I have no doubt that there are plenty of people that never served in the armed forces that will understand what I am trying to say. When I say “civilians,” I am referring to the majority. This rule, like any other, is not without exceptions. If you have every worked in any kind of public service, medical, emergency, etc., or have ever been in a position where you had to make difficult choices and there were times when no good answer existed, you probably know what I am talking about. There are plenty of other phrases that describe this concept, but “first world problems” is among the more notorious. The military is not exempt from these complaints, but you will find them more infrequent in military settings.
I won’t be calling anyone out in particular, but the events that make me feel this way are abundant. It almost seems never ending. No matter what new device, technology, policy or process that comes into being, there is always someone, somewhere, that will initiate some form of complaint or protest. These are the people that, no matter what you say or do, you will NEVER get through to them. I get it. Sometimes it is a momentary lapse in priorities, or it is too easy to overlook the fact that your problem isn’t really much of an actual problem. Sometimes it is a momentary inconvenience, or you might have to put in a little more effort than you were anticipating so you are understandably less enthusiastic. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t guilty of these moments from time to time. Most of the time I either catch myself or someone else calls it out and we all have a good laugh about it.
One of my favorite complaints is work breaks. Yes, the law is the law and the law states that there are certain rules that guide any companies break policies. Failure to comply with the laws surrounding breaks will typically result in some form of punitive or legal action. That is the society we live in, and I have no problem with that. Most laws exist for a good reason and should be morally and ethically adhered to. To prevent abuse, there must be a system of justice. With that in mind, companies or organizations aren’t always in complete control of everything. Sometimes things happen and the only way to be successful is to endure some personal discomfort. It comes down to making a sacrifice for others and I find sacrifices to be much rarer in the civilian world than I did when serving.
Think about a police officer, fire fighter or paramedic’s job. They are entitled to breaks like the rest of us, right? Do employment laws apply any less to them than anyone else? Ask yourself this, “If your house was on fire but when you called 911, the dispatcher told you that the fire department was taking their mandatory lunch break and still had 45 minutes left, would you consider that acceptable?” Another complaint that I hear is about wait times for certain things. Whether it is going through security, waiting for a flight, bus running late, or there not being enough cashiers to purchase your things in slightly less time. Complaints tend to revolve around the death of selflessness and/or patience. We live in such an impatient me culture that, no matter where you look, there is someone complaining about something.
Some of the hardships faced, whether you work in emergency services, the armed forces, or any other form of employment where the everyday stakes involve serious bodily harm or death to either yourself or others, lend a unique perspective to those who experience them. Priorities either shift or are put in an order of importance to the individual. Some may call this perspective jaded, and in all fairness, they are not entirely wrong. Is this perspective a benefit? Is it a hinderance? Will it positively or negatively impact those around us? All questions with unknown answers. Like anything else, it is all in the eye of the beholder. The only thing you have control over is your answers to those questions. No one else will ever see the world as you do. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes isn’t enough. It will never be able to account for the miles that came before or the miles that will come after. If you understand that no one will ever see the world in the same exact way you do, things will work out. Worry about your thoughts and actions. Let others worry about theirs. Smile and learn to laugh a little more.