Submitted by: Gail Washington

Category: Books

“Hanging up my Boots” is a specialty journal created and sold online at the Nuggets, Gems & Pearls storefront. It was designed specifically as an aid to servicemembers that are exiting our forces and are seeking an outline of how to be a civilian. There are many designs of planners, journals and calendars to choose from. But “Hanging up My Boots” has a special significance to me.

One of the things I remember most about separating from the military was the confusion. Some call it brain fog. No one could answer my question of "What now?” I knew I wanted to go back to school. That was my original reason for enlisting. So getting a degree was at the forefront of my mind. What I couldn't seem to understand was the process for making it all happen. The organization of my thoughts was the main issue.

I separated from the Air Force in 1993. In 2014, as a program specialist for a college I often interact with newly separated servicemembers. How odd that the confusion still exists. This prompted me to wonder, "What finally worked for me? Will it work now?" Those questions allowed me to revisit how I finally pulled together a plan that was as regimented as what I had grown accustomed to in the military. It was the same process I used after being downsized. I had actually subconsciously used the same techniques to work through being downsized and outsourced from my first civilian job in 2002. Those techniques were very handy when family, friends and strangers asked me to help them through the same nightmare after so many lost their jobs in 2008.

When I began reevaluating my life in 2002 I did not know it would take nearly 3 years to find another job. I did not know that being in that dark place, for that long, would allow me to manifest the answer to helping inspire others to find their purpose - 10 years later.

My first venture with the NGPW website started in 2005. It was earmarked for a book series I was working on (aptly titled Nuggets, Gems and Pearls of Wisdom). Who knew writers block was such a disrespectful guest. I'm still trying to kick it out. But, when I gained employment as a Gang Prevention Specialist (2007) I decided to use this personal website to list community resources and connect service providers with those in need of their offerings. So many people just needed a conduit to legitimate resources that would aid them in dealing with things in their community. Many in those communities were struggling servicemembers seeking ways to use their benefits, find housing and the platform to discovering “why” they needed to go back to school. Not just for the sake of using their GI benefits. But understanding what to focus on that would make them valuable and marketable as a civilian in a career they would enjoy pursuing.

As I began to think about how I got the fog out of my head I quickly realized that I did it with the assistance of my journal. I've kept a journal since I was 12 years old and am always amazed with how keeping track of events in my life will normally lead me to the answers that life presents.

Hanging up My Boots 365 Day journal starts with redesigning an oath for your life. We took an oath upon enlisting to our service of choice. Now that you are out you should consider an oath or personal code of conduct that you will pledge to yourself and your family. It should be structured to keep you on track and allow you to a set an attainable goal.

The journal has daily prompts to get you to a point where living a purposeful life is as automatic as brushing your teeth. As we all know, life happens – lives are lost, babies are born, the car breaks down and let’s not even get started with health issues. When I hung up my boots I needed a means of checks and balances that would keep the mental fog at bay and would keep me focused on my original purpose for joining the military. Protecting and serving the country was the oath. But, let’s be honest. Cash for college is why I did it! How odd that when I got out I just couldn't get my thoughts straight to get it done. But, by outlining a plan, checking in with MYSELF and having a tangible guide to keep me accountable made a world of difference. The method continues to make a world of difference especially when I want to set milestones and have a means to check it off of my list once it is complete.

"Hanging up My Boots" is not a therapist. But it is a repository where you can manage your thoughts and purge those things from your system that need not be allowed to linger in your mind or heart beyond the moment it took for them to pop up. You can think of it as a dream catcher or a toxic dump. But set a goal to use it as a means to help with mental clarity.

The NGPW inventory is growing and has developed several items that will donate proceeds from sales to organizations to aid in research and awareness. There is a "Managing Me" journal which is specific to Lupus patients. A percentage of the sales from this journal will go to the Lupus Foundation of America as a memorial to my mother (Bernesteene) who lost her battle with this disease in 1984.

"Hanging Up My Boots" is in the review stage and will be available for purchase April 15th. Proceeds from the sale of this planner are set to go to the non-profit organization Grace after Fire - a North Texas agency that helps female veterans. Those are just two items listed as special cause items on the website. The inventory will grow or shrink as request and reviews come in.

At the end of the day I am thankful to have had the military experience I had. That combined with growing up in areas that weren't very accommodating or compassionate (to anyone) prepared me for many of the things I lost after separating. What I keep in perspective is knowing that "things" can be replaced. I would give all that I have at this time for a few moments with my mom. Being in your right mind and being able to spend quality time with loved ones is far more precious than any fancy or shiny new trinket.

About the author:

Gail Washington has been chronicling her life via diaries and journals since the age of 12. She is a Dallas based actor who also works at a college in Fort Worth, Texas as a program specialist. Gail holds degrees in Radio/Television Broadcasting and PR & Marketing. She proudly mentors young, novice actors and volunteers for various organizations when and where needed.

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