Finding Peace in The Stream
Visionary and Co-founder, Lynn Waidelich shares her story.
I am a reader. It is one of my things. I usually have two books going: one non-fiction, something to make me smarter and one fiction, something to help relax me before bed. As a kid, I spent my summers in Whittier, CA with my grandparents. While that may sound exciting, in some ways, it was just the opposite. Their life revolved around noon mass and preparing the evening meal. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time bored, and I so I read, book after book, day after day.
Currently I am reading the work of Abraham Hicks called The Law of Attraction. In the book, penned by husband and wife, Ester and Jerry Hicks under the name Abraham, the authors describe life as a stream. They explain many people put their canoes into the water and immediately begin to paddle upstream. In fact, we are taught to paddle upstream, to work hard, to hustle. This is how I would describe much of my career as a military spouse professional, I have been working as hard as I can and fighting every current.
It has been so important to me to prove my abilities and to show regardless of my job status or title, I am worthy. There has always been so much explaining to do about why I am not where I thought I would be. After multiple deployments, repeated moves, and three children, I found myself battered and bruised, and I pulled my boat out of the water. We moved overseas, jobs were scarce, childcare was difficult, and we wanted to travel Southeast Asia. I figured it was easier to just take a break.
Funny enough, when I finally stopped hustling, I was able to see things I had missed over the years. My perspective from duty station to duty station had been myopic and entirely self-focused. I need to reach out to my contacts. I need to build a network. I need to renew my license. I need to find a job.
With each new step, I thought solely about my own career. Then, as far from home as I had ever been, on a small overseas base, I realized I am one of many. At the gym, I met physical therapists, lawyers, and bookkeepers, all educated and well-trained, and all out of work. At the commissary, I met a chef, a master of the kitchen, doing a managerial job to bide his time. My experience was common to thousands of military spouses, and we were all swimming in the same stream. Meeting really smart, capable spouses who were facing the same challenges as me: unemployment, underemployment, limited access to childcare, and lack of professional confidence, was reassuring on the one hand and really frustrating on the other. It made me feel like I was part of something much bigger, and it also gave me a tangible problem to address.
That’s when I jumped back into my canoe, and let it lead me downstream. I found a kindred spirit, a creative, talented spouse with non-profit experience, and we decided to start The Other Side of Service. We wanted to connect and empower professional spouses and highlight our commonalities. We wanted spouses, around the world, to feel like they are part of a community, to have a peer group, to know they are not alone. We wanted to share individual stories and build a collective voice. This was the impetus for OSS, and two years later, I am proud to say, we’ve done these things and more.
Not only has OSS touched the lives of others, it has given me a medium to learn and grow as a professional. I have gained experience in a start-up, non-profit management, volunteer recruitment, content development, virtual connectivity, and fundraising. I am surrounded by incredibly savvy and professional board members and executive director. I am engaged in both high-level strategic planning and on the ground writing and video production. I have sharpened my skills in communication and public speaking and gained a tremendous amount of confidence along the way.
As is the case for military families, the path of my stream is turning again. We have recently moved back to the United States, my husband has a new duty station and a new job, and I am relaunching my career in education. I have all necessary prerequisites: teaching experience and a doctoral degree in my field. Honestly, these pale in comparison to my new secret job-searching weapon. For the first time in my career, I see my unique resume, with all its twists and turns, gaps and promotions, starts and stops, as my greatest asset.
By listening to others tell their professional stories, I have learned how much untapped potential resides in military spouses. We are well rounded. We see things differently. We know how to get things done. We know how to set priorities, and we are able to flex under pressure.
Through OSS, I have found my people, and I now have a peer group to learn from and lean on. I carry their stories with me as I step boldly back into the workforce. I am Lynn Waidelich, and I am the other side of service.