by Jake Hughes
Ah, the new year. A fresh start. A chance to begin anew. And now when people get offended, they can say, “It’s 2018!” You’re a year older, and a year wiser (hopefully), and now it’s time to use that knowledge.
New Year’s resolutions are nothing new. The concept of promising to better one’s self at the dawn of a new year stems from multiple religious traditions, but these days, around 50% of Americans make a promise to themselves in one way or another. It’s a good practice, and we as veterans have things we could improve upon. Come on, be honest. We’re not perfect. Perfectly awesome, maybe, but not without flaws. So here’s a list of some things that you may consider improving upon.
1. Shrink that waistline, fatbody!
I will admit, this is one of mine. I weighed about 185 lbs when I got out of the Army. Now, I’m hovering around 220. Yeah, I’ve let myself go a bit, and I’m not alone. The VA estimated in 2014 that 75% of vets are overweight.
Now, it’s important to remember that the steps you take to lose weight don’t have to all be huge changes in your life. Promising to go to the gym five days a week might be a bit much. I’m promising to walk my dog two miles every other day, watch what I eat, and use the hand weights I bought a year ago and never touched. So maybe just cut back on the Whataburger, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or do something as simple as parking your car at the back of the lot so you walk farther. Little things can add up. Our own Jonathan Kaupanger wrote a whole article about it, so check that out for some tips to get the weight down.
2. No more than one angry social media rant per week.
We may not like to admit it, but we’ve all had one of “those” moments. You see some ignorant person posting about why the military sucks, or how your branch is the worst, or that vets aren’t anything special.
It gets you all riled up, and then a flash of lightning, a peal of thunder, a puff of smoke, and you have become “Pissed Off Veteran on Social Media-Man!” The person that prefaces every paragraph with “As a veteran…”, uses more profanity than a drunken Drill Sergeant, has the grammar skills of a 13-year-old on Snapchat, and uses words like, “Snowflake,” “Butthurt,” and “Libtard.*”
This year, make an effort to understand that some people just have different worldviews than you, and that’s perfectly fine! Also, “As a veteran,” you should be more mature than that. But we’re only cutting back to one per week, because let’s face it, going cold turkey is just too much to ask. And speaking of cold turkey…
3. Back off the “backy.”
If you’ve been following ConnectingVets.com over the past month—and if you haven’t, shame on you!—you’ll know that recently I, very publicly, quit smoking. Well, I have a confession to make… I fell off the wagon. I started up again the next month. But! I’m back on the patch and trying again. And I’m not alone.
The VA reports that a little over 20% of veterans use tobacco in some form. Look, I’m not going to lecture you, or shove pictures of people with holes in their throats or missing their lower jaw. Just know that over 70% of people who said they smoked have successfully quit. It’s a rough journey, but it’s not impossible. Maybe you start by cutting back, say 4 cigarettes a day or only putting in a dip after meals. Like I said before, little steps are the precursor to long trips.
4. Stop wearing tactical pants.
You know who you are. Stop it. I know we all want to be “Operator as f**k,” but you’re not.
“B-But I was infantry!” Yeah? I was a tanker, but you don’t see me wearing Nomex overalls everywhere. So just… just stop.
5. Manage money more…uh, efficiently.
Okay, that alliteration fell apart, but my point stands! This coming year, make more of an effort to save squirrel a little cash away. I’m sure you’ve heard of the 52-week saving challenge. You save $1 the first week, $2 the next, then $3, and so on. By the end, you’ve saved over $1,000.
That’s a good way to start, but consider taking it a step further. Maybe you save $15 that first week, then try to beat that goal the second, and build from there. Or you could resolve to not use your credit card as much. Think of a goal, a purchase you’ve been wanting, and save for that. And if you come out of a month with extra money, maybe think about doing something useful with it. Double down on a car or mortgage payment.
Point is, there are ways to scrimp and save. Try them out this year! The ever-awesome Kaylah Jackson wrote about how to manage your money better, and you can read up on it here. On the heels of that…
6. Don’t blow your tax return on guns.
“B-But it’s a 1st gen Mossin!” No.
“I have a lead on a mint condition M1-Car—” No.
“But… but that M1911 is—” No.
“I need a good shot—” No!
7. Talk to someone.
It’s been stated over and over ad nauseum, but it’s an important point that some vets don’t listen to: get some help if you need it. The mentality of “I gotta handle this myself” might work for a fitness test or a school exam, but when it comes to mental health, people can rarely go it alone and come out the other side a better person.
There are so many avenues for veterans out there, so there is no reason not to reach out. The VA has countless programs, many of which you can read about here. Or there is a program called “Give An Hour,” where licensed therapists will talk to you over the phone for free.
If you need help and it can’t wait, call the VA’s Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. You don’t have to go it alone.
*Yes, I did steal that joke from RangerUp.com. 1v1 me, Nick.