This was not necessarily new information to me, but I did believe it was all relative. Situational. I mean, in my day-to-day, I didn’t run into too many age discrimination situations. In fact, it had often been that I was rather young in my current job for so long, that somewhere in there my age must have crept away from me. Perhaps it was lost in those sleep-deprived, mommy brain moments that came with raising 3 kids so close in age and blurred out much of my twenties. I had my last child by the time I was 27, so in relation to the other moms that shared kids that were the same ages as mine in the schools, I was usually on the younger side. Not that I really even noticed.
Comparatively speaking, to the young woman in her 20s that sat next to me in this moment in her camouflage uniform, I was old. I was 38 and a half years old now, and considering most of my peers that had stayed in were now retiring from the military at this age, I was way too old to be entertaining the idea of getting back in.
“I mean, you don’t just have a break in service, you have been out now for 15 years,” the recruiter continued on.
“Right. I understand that.” I shrugged my shoulders. “I just figured I could at least look into it- to see if it’s even a possibility now that my kids are older and more independent; it would be easier for me to be in the reserves.”
She looked me up and down inquisitively, as if she was waiting for me to laugh and say this was all a big joke; that I was just pulling her chain. This was just the first stop on my way to the muscle car dealership that specializes in midlife crises like the one I was apparently having. When she finally determined that wasn't happening, she responded by stating, “I’m going to have to talk to my supervisor.”
I sat and waited in the empty office full of military propaganda that was screaming of promises. It was exciting. And then for a second I felt like I was betraying my family. My Navy family, that is. Here I was in the Air Force recruiter’s office. The Chair Force. All those years of making fun of them, (in good fun, of course) and now I was attempting to sign up with them.
After five minutes or so, the recruiter returned. Clearly, she had not been reassured over this absurd situation. “Well,” she went on, “she said you’re old.”
I sighed, “Right.” I wasn't denying this. I was also doing my best not to let it give me a complex.
“And you’d have to go through MEPS again because you’re so old and have been out for so long.”
“Okay, that’s fine,” I replied. "I had kind of figured that."
I’m pretty sure I stunned her at this point. Perhaps she was thinking I’d bail at this point, as my arthritic, pot-smoking days would come to a gentle close. (P.S. I don’t smoke pot. Or cigarettes. Just fish. But not rolled up. Flat, from a smoker, like everyone else from Minnesota does.)
“Okay. Well, I guess we can start on the paperwork then,” as she reluctantly logged onto her fancy computer (because these kids nowadays use computers instead of the archaic type writers of 20 years ago. Just kidding. We had computers 20 years ago. We even had the inter-web. We would just have to use a little thing called dial-up to get it going and it took about 20 minutes to log onto. Not kidding this time. And we began the 45 minute physical and mental health checklist.
And that’s how my journey began. The second time.