At the end of the year, I find myself feeling a little introspective. This year has brought a lot of ups and downs, but perhaps the most monumental aspect of this year for my family is this:
we had our last military move.
Retirement is just around the corner. I’m not sure I even believe it yet. I grew up traveling the world with 2 active-duty parents. I took the oath of enlistment myself and then settled into the familiar life of a military spouse.
Every single moment of the first 40 years of my life has been influenced by the military community.
I have never known health care that wasn’t Tricare. Words like PX, PCS, TDY and ACUs are a part of my regular vocabulary. I have seen countless iterations of uniforms, moved from one side of the world to the other, and started and left more jobs than I can count.
As I think about this past year and imagine what a fast-approaching civilian future might look like, I have to wonder if the challenges we’ve faced as a military family have been worth it.
It’s a question not easily answered and so I did what any military spouse would do. I leaned on my military community and asked them: what are the biggest challenges of our particular lifestyle?
I empathized with their responses, and it wasn’t long before I noticed that almost every challenge listed was directly tied to the transient nature of our lifestyle. With that in mind, I sat down and gave some thought to this particular aspect of my life. Has moving 19 times been worth it?
Change Moving Is Never Easy
No matter your MOS or career field, this is one aspect of our military life that we all share in.
Often it’s a hassle, sometimes it’s an adventure, but it is always stressful.
Making sure you can find adequate housing, ensuring the school district is acceptable, finding a new job, setting up a new support system, picking a new primary care physician, figuring out which gate is open, the list goes on and on. I can honestly say that even though I have done all of these things many times, they never get any easier.
Moving is exciting when it’s just a set of orders and a daydream about the possibilities, but a nightmare when your entire life is packed into boxes, your spouse is headed out to God knows where for who knows how long, and you don’t even know where the closest grocery store is.
And then there is the separation. Separation from a spouse sent on deployment or TDY. Separation from extended family. Separation from the friends and co-workers who became your surrogate family when you first arrived at the new military installation.
As I sat reliving the stress and strain of military life, I could feel my blood pressure begin to climb.
And then it hit me. The lessons this life has taught me are invaluable.
Lessons Blessings in Disguise
If I had never traveled the world, I wouldn’t have lived in the beautiful, red brick townhome in England. Never had milk delivered in glass bottles right to our door. Never discovered that boiled Brussels sprouts are entirely unpalatable. I would never have played hide-and-seek in the small grove of olive and apricot trees on Crete. Never learned to swim in the Mediterranean.
If I hadn’t changed schools ever couple of years, I would have missed out on friendships that forever changed the way I saw the world and understood people. I would never have listened to a foreign friend tell me her secret dream was to one day become an American.
If I hadn’t said goodbye to countless friends, I would never have had the chance to say hello to so many others.
If I hadn’t waved goodbye to my spouse, I might never have learned that I am strong, smart and able to take care of our household on my own. And I would never have been able experience the sweet relief of watching him walk through the front door unharmed.
If I hadn’t agreed to quit a job to go where the Army sent us, I might never have learned how to make giant Christmas bows or develop a database or process a mortgage. I might never have learned how to create websites or work in social media.
I might never have learned that friendship, comradery, resiliency and a sense of duty will always trump adversity.
So has military life been worth it? For me, I think the answer is undeniably, yes.