Today marks twenty years since I landed in Savannah, GA to be greeted by a couple of men in “smokies” who ushered me and many other hopefuls onto a bus to take me to the place I most wanted to be on that day- the yellow footprints of Parris Island, SC.
If you don’t know much about our Marine Corps, you may not know about the iconic yellow footprints. In Parris Island (where real Marines are born) and San Diego, yellow footprints are painted on the ground in a platoon formation. The bus of hopeful “Poolees” arrives at the yellow footprints, and they step their feet onto a set of footprints forming a platoon for the first time in their lives. In that moment, they become “Recruits” and are a step closer to becoming US Marines.
The yelling comes from every direction, and words aren’t easy to understand. The proud yet terrified recruits stand there doing everything they know to stay on the “good side” of the smokie (a hat that looks like Smokie the Bear’s) wearing Drill Instructors (please do NOT call them Drill Sergeants- that’s insulting).
The Marine Corps has created an intense and dramatic boot camp arrival experience that is so perfected that when I flew in a prop-plane from Philadelphia to Savannah we endured a thunder and lightning storm that all but killed us. To this day, I am convinced the Corps has something to do with that.
By time the Poolees arrive on Parris Island, it is dark and there is nothing but boot camp all around. There is no outside world anymore. The Drill Instructors (DI’s) are quick to tell the now Recruits, “There is one way on and one way off this island. You can try to leave, but most likely you will be picked up by a DI or eaten by an alligator in the swamp.”
By time I had arrived on Parris Island, I wanted to be a Marine more than anything I had ever wanted before. I was excited to step up to the challenge of becoming a Marine and honestly looked forward to the 13 weeks of intense training ahead of me. I left behind a full scholarship to a music conservatory because I was eighteen and fearless.
As I sit here and reflect the feelings of that momentous day, I see a pattern of those days throughout my life. Some may say there are few things that compare to the experience of becoming a Marine, and they are right. But the feelings I had that night on the yellow footprints on the other hand, have surfaced many times in my life.
I felt that way the first time my ex-husband deployed and every time after. I felt that way when I received my son’s diagnosis of epilepsy. I felt that way when I took my Personal Trainer Certification exam. I felt that way when I started the Infinitely Fit brand. I felt that way when I opened the doors to the commercial studio. I felt that way every time I moved from one home to the next. And I feel that way again now.
After twenty years, what have I learned? Well…I guess I have learned that terrified and hopeful often come together. I live for challenges which means I seek chaos. Sometimes it’s crazy instead of chaos that I find, but often one doesn’t come without a little of the other. And to be honest, I like crazy and chaos- just ask my friends. I have never stopped chasing those feelings.
Just like twenty years ago, I am here in another transition that has me terrified and hopeful. Like then, I am looking to start another career with a new kind of challenge. I am looking to make a shift, open my eyes to more of the world, and dive into the best of who I am.
Having become a Marine, I know I can face whatever is in my future. There are also many other endeavors in my life that demonstrated the same grit and strength required to become a Marine. It all comes down to how much we want what’s on the other side of the obstacle. When I wanted to become a Marine, I knew I needed to work in the confines of the rules so I could get what I wanted. That’s just life. What obstacle are you determined to overcome right now? Keep your eye on that prize and you will make it becoming more successful than you anticipated.
For all my Marine brothers and sisters out there, Semper Fi!!