Head high, shoulders back

For some reason, I still remember the first time I didn’t want to move. I moved a lot as a kid – 13 times before I graduated high school. I was maybe seven at the time. We were stationed in Indianapolis for about six months while my Mom attended a course.

I was learning the piano, and I had a pen pal in Ukraine. My teacher was a piano prodigy. I didn’t start out learning to play twinkle twinkle or something. She had me working on the first hand of Tchaikovsky, no shit. She lived in the apartment down the hall from us, and I still remember pressing my ear to the wall to listen to her practice.

When I found out we were moving again, my third move in as many years, I remember crawling under my bed and crying so hard. I would be missing my piano recital, class graduation, and most important to me – the next letter from my pen pal.

I cried and cried as we drove on to our next station, begging my Mom to stay. I feel for her. It’s impossible to explain job requirements, duties, and decisions that are out of your control to a child. You can’t explain away a broken heart. There are no words.

A few weeks later, after we settled into our next apartment, I got a package. It was from my class. They sent me the letter from my pen pal.

It has been almost 30 years, and I still remember the packaging, the letter, and the drawing inside. I was so excited. It was one of the first times I got mail.

Looking back, it was also one of the first times I felt the special connection between military families. See, those kids and I went to school on an Army base. The teacher understood how kids like me sacrificed so many moments for our parent’s careers. Most importantly, I think they knew kids need connection in their lives.

It’s not just kids, though. We all need to connect – military or not.

That’s what makes us brave when we don’t feel strong. That’s what keeps us going. It’s caring uniquely, near or far. It’s the little things, like a surprise letter in my mail just this week from my friend Victoria who I met just a few weeks ago during a LinkedIn rewrite.

We had a great rewrite session. She left saying, “it’s crazy how you just see me. Do you charge extra for making me feel like a superwoman?” So that you know, no upcharge for the superhero treatment.

It turns out she saw me too. That military connection never fades. In this letter she said:

Since you grew up with the military, I know you’ve probably experienced the phenomenon of having people come into your life sometimes only briefly and manage to feel like family – to raise you up and help you face whatever comes next with head high and shoulders back. With so much uncertainty in our lives, this is a treasured gift.

Enclosed is the uniform patch for the PA national guard, a nod to your military routes, a token of gratitude, and a prediction that whatever comes next, you will conquer with your head high and your shoulders back.

I cried when inside the envelope, I found a patch with a big heart on it. I call it my big heart energy patch – a reminder of 3 essential things: why I do what I do, how important connection is, and to keep my head high and shoulders back, even on the most challenging days.

Keep your head high and shoulders back. You got this. 


Katrina Kibben View All →

Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.

Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

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