It’s no secret that transitioning from the military can be a tough and confusing time. The process of finding a job, a place to live and figuring out who you really are outside of the uniform can leave many of us exhausted and tired. One of the things that I realized as I was going through my transition was how I was focusing on all of the things that I had gained through the military but not the things that I had left behind because of the military … my hobbies. I knew I needed to take the time to think about how to reconnect with my passion for my hobbies and what used to be important to me.
Hobbies to Keep us Grounded
I grew up with a passion for music. Whether it was playing the saxophone or writing and producing music, I loved the process of creating music. Actually, one of my main reasons for joining the Army was to use my GI Bill to go back to school so that I could teach music to young people one day. Music took me from my hometown of Oklahoma City to Atlanta, Ga., in pursuit of fame. Music led me to perform on stage in front of hundreds, even thousands of people as I followed my passions. But now as I transition, I find myself asking what happened to one of my hobbies that I was once so passionate about. It isn’t fair for me to say that the military stole my old hobbies. I’ve always kept writing, performing and creating music as a part of my life, but as priorities change, so do our hobbies. Many of us found time to reconnect with hobbies during deployments. Years ago, I was lucky enough to be stationed with two friends named Robert and Matthew, who shared the same passion for music. During our deployment to Iraq, we managed to find time to create music together, which became a great outlet to get each other through the long days.
Lost Connections with Old Hobbies
While the three of us used our hobby to pass the time and confront the realities of deployment, we began to realize that our hobby could become more than just a hobby. As we started distributing our music to friends and various Internet forums, it started to generate buzz. Just as we started to think about the possibility of actually pursuing this hobby, tragedy stuck. On Feb. 19, 2007, while traveling to a local village, Matt’s truck was struck by a roadside bomb, killing him and two other soldiers in the vehicle. Immediately, the music stopped. As we struggled to come to grips with Matt’s death, we tried to find comfort in the music that we had created together, but there was no comfort. We thought about how much music meant to him and how he would want us to continue, but it did not take away the pain.
Rediscovering Passion for Your Hobbies
Over the years, I have occasionally found the time to work on my hobby, but priorities and life challenges often get in the way. When I started the transition process, I felt as if I had the opportunity to redefine the person that I wanted to be. In fact, many veterans find ways to reconnect with old hobbies such as music, comedy, photography and painting and find success doing what they love. Some even find new hobbies that they discover with family or friends. Transition gives us the opportunity to reconnect with the idea of having fun, which is often something we forget or do not have time for while in the military. For me, it will be about reconnecting with my music and the emotions that I am able to connect with through this outlet.
Jamaal Wheaton is a transitioning Army veteran with more than 12 years of active duty service. He is founder and owner of The Wheaton Group, a public relations firm that specializes in being a voice for veteran and military-related issues. Jamaal shares his personal experience of transition with the hopes of helping others navigate the through their own transition.
Thinking about pursuing your hobbies as a career? Check out this inspirational story about How an Iraq Veteran became a leading Indie Producer!