I finished boot camp and went to San Diego for “A” and “C” schools (Radioman and Morse Code). Imagine, I had a great new figure, income, and was 19 in San Diego. I had a wonderful time. I attended classes during the day and danced and drank all night. And I didn’t even have to leave the base to have fun. I went to the enlisted club – within walking distance. I kept this up for a few months.
Of course, having been down this path before, my learning curve had improved and it did not take me quite as long to figure out that this was not going to be a pattern I could continue indefinitely. I knew when I left San Diego that I would need to settle down…some.
After several months, it was time to head home to pack up my things and move to London. I guess I forgot to mention that part. Remember I had been told that the Radioman job meant I would be a DJ for the Navy? Well, sometime near the end of boot camp I was asked to fill out paperwork requesting a duty station and for a security clearance. I asked why I needed a security clearance to be a DJ and they laughed at me. However, upon seeing my bewilderment, the nice people in the admin office explained to me what a Radioman really did – secure communications. Imagine my surprise! I was given a list of duty stations and though I do not remember my second and third choices, my first choice was London. And…that’s where the Navy sent me.
So, at 19, I packed up my things and the Navy shipped them to London. My dad took me to the airport in Detroit and saw me off. I vowed to myself as the plane left Detroit that I would not return to my wild ways once arriving in London. And for the most part, I kept my promise.
I have to tell you, I was scared. Very scared. Flying off to live in another country and I was not yet 20. Usually when the military sends you somewhere, you are lodged on base. However, in London, I was given money to pay for lodging and since the Navy wanted us to keep a low profile, I was also given money to buy civilian clothes. Not knowing anyone in London, I agreed to move in with another female sailor that I met on the flight over. We got a two bedroom townhouse near the subway. More about all of that later.
It all seemed pretty chaotic to me at first, but my shipmates did a good job of orienting me. During that process, I met a man who eventually became my husband and the father of my daughter. There was so much to learn, assimilation was slow, and life sort of just took over. Somehow, along the way I drifted even further away from the part of me I had already twice discovered – the athlete. We worked 12 hour shifts alternating days and nights. I spent much of my time tired. We ate out most of the time due to the chaotic schedule, the ease of having someone else cook and clean up, and because restaurants in London were wonderful.
I know many think of the military as lean and active. However, we worked in computer labs. We did not exercise. The weight slowly rose. I had been in the low 120’s after boot camp and found myself in the 140’s. And before I knew it, I was in trouble for my weight. Then, to make things more challenging, I got pregnant. Unfortunately, pregnancy exacerbated by Ulcerative Colitis requiring me to take Prednisone throughout my pregnancy (for about 7 months). By the time my daughter was born, I had gained about 60 pounds. Yes, SIXTY.