‘As you are aware, your entitlement to occupy Service Families Accommodation is conditional on your continued employment by HM Forces and it ceases on your final day of service.’
Time…you can’t get in the way of it. It surges on. Like Canute you might try to think you can deal with it, but it will, like the tide just wash over you. It’ll overwhelm you and nothing can stop it.
And my time is running out. Time in the RAF that is. I now only have 6 working days left. Well, a couple of extra days doing stuff like ‘clearing’ and handing my kit back, but pretty much I have 6 days at work.
And it’s when you realise that you have enough shirts left hanging up and you will never need to iron another ‘Shirt, Short Sleeves, RAF, Wedgwood Blue’ that you suddenly realise that time is overwhelming you.
And I have so much to do. Move house, find a job, find a purpose. Because, frankly, the RAF has provided me with all those things for the last 25 years. OK, there were times when I lived in my own house but, the RAF has always been there for me to provide me with all those things. I live in a service house – gotta move. I have a service job – gotta change. I have a purpose – gotta find one.
And all three are hard. It’s like the ultimate growing up. I like to think my life is fairly grounded and I am aware of the civvy world, but I have a feeling it is going to take some getting used to. The house thing is easy. We have found a place that we want to live in, in an area that we like and works for us both; close to my family, close to my wife’s family; in the countryside, at a price we can afford.
We are going to be waiting for all the various elements of money to arrive from the various sources, MrsF’s end of service gratuity payment in October, my gratuity and redundancy money in January and are going to be able to put down a very sizeable deposit on a house – hopefully the one that we are going to move into that we have just applied to rent. So, yeah, the house thing isn’t that big a deal, and the service, because I am being made redundant are going to pay for the removals, so there is a big bit of stress relieved.
But then there are the other two things. The job. The purpose. For years…for 25 years and 5 months and 4 days my job and my purpose will have been inextricably linked. The one thing and the other both mutually compatible. Almost indistinguishable. One able to be replaced by the other. BEING in the RAF was a job and a purpose. In fact it’s interesting that I considered myself as BEING in the RAF…whereas that letter…the one that began with that paragraph at the top of this post considered me to be ’employed by’ the RAF… I guess it’s funny. To me being in the RAF wasn’t a job, it was a purpose. It was a reason for me to be me.
And when I leave, when I have finished my 6 working days, and am on my terminal leave before the Big Day on the 11th December when I am no longer part of the RAF…what will I be?
A civilian? Ex-service? Unemployed? I honestly don’t know. I certainly don’t know what I want to do for work when I leave. Ok I have ideas. Lots of ideas. I could do the same sort of thing as I do now – a sort of Management Consultancy job. Or I could go to work in a factory. Or I could go and work in a coffee shop. Or I could start my own business as a Dog Walker. Or set up my own training company. Or become a Teaching Assistant. Or try to find work writing. But I haven’t decided…can’t decide…can’t really think about what I want to do, or who I want to do it for.
I guess I will eventually decide. We are lucky because with our two service pensions coming in, between MrsF and myself we will have a modest, but survivable income. Enough to pay for a small mortgage on the house we will be able to buy, enough to live on – just – but the pressure of finding a job quickly isn’t on me.
I want a job. I want to be able to bring in enough so my wife is well looked after. So my living at home daughter has all she needs. So my older children at University have some cash to help pay for their accommodation and won’t be saddled with huge debts. And I want a job that will give me a reason. A purpose.
I remember my father. He was in the RAF. He left the RAF and went to work…for the RAF as a civilian. He worked all his life in or for the service. And when he retired and he stopped…he just stopped. He associated his work with his life and with his purpose and when he stopped working he stopped living. By his 67th year he was dead. He simply died. And I don’t want that to be me. I want to carry on. I want to have a purpose, a reason to go on.
I know I am not quite my dad’s age yet, but my point is that I, like my dad, need a reason. A reason to go on. Maybe my reason will be to relax and just enjoy myself. God knows I want to relax and chill and catch up with myself. But to be able to separate what you do from what you are…it’ll be an interesting thing to attempt.
Because in the RAF, in all the Armed Forces, what you do IS what you are. You are a member of the RAF. In the Army. You are a Sailor or a Marine. The role you do is what makes you; what defines you. That’s not quite the same in the Civvy world. The Service wraps your identity up inside itself, making you part of something bigger. Part of an organisation with a history, a tradition. With values and beliefs and ways of thinking that are different; ways of working that are different; ways of speaking that are different. You are not just part of the RAF or whatever, you are part of something bigger that you. Better than you. That stands for something, that embodies something. That means something.
And like I said. That question I asked…when I leave the RAF. What will I be? A civilian? Ex-RAF? What…?
That is the big question. And it’s quite a scary one, and this is the first time I have talked about it. Because even though I applied for redundancy. Even though I knew it was my time to leave, because the RAF isn’t the same as it was when I joined and my time in it is just up. Actually leaving and moving on is going to be so bloody hard. Because when what you do makes you what you are, and you are no longer that thing…what are you? Who are you?
It’s almost time to find out.