I got my first patch sometime in the 1970's. I was a Cub Scout and it was my den number on my shoulder. During my years as a Cub Scout my drive to collect badges and patches was unquenchable. I spent entire weekends as an elementary school kid working on merit badges requirements. Eventually I received the Order of Light and acceptance as a Webelo the highest badge or patch you could obtain prior to Boy Scouts.
Fast forward 20 years. During my military career you could readily tell a man by the patches he wore on his uniform. You could identify what unit he was currently assigned to, if or with who he had been in combat with, Special skills, rank etc... Everything was right out in the open to see. The military definitely judges a book by their cover and opinions were often formed and assumptions made before even getting to know an individual based on these patches. Once again I was a high achiever and was awarded many patches,tabs and badges that others were not. I was a member of an elite unit and operated with them for the majority of my career. Then I retired.
That brings me to today. I have been thinking about the new year. I have been retired from the military going on 13 years however I still think about it almost everyday. Many people know me and make assumptions about me based on what they perceive my military experience was. However I have come to realize I am no longer that guy. Sure my experiences affect my personality and decision making but ask me to jump out of a plane or calculate a demo charge and I am in most respects no better than a beginner at this point. Certainly not a subject matter expert any longer. I am patchless.
I have continued to try and fill that void however. I ran ultramarathons for a few years until an injury sidelined me. I still dabble but have looked at other physical pursuits such as hiking. I have gained some weight, pizza and I have a long and sordid history. I still try to move consistently and regularly.
I have started martial arts in the past 2 years, due to my rotating work schedule and training calendar I cannot attend as often as I need to but I have been participating in Commando Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu just long enough to realize I don't know shit.Always a good workout though. And you get just a smidge more dangerous every time.
I have worked as in EMS for 10 years and as a Paramedic for going on 3. I continually try to become the SME in this area that I used to be in military subjects. I have realized a small measure of competence but the struggle is continual and unending. I think the best we can do in life is continue to train, continue to improve our position. Try new things and not be afraid to put yourself out there. I will continue to persevere in these areas.