I won’t say I’m old, but if there was a miracle pill to knock a couple of years off, I’d be interested.
For all of my fears and frustrations about getting older, I know I have earned every gray hair, every fine line. They tell the story of a life that, while it’s had its ups and downs, I really can’t complain about it too much.
But as I watch my oldest child begin to figure out her place in the world and prepare to move out on her own, it got me thinking about myself at her age.
If given the chance what would I want my younger military spouse self to know? What imparting wisdom could I dish out to help make my future just a bit better?
Here’s what I came up with:
7 Tips from a Military Spouse to Her Younger Self
Less than half of American adults have a college degree. I was part of the majority without one until just a couple of years ago.
While a college degree won’t solve every problem, it can open doors and help with career advancement and employment.
Many military spouses already have a degree or some form of formal training before they become military spouses, which is amazing! But don’t stop learning. If you’re like me and on the 20+ year plan or you are looking for a second or advanced degree, utilize the resources the military community has to offer.
Programs like MyCAA can help junior enlisted and officer spouses to obtain or continue pursuit of a degree. There are scholarships only available to military dependents and there are a great many programs and universities who offer discounted rates to military spouses.
Get your college degree – it will pay off in so many ways.
Find Your Passion
As you move from place to place, a passion or hobby can make wherever you are stationed feel like home.
A passion gives you something to occupy your time when your spouse is fighting in parts unknown.
A passion gives you something to look forward to when those horrible-terrible-no-good-very-bad days rear their ugly heads.
And your passion just might be the icebreaker you need to make new friends who share a similar interest or who are interested in learning.
Learn to Budget/Schedule/Plan
Mind-numbing waiting at the doctor’s office, empty bank accounts and frantic searches for missing berets or boots at zero dark-thirty can all be avoided with some forethought.
If creating spending plans (and sticking to them) or developing schedules and plans doesn’t come naturally to you, buy a book, or take a class or print off one of the million or so examples on Pinterest.
Get good at being organized. It will pay off a thousand-fold in both your finances and sanity.
Pick Your Friends Wisely
It is all too easy to latch onto an unhealthy friendship when you feel out of place or lonely. But, sometimes those friendships born of low-hanging fruit can do more harm than good.
Put in the effort to build real friendships that last. Don’t write people off because of appearances or even first impressions.
Hint: real friendships don’t equal drama, drama, drama!
Save for a Rainy Day
Before you know it, you’ll be looking at retirement.
Or the need for a new car.
Or the desire to buy a house.
Or the desire to have a baby (or two or three!).
This lesson isn’t really military spouse specific, but it is one I wish I had learned much sooner.
Always, always, always, pay yourself first. Even if it’s just $10 a paycheck, get into the habit of putting money away. Your future self with thank you, trust me.
Buy Smart and Don’t Buy on Credit
Hand in hand with saving, be smart about your money. If you can at all avoid it, skip using credit cards for anything other than emergencies.
That $500 want-it-now purchase suddenly turns into a $1,000 burden when you add in all the interest.
Be patient and save until you can afford to pay cash for what you need.
At the same time, don’t deprive yourself of things. Go back to the lesson about budgeting and figure out a way to be smart about what you buy.
Enjoy and Experience
Don’t let the experience of being a military spouse pass you by without taking time to enjoy it.
While the challenges are difficult and never-ending, the benefits and experiences this life has to offer are second to none. See the world, taste the food, take pictures. Meet people, try new things, explore.
Learn to laugh at mistakes, empathize with your neighbor and trust that your presence in every place and moment has a purpose and a reason.