Combat Training (MCT), or what we like to call 4th Phase. MCT was a lot more fun than I had anticipated.  We were actually treated like human beings.  Those 4 weeks of training passed quickly and then I was on my way to Newport, Rhode Island, for my Marine Occupational Specialty (MOS) school.  The 3 months I spent in Newport were some of the best and hardest months yet.  I have so many fond memories of the people I met while being there and all the adventures we had.   Newport will always have a very special place in my heart.  It’s where I really got to know the girl who would become my BEST FRIEND – my sister from another mister.  It’s the place where we met our “Uncle Tom,” and where I truly fell in love for the first time.

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My story doesn’t end here, not even close.  I’m just warming up.  Things are about to get very interesting….very complicated…and very REAL.

If at first you don’t succeed, move on to Plan C

All too often our lives don’t pan out the way we had hoped, or in the ordered we would prefer.  That is definitely true in my case.  My plans have changed numerous times with school, jobs, where I wanted to live, and on.  Here is where my story begins…

I graduated from high school in 2004.  I couldn’t be more excited to be DONE and wanted nothing to do with college.  I didn’t take the SATs or apply to any schools.  I wanted something fast, fun, and “easy” to get out on my own and start making the “big bucks” ASAP.  Fresh out of high school, 18-year-old me decided she wanted to go to Cosmetology school.  I applied, got in, took out a student loan and started going that July. It was fun and exciting at first.  I had been coloring my hair at home for a good couple years by then, but the more I learned the more I wanted to experiment.

hair

I made all the staple decisions a new cosmetology student made at that time:  Played with over-done makeup, dabbled in hair extensions, and let a classmate give me an A-Line Bob! (What was I thinking!?) Then finally after 10 weeks in the “class room” my group graduated onto the floor to start taking clients.  I was petrified! It was no secret that new students were on the floor.  We were fresh meat and all got slammed with clients the first minute on the floor.  Things were going okay, but I wasn’t happy. This place was 10 times worse than high school ever was.  There were 40-50 teen and 20-something women crammed into a small “salon” space.  There were cliques, thieves, drama queens, and those kind of girls who shared WAY TOO MUCH information in the restroom.  I had never been so miserable.  I knew shortly after those first 10 weeks that this career was NOT for me, but I was not a quitter.  I refused to give up and let these adolescent girls pull me down.  After all, I had to take out a student loan to complete this program, so I was going to finish.  And I did.  I graduated in June 2005 and couldn’t have been more relieved.

I took a semester off to just focus on working and enjoying the break from school before I prepared to go to my local community college.  By this time I was nearly 20 and had grown up a lot and realized I could handle college and that, more importantly, I WANTED it.  I started community college in 2006 with my sites on transferring to a university in pursuit of a degree in Psychology.  I was led astray by a couple guidance counselors and spent about a year longer at my community college than I should have, but in the fall of 2009 I transferred to University of California, Irvine! I was an
Ant Eater and proud to be finally making some ground towards my educational goals. uci

I was lucky enough to have family down in southern California that opened their home to me, temporarily, until I could get into the dorms or find roommates to get an apartment with, which ended up being much harder than it sounded.  I commuted to campus 2 days a week, 40 minutes one way.  I didn’t have time to meet people and the majority of my classmates were 18 and 19 and very immature.  My 15 year old cousin, whom I shared a room with, was more mature than they were!

Being away from home for the first time, transitioning to a quarter system and being more (in)dependent was difficult.  I was home sick all the time and really struggling to keep up on my classes.  I was also depending on my parents to pay my bills and to have a little bit of spending/miscellaneous money (They forced me to quit my job so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with my classes, which was actually a good thing).  However, this was the first time in my adult life that I had to ask them for money, and I hated it! By mid December 2009 I was on my way home for winter break, and I couldn’t wait to leave.  I really enjoyed the holidays and being home again, but that joy was short lived.  When I returned to school, things felt tense at home and I was overwhelmed again by the cost of school and the fact that there was no way I could afford to move out, but this arrangement was supposed to be temporary.  So I spoke with my mom and explained my concerns with her, and just like that we decided it was best for me to withdraw from the university and return home for “Plan B”.

The good news is I was able to get a full refund on the courses and books I had just purchased earlier that the day.  The bad news was when I returned home I learned that the local state school was not accepting any new students for at least a year a half, due to cut backs and over enrollment.  Crap….what was I going to do now?  I figured I had to get a job and just wait until I could go back.  There was no other option. Then I realized just how bad my local economy was.  NO ONE WAS HIRING!!!  $H!T! Now, I’ve really done it this time.  I started to feel like a complete failure, like I’d thrown in the towel too easily.  I felt like I was a quitter and a chicken and just walked away. So what’s next?

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One evening I received a letter in the mail from another local state school.  I had received late acceptance! This was great, but the drive was 1.5 hours one-way!
I wouldn’t be any better off from moving home just to double the commute.  Then my mom came up with a wild idea. (I don’t think she ever imagined I would call her bluff and take her up on the suggestion.) My mom asked me if I had ever thought about going down and talking to a recruiter… a military recruiter.  In high school I briefly thought about joining just for the college benefits. Then September 11th happened and I crossed that idea off the list.  And everyone who knew me, knew it was something I would NEVER do!  That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind since then, but this was a different time.  I had grown, I had changed, and I needed to make things happen.

So two days later I dragged my mom across town and we went to the Marine Corps 20130227-usmcRecruitment office.  It was scary, intense, and nothing of what I expected.  I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but it was the first eye opening experience I had had in a long time.

 

 

Real Life with Locey continues…

Life Unexpected

Where to begin?  In life, we all have our dreams, fears, and a plan for how we want things to unfold.  Things rarely go perfectly or as planned.  My life certainly didn’t.  My adulthood has been filled with various backup plans, curve balls, and surprising events that sent me spinning.  I am no where near where I thought I would be at 30 years old, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Real Life with Locey” will be just that.  Real.  About life.  About my life.  I will talk about single motherhood, HELLP Syndrome, life with a toddler, and balancing all this while trying to squeeze in exercise and living a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s get REAL.

 

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