Get your mind out the gutter - what kind of woman do you think I am anyway?
Of course it wasn't just the men - in fact it was a woman who tipped the scales.
I marched out of my final posting complete with Full Shell Titanium Emotional Armour, "loaded for Bear" with state of the art offensive and defensive capability. Put it all behind me and bugger the back blast. "So what if I'm a failure! They don't want me? Well I bloody well don't want them!" No bastard was going to get in - or out.
In military terms it would be known as a "Crash Out" - Save yourselves and leave everything else behind.
See the problem?
The problem with leaving everything behind is that you lose the good stuff along with the bad.
My biggest mistake was in leaving behind the people. I almost left behind the very best friend I have had in my life. Thankfully she is much more sensible than me and didn't let me go.
When you are in the habit of thinking of yourself as a failure you think you can not face the people who knew you at your best. You are wrong.
The armour did its job far too well for too many years - eventually it cracked.
A woman's message on Linked in - "Are you the Mel O'Sullivan Duntroon Class of '95? We've got a Facebook Group if you'd like to join."
"How did joining the Facebook Group feel?" - like someone replaced a foundation stone I never knew had crumbled.
A voice on the phone. "Mel, it's been 20 years since we spoke- Are you alright?"
On an ANZAC Day Video call (from a beautiful Paratrooper). "I've got a good memory for you Mel. Remember when I wore your dress to report for duty and got away with it?"
Another phone call. "Goddamn - it's good to hear your voice."
And the message?
Loud and clear after all these years.
"Turn your head a little Mel. See us here behind you? We're right here at your shoulder - where we've always been. We've still got your back. You're not alone."
"You never were."