We’ve all heard the saying – “Life is like riding an emotional roller coaster.”
So as I enter my fourth year of retirement from the military, I wanted to explore this.
Many would describe an emotional roller coaster as a period of time where you experience good and bad emotions. And that is indeed true when looking over one’s life – surely you will experience both good and bad times. That’s pretty much a given. So I want to challenge you to think about an emotional roller coaster in terms of intensity levels of the experiences of life.
Every day you are blessed to open your eyes and live life is an experience with a level of intensity. For most of us in the military the majority of our life would be the straight parts of the roller coaster ride – PT, Work, Home, and Repeat. We may wake up late for formation and this would likely equate to a mild curve on the roller coaster ride. Your Platoon Sergeant and the First Sergeant may yell but you recover well. But wake up late and miss SP (Start Point) time for a deployment to Iraq and that mild curve quickly turns into a hard jerking, whiplash causing curve quickly escalating to a very high peak on your roller coaster ride. The pucker factor is intense, to say the least!
This is life – PERIOD. Emotions are experienced every day and the level of intensity creates where you are on the roller coaster ride. Let’s take a look at a few life examples that would build up to a peak on an emotional roller coaster ride:
- You’re promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant, you’re pretty happy about your promotion because it appears your hard work has definitely paid off. Then you receive orders to Drill Sergeant School, the excitement builds. You are assigned as a Drill Sergeant at Fort Knox and take on the task of training Soldiers attending Basic Training, the excitement levels out. Then your dedication to excellence pays off once again and you are awarded Drill Sergeant of the Year award, even though you are the most junior NCO in the unit. Your emotions just peaked as you receive news that you made the Sergeant First Class list. Now your arms are up in the air waving around, the wind is blowing through your hair and you’re screaming on your roller coaster ride.
- You find out that you and your spouse are expecting your first child. You’re pretty happy about the news considering you two have been trying for some time now. You join your wife at her appointment for the first sonogram, what an exciting time – your heart is really beating fast as you hear the baby’s strong heartbeat over the monitor. Then the nurse says she sees TWO BABIES on the sonogram screen. You’re ecstatic as you slowly head up the incline of the roller coaster track. Then in week 22 of pregnancy your wife starts to experience some difficulties resulting in her having to be hospitalized. Your roller coaster car just hit a strong jerking curve. Suddenly the doctor explains that your wife is in full blown labor and there is nothing they can do for her or the babies. You just experienced whiplash on your roller coaster ride as you continue to climb the incline in a jerking motion. As your wife gives birth to your beautiful baby boy and baby girl twins, you prepare yourself to watch them take a few breathes only to have to say farewell. Until we meet again my sweet babies – is all you can think as you peak on your roller coaster ride trying not to throw up as you quickly head for the lowest track point on this journey.
Two extremely different life experiences, of course, but you can see how the roller coaster ride is the same in terms of intensity. There is no denying that life events will bring out some of our most intense emotions. Transition from military life to civilian life may invoke such strong emotions. Take this time as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, grow as an individual and implement some effective coping skills for when the emotions take you up to the peaks of the roller coaster ride.