Serving with Honor – Chapter 1: Know Yourself

It was 4 a.m. My alarm clock had been going off since 3:15 a.m. I’d hear the buzzer and immediately push snooze, until there wasn’t any time left to do so.

Today was my second day back to work following a 12-week sabbatical. By sabbatical, I mean I got to spend the last 12 weeks with my sweet baby boy – playing a role I had only been familiar with for 12 weeks of my 29-years, but had already grown to love.

I rolled out of bed, got myself ready and started packing up the baby gear. The clock ticked at a faster rate than I could move. I should have woken up when it first went off, why hadn’t I set it even earlier than 3:15 a.m.?

I started packing the baby gear when another alarm sounded. It was now 4:30 a.m. and the time I’d have to leave to get the baby to the sitter’s and still get to work in time.

I started to cry. Not just a single tear down my cheek, but an all-out ugly cry.

What was I doing? Why did I decide it was smart to leave my baby at home and return to work? They had managed to get along just fine without me, my baby on the other hand – he needed me.

I stripped back down, out of my uniform and into my pajamas. I crawled back in bed, grabbed my phone from under my pillow, and texted my boss.

‘I quit.’

I closed my eyes and waited for a response. When my cell phone gave off the text message alert, I opened one eye and read the response.

‘Keep your head up. Coming back is never easy. Get some rest and I’ll see you tomorrow.’

As you can see, my boss was onto me. Luckily she had the same experience returning to work as I had.

It wasn’t easy. It was actually the hardest thing I had ever done.

But, I did it. The next day my husband took charge of the sitter situation so I’d have less to worry about in the mornings, and off to work I went.

In the first chapter of Lee Ellis’ book, ‘Leading with Honor,’ he wrote about his experience when his F-4C Phantom jet was shot down onto enemy ground. He discussed the near-death experience he had once he hit the ground and how his experience getting captured led him to think about his life and the choices he had made.

He wrote, “Near-death experiences are no fun, but they do at least cause you to stop and examine your life’s priorities.”

Was leaving my son home while I returned to work a life-or-death experience? Absolutely not – but it sure felt like it at the time. I’ve always strived to be really good at what I do, and in my book, I was really good at being a stay-at-home mom.

What I had forgotten over that 12-week span was that I was also really good at being a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing or at least I enjoyed it (we’ll leave the really good decision up to you!)

I had forgotten how fortunate I was to love my job. Who else has a job they love going to?!
In my “near-death” experience, I had to make a choice. Would I have regrets later on if I chose to stay home? Would I have regrets later on if I returned to work?

I think it’s fair to say you win some and you lose some, and sometimes you don’t always make the best decision right off the bat. Just make sure to analyze the decisions you make along the way, that way if you are ever placed in a life-or-death scenario and are forced to reflect on your past – you don’t regret the decisions you made.

I’m happy with my decision. I get to write about the happenings at the 115 FW and I still get to be a mommy when the uniform comes off.

Just as Ellis did in the first chapter of his book, I also encourage you to get to know yourself. Know what makes you tick and make decisions that coincide with the passions you have. That’s the best way to live your life regret-free.

Chapter 1


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About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.