The Most Important Lesson I Learned in the Navy

“It’s not about you. The Purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

Jeff Gazaway is a very smart man. People fall into and out of your life. Some will have an impact on your life; some will have no bearing on your life. This is especially true if you ever join the Navy or the military. I didn’t know much about Jeff Gazaway before we met. It was only a random coincidence that we were both assigned to the same duty section.  This meant that while the USS John C. Stennis was in port, Jeff was the Load Dispatcher in charge of the ship’s electrical power distribution and I was the Shut Down Electrical Operator (who’s main duty is to keep the Load Dispatcher awake on the Balls to Seven watch).

The thing I remember most about my 6 years in the Navy is that I was young. I remember having energy for days. I remember starting up the Reactor after being awake for 24 hours and feeling fine. I remember being able to lift weights while I had the flu and still set personal records. I joined the Navy at 17 and left at 23…for those 6 years I was young and invincible. When you get older you appreciate the pure life and beauty of youth in a way that you never could as a child. I’m only 35 today and still full of life, but the energy isn’t what it used to be. That’s the beautiful part about being young.

There are also some ugly parts about being young. One of them is that your world is a bubble. Your world is a bubble with a 10 foot radius of which you are the center. Your world is me, me, me, my, my, my, and I, I, I. This is an ugly, pitiful state to be in and it is one of the hallmarks of youth.

One night some time just around midnight, Jeff Gazaway did me the favor of politely telling me that the world isn’t all about me.  I wonder if that was a difficult thing to do. It was the first time I think I became self-aware. Jeff dropped into my life and around 2001 dropped right back out of my life. We really don’t keep in touch other than the occasional Facebook Happy B-day wish, but my life has not been the same since that midnight Shut Down Electrical Operator watch.

I keep telling people that one of the worst things about the Navy is that you never get a chance to thank all the people who poured a little piece of their life and wisdom into your life for no other reason than that you needed help. You meet some damn fine people in the service. And you end up owing a large part of your success to them. I know that people like Mick Joe, “Iron” Mike Nunez, and Jeff Gazaway taught me so much in the Navy and I am very appreciative of that.

Take a moment to remind yourself that life is not all about you. Think of the people who selflessly helped you, who poured a little bit of their life into you and asked nothing in return. If you’re not a veteran (or even if you are a veteran) think of the young person out there spending their youth protecting your liberties. There are some damn fine men and women out there right now using the best years of their life to pay for your comforts, to ensure the people you love wake up in a safe world tomorrow morning.

I try to remind myself that it’s not about me, that I’m not the point of all this. I think this is the most important lesson we can learn in life.

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Author: navynukejobfinder

I did six years as a surface nuke ET. Then college, then grad school. Now I moderate this forum. Gooooooo navy!