Following a careful review of your application, we are unable to admit you to Stony Brook University. Your interest in Stony Brook is appreciated...In the moment that my eyes met that text, nothing and everything changed simultaneously.
As for what happens in the time between now and 2400 EDT 18 May, the status quo prevails. I am NOT re-enlisting. I AM separating from the Navy. These are non-negotiable certainties. I was set on six-and-out long before I decided I wanted to go back to college, and the derailment of that course does nothing to alter that mindset. I may not have a future at Stony Brook, but I have things far more important - a ton of money in the bank, good friends who confirm I'm on the right path, and a loving family that will stand behind me no matter what I do. Regardless of how deep the economy is in the porcelain throne, these things - and the peace of mind that accompanies not being under the Navy's thumb - are worth more than the job security of the Navy. I would rather bleed the bank account dry than be miserable for four or more additional years.
But when the calendar turns to Tuesday, May 19...it's all up in the air. The first inclination is, as you might expect, toward the civilian nuclear power field. With my skill set, it's something I could slide right into, and there always seem to be jobs available. Staying in the atom-splitting business means I can't go home again; thanks to Shoreham, Long Island is as much a nuclear-free zone as New Zealand. I don't like that, but it is not a totally negative factor. I'm not devoutly attached to Long Island; I have, after all, spent the bulk of the last ten years residing elsewhere. I don't necessarily have to absorb the high cost of living in my ancestral home. I also can, if I want, start anew in some uncharted location. I can pretty much go anywhere in the country. I'd prefer to stay in the Northeast (and close to my family), I'd consider the Midwest or West, and only if all other options are exhausted would I look at the South.
A big challenge is going to be translating the skills I've acquired over the last six years into civilian speak, to try to compete for jobs against the rest of the population. Not only that, not having a bachelor's degree puts me behind the power curve right out of the gate. And at this juncture, simply entertaining the thought of something other than nuclear is a bit daunting. This is the only real job I've ever had, and it's kind of difficult to see myself doing anything else. But at the same time, I don't envision myself running the fission game forever. For that matter, as I close in on number "two-eight," I'm still not certain of what I want to do with my life.
I don't know how much (if any) time I'm going to take off after I check off the boat. I don't know whether I'm going to take the Post-Navy Roadtrip. I don't know whether, or how much, I'm going to drink tonight. I do know that I'll be watching Sideways in the next day or two. I do know that I really don't have much of a backup plan, but I do have a safety net in multiple respects. And I do know that largely due to that safety net, I'm handling this much better emotionally than events of similar magnitude in my past. Don't worry about me. I'll figure something out, and I'll be fine.