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The inability to find purpose in civilian work can make transition hard

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But there are ways to overcome that challenge.

By Audrey Iriberri – Audrey Iriberri is a veteran of the United States Army and the conflict in Iraq. Follow Audrey Iriberri on Twitter @AudreyIriberri

It’s been a little over a year since I started my first full-time job after leaving active duty. What have I learned about transitioning to civilian life? After years of serving, why is making the transition so hard? I realize it has to do with framing.

When my unit was deployed, we had some ridiculous rules. For instance, we had to wear reflective vests for our safety in order to eat at the dining facility, even though we were at war. I remember my soldiers looking at me after putting on one such neon vest and asking, “What are we doing here, ma’am?” and more broadly, “Why are we here?

Back then, I told them that they needed to zoom in or zoom out until the answer to that question made sense to them. “If you’re mad at me or your squad leader because the tasks you’re doing seem pointless, you need to zoom out and think about the U.S. and democracy, and all those things that you joined the Army to defend. If you’re mad at our country and its policy makers, you need to zoom in, look to your left and right and remember that we’re here for each other.”

I told them to reframe their situation as many times as necessary to get through the day and the deployment.

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