Some Habits Should Never Die | A Guest Post From Grace Conyers | Owner of Insanitek Research and Development

This is a guest post from Grace Conyers.  She is an independent environmental researcher and owner of Insanitek Research and Development startup firm. Her passions are studying landscape changes, heavy metals in soil, and helping other independent researchers find their path. You can find out more about creating alternative paths on Insanitek.

Grace ConyersI’m wide awake, but it’s still dark beyond my windows. I roll over my fiancé, and look at the clock.


Sigh. It’s been 12 years, nearly a lifetime ago, since I left the military and another life behind me. Some habits will just never die, I suppose.

Restless, I get out of bed, mindlessly tuck the corners of my side under and turn to look for my beaten up running shoes. Yes, some habits never die.

As I get ready for my morning PT, which I’ve been doing for the last 19 years of my life, I reflect on that other life. I was young and angry when I joined up with the British military with my two best friends. Together the three of us stood in line during inspection, excited and unsure of what the future would bring.

During training, I held nothing back, and the years of martial arts training I’d had before quickly propelled me into fighting forces on the ground, into elite forces, and in a position of command. For 7 years I gave my all to the British military fighting as the only woman on the ground alongside my men.

Now it seems as if I still give my all as I wryly remember the nightmare that kept me awake at night while I tighten my shoelaces and climb on the worn treadmill. Running is both a punishment and a release to me in the still hours when no one else is awake.

As the distance ticks by, I think of what is on my to-do list. Three client meetings, prepare for a workshop that I’m holding at the end of the month, and check the samples in the lab. The list goes on as I run the darkness out of my mind and greet the sunrise both in my soul and life.

As I eek out as many sit-ups as I can do, I vaguely note that in two minutes I have to do push-ups, followed by star jacks, and think about the next steps in the lab procedure.

I wasn’t always disciplined though.

Grace ConyersSince leaving the military I felt like I gave up a large part of who I was while I toiled away in the university studying my first loves of chemistry and the environment mixed with a little archaeology. I lost motivation to do my morning PT, to drive myself forward, and fight the dark memories that kept me awake at night. With this onset came a new life of aches and pains, an addiction to working more than usual – or healthy –, and a life as a civilian where no one understood me or what I went though.

Hell, they didn’t understand why someone would even want to join the military in the first place, so I didn’t bother to talk about it. I became more of a recluse hiding in plain sight in the front. But some habits never die.

I was the quiet “non-traditional” student in the front centre of the class asking questions, scribbling notes, and challenging the system. I was the geek in the labs that asked more “what-ifs” than necessary and making the work more challenging than it needed to be. This is not just me, but the commander in me asking all the questions and planning things out. It’s not war, but it’s life. It’s just as challenging in a different way. It made me whole again for the brief moments I was overworked. I didn’t have memories screaming through my brain, ripping my sanity apart because I was making new ones.

During a class that took us abroad to Egypt, I sat in the very place my men and I once sat for an evening meal. It was a completely different context as we weren’t there making contacts, but rather learning the history of the region hands on. And yet, some habits never die.

I made contacts every place we went, but instead of calling them informants, I developed a deeper relationship to call them friends. This was far more fulfilling, and infinitely more challenging to keep track of all of them. It’s even harder to keep track of them now that I own my own company.

Coming full circle

InsanitekGraduate school and dreams of owning my own R&D firm where people can do independent research kept me busy, but it was the military training that gave me the drive, discipline, fortitude, and know-how that drove me forward. I began to use all the talents I had picked up along the way, using each tool the 7 years gave me.

Instead of battles, I lead people through projects. Instead of weapons I used chemistry tools and Excel sheets. Now, two years into business, the budget is still balanced perfectly with emergency funds to spare. Some habits never die.

A lot of little details changed, but I was still the same person that was in the military. When I realised that I embraced morning PT again, found a nearby range to practise, made friends with my colleagues and employees. I began to think of them as comrades, brothers, and sisters rather than the civilian way of thinking of them as unequal or enemies.

Some habits do die.

The only habit that has died was reporting into someone higher than me. I earned the skills in military, and finally learnt to turn them into something greater than the sum total of what it was. I didn’t learn it as a class, but rather through trial and error. Something failed, so I tried again in a different way. I had learnt to do this both in the civilian world before the military and during my time in the military. I didn’t learn it from receiving orders from someone else, but rather digging in and looking at the problem to be solved.

This trait is what made the military trust me in a command position. Now that I was on my own, I had to learn to trust myself.

Confidence in what I was building was the last piece of the puzzle that was needed. Once I stopped looking for answers, acceptance, and orders, my inner and outer worlds clicked in place. My company grew in leaps and bounds with every decision I made, but more importantly, I felt capable along the way.

And my confidence still grows today in this post-military life. Yours will to.


This is a guest post from Grace Conyers.  She is an independent environmental researcher and owner of Insanitek Research and Development.