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. 


Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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