I'm a late bloomer. I've always been a late bloomer. It's ironic but I figured out I was a late bloomer way back when I was 12 years old.
The realization that I was plagued with arrested development came to me during a 1986 grade-school girl's basketball game. During a sweaty crush of gawky, leggy tweens vying for a rebound, I found myself far shorter and far less, um, developed than a majority of my teammates. I looked down and knew in an instant, I would always be just a bit behind the curve.
I'm a military spouse and as we all well know, war has been a constant over the past decade. And since I met my Marine soon after college, I barely secured a toehold into my career when the deployments, the moves, and more deployments consumed our life. It's not an excuse but rather the reality -- and although plenty of military spouses work during deployments and plenty of military spouses maintain their thriving careers, plenty of us live in far-flung towns with few career choices and higher op-tempo. My resume was pockmarked with bullet holes: a job here, an internship there, and a clear spot last in line for any real opportunity. And mind you, I did take time off to have my children so I wasn't exactly pounding the pavement for work. Regardless, it was decidedly difficult to find work in my chosen field and I found myself, again, in the wake of my peers' successful careers.
After several tours in an operational AV-8B Harrier squadron, my husband and I received orders to The Pentagon where my Marine would "fly a desk," as they say. And while we were spared from deployments for the duration of the two-year tour, he worked, much to my chagrin, endlessly. Once we were settled into our home, I steeled myself and began to job hunt. My parameters were simple: I wanted to work with military families and almost immediately I discovered an organization called Blue Star Families. Blue Star Families was a young nonprofit dedicated to supporting military families and was run largely by military spouses. I fired off my resume offering to help with web content, newsletters, and press releases, and within a few minutes, I received an enthusiastic response.
There are countless intangible benefits from volunteering, including the feel-good factor. And particularly during this hum-drum economy, having such glaring gaps in a resume is foolish, especially when volunteer opportunities are abundant. And I'm not alone in the belief that true volunteer work in your chosen profession is worth mentioning. LinkedIn has a field for members to share volunteer positions and loads of employment organizations laud volunteer work -- paid or not -- as valuable experience. Blue Star Families seemed like a perfect match for my skills.
Just weeks into my volunteer gig, Blue Star Families demonstrated, with further responsibilities and assignments, satisfaction in my work and while I have held jobs before this, it had been years since I felt so successful. With each compliment or accolade, my confidence blossomed. I found my groove.
From then on, my relationship with Blue Star Families continued to develop. I was a military spouse intimately aware of my community's plight and could offer insight, extend suggestions, and truly engage with the company's leadership. I began to write more and actively pursue freelance writing with a focus on the issues affecting military families. After a while I asked my new colleagues for editing assistance and screwed up the courage to send out query letters. At first the responses were mostly rejections, but at least they were being read -- and now I can happily say, those letters are fired off with more frequency and much better results.
And then after a year of volunteering with this rapidly growing and obviously influential group, Blue Star Families offered me a job.
The Blue Star Families team is spread across the nation and we come from all walks of life. We are lawyers, veterans, mothers, writers, and executives and I am lucky enough to now call this group of people my friends.
Our lives are invariably shaped by our experiences. And one day I'll write more about my past -- much to the chagrin of my parents, I'm sure.
But for today, I'll write about what it means to be a military spouse and what it's like for many: the unemployed and the over-educated. The women, like myself, who are dealing with multiple deployments, children, and life aboard bases strung across the United States. Today, I'm happy to share their voices and remind folks about the one percent who are serving.
Molly Blake is a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Her husband, Lt. Col. Peter Blake, is currently deployed on his fifth overseas tour as the Commanding Offcer of VMA-311. Molly is the web editor for Blue Star Families, a nonprofit organization representing military families. She is also a freelance writer interested in issues that affect military families. Her work can be found at www.mollyblake.com