this article was originally published at Daily Blog on 4 March 2017
When people hear that we are in the military, they ask one of two questions. How many times have you moved and where? How many times has your husband been deployed? The deployment question isn’t the focus for today, so I’ll answer the moving question. We have moved four times, and have lived in Colorado, Turkey, Maryland, and Spain. We moved twice before that, but that wasn’t military related. We are getting ready to move from Spain now, but we have no idea where we are going. That leads directly into my 10 pros and cons of moving in the military. Since I believe in the compliment sandwich when giving someone bad news, I’m going to do this the same way.
- Pro – You get to see wonderful places.
We have lived in two countries outside of the United States. We have traveled as much as possible while overseas and seen some amazing sites. Traveling is one of the perks of moving all the time in the military. You can travel without being in the military, but if they are already paying to fly you across the ocean, then it’s easier to take advantage of that fact and see everything you can while you’re there.
- Pro – You get to reinvent yourself over and over and over.
Some people might not like this aspect, but I love it. I think it makes life a little easier. If I’m starting to feel bogged down with doing too many things or saying yes to too many things, then moving to another state or another country really solves that problem for me. I know there is a definite downside to this and I’d like to explore that and talk about it more, because it’s also one of the things I think I miss the most about my life BM (before the military).
- Pro – You become resilient and know how to survive anywhere.
After the first few times you move and start your world over, you become more comfortable with the whole process. You learn that you can survive almost anywhere if you can find a commissary. Just kidding, and if you don’t know what a commissary is, I’ll talk about that later as well. You learn that almost everything can be done using google translate and there really are nice people everywhere who are almost always willing to use their limited English and your limited “whatever” language to help you get where you need to be.
- Con – You almost never know where you’ll live until you move to the new place.
This is the bind we’re in right now. Not only do we not know where we’re going to live, we don’t even know where in the world we will be living. All we know is that at the end of the summer, we will be packed up and moved out of Spain. We are awaiting word any day now on where they will be moving us to, and you’re lucky (or not), that I’m planning to document it for you every step of the way. About the actual move though. We can look for houses online and we can even find wonderful people wherever you are moving who will go around and take pics of houses for you, but there is something to be said for walking through a house that you want to buy. We can wait until we move there to start looking, but we only have a limited number of days to find a house. There are quite a few rules in the AFI (Air Force Instructions) that we must follow for housing, and one of them is that if they have a house available for us, and we decline that house, then our days are numbered to look for a house. So, it becomes a time crunch for some people. We are planning to buy our first house with this move, wherever that may be, so stay tuned to see how all this house hunting from far away works out for us.
- Con – Your mail never knows where to go or how to find you for months at a time.
When you live overseas, it takes a long time to get mail. That’s just a fact of life. Something from amazon that would usually take 2-3 days, takes 2-3 weeks to get here. Then add on to that when you move from the states and give this address as your forwarding address, then when someone sends you something, it goes to the place you lived before, and then is forwarded to your new overseas address. That just adds a few extra days on to it. Now let’s say we’re getting ready to move back to the states, and so we give them our forwarding address. Now the mail comes to Spain, and then has to be forwarded back to the US. So, what took 2-3 weeks to get here now takes 2-3 weeks more to find us at our new location. It’s why we were all so happy when bill paying became an online thing. It saves us a lot of headaches.
- Con – You have to learn to make new friends all the time.
This isn’t such a big deal for about half of the population because half of us are extroverts. The other half of the population… the introverted… are not so lucky. I have taken the personality tests, and I am close to the middle of this scale. I fall into the extroverted side though, and as I’ve gotten older and more comfortable with who I am, I’ve embraced that extrovert a little bit more, but the making friends thing is still hard for me. I can’t imagine the level of loneliness that someone feels when they first move to a new place and they aren’t comfortable going anywhere without someone they know. I try to reach out to those people when I’m no longer the new girl myself because I know it must be hard. I can say that I’ve met wonderful people at each of our assignments, and I do my best to keep in touch with them, but it just doesn’t happen as much as I’d like. It is a purposeful act to keep up with what’s going on with them. We are still all growing as people and unfortunately, we are no longer growing together. It is the thing I dislike the most about this life we’re living. I crave a group of friends who see my kids from infancy to adulthood. Who walk with me through every stage of my life. I want to see someone else’s kids grow up and share those experiences with them. This thought alone has the power to make me want to quit this military moving life and just curl up in my bed and cry.
- Con – You sometimes have no idea what people around you are saying.
Languages are just hard. Y’all, I’m so glad that English is my first language because if I had to learn to speak English with all our weird rules and the way we pronounce things and spell things, I’d just quit and throw all my English books away! People around the world amaze me with their ability to learn English. They will say in completely flawless English “My English is bad”, and then proceed to answer any and every question I have about what I need or where I’m going. I’m just blown away. It also makes me feel very inadequate. We lived in Turkey for nearly 2 years. Almost 24 months, and I can say hello, count to 10, and ask how are you? And THAT. IS. ALL! When I found out we were coming to Spain, I was kind of excited about the prospect of learning more Spanish. I only needed one more class in college to have a minor in Spanish. My entire senior year Spanish class was taught only in Spanish. She never spoke English to us, and I still managed to pass that class. So, I thought I was good. I’m a pro at duolingo (this is an amazing language app, so get it!!) so I thought I’d be good and not have a problem. Well… my Spanish teacher must have been speaking very slowly! Actual Spanish, spoken by actual Spaniards sounds like they are racing to finish their sentence before they run out of breath. They speak so quickly and in the region we live, Andalucía, they have a weird little sound they put on some of their letters, and then they cut off the ends of a lot of words also. So, what I’m trying to say is… I feel like I know nothing! All the Spanish I learned helps me to read anything and everything over here, but an actual conversation is nearly impossible. “Lo siento. Hablo Español un pocito.” I say this before anything else… it means. “I’m sorry. I speak a little Spanish.” They smile and then speak to me like they are talking to a toddler. Which I love, and then… after I’ve stumbled my way through 3 sentences that cannot even sort of be considered grammatically correct, they will say “English?” and then we just speak in English. My Spanish experience is complete!
- Con – Your children grow up never really knowing how to answer the question “where are you from?”
I experience this as an adult when I ask people where they are from and they’ve grown up in the military. There is just a long pause and then some form of explanation that I’m sure they’ve shared tons of times comes out of their mouths. Some version of, “well, I was born ____, but we moved a lot in the military” or “my grandparents lived in _____ , so that was considered home”. I wish for my kids to have the same roots that I have. I lived in the same town from the time I came home from the hospital as a newborn until I went away to college. I had most of the same people in my graduating class that were in my Kindergarten class. I can’t understand this life, and yet I’m inflicting it upon my children. It all goes back to the same problem of connecting with other people. They have to constantly be the new kids and while it does make them strong, it also makes them sad sometimes. And that makes me sad too.
- Pro – You learn that family means people who aren’t related come together to help each other.
I am very close to my family. My momma and my daddy were wonderful parents, and they are now wonderful grandparents. I grew up just down the street from the house my mother grew up in and spent a lot of time with my grandmother. I lived a few blocks from my dad’s mother also and saw that side of the family all the time. My parents each have 3 siblings, and between those 6 siblings, only 1 of them moved away from my hometown. So, there are a lot of us in that one place, and I feel far away from them a lot, but especially when they get together for birthdays and holidays. But the one thing I have learned in the military is that people who aren’t related to you at all can become your family. They don’t know all the cool things you did as kids, or any of the embarrassing stuff from your childhood, but they support you just the same. I believe people excel at this ability anyway, but it is never more apparent than in a military setting. When the only people you have to rely on are the other military people around you, it makes you more responsive to helping other people out. You know what it’s like to move to a new country and not have your car yet, so you stop more often to offer families a ride in the same situation. You know how hard it is to cook while waiting for all of your household goods to reach you, so you are more willing to bring food to new families. You have to get to know people pretty quickly when you move a lot, and you learn that those people become family. Just a unique family in their own way.
- Pro – You learn that home is truly wherever you are all together.
With all the foster children that we’ve had in and out of our home and now the guardianship that we have and the future adoption that we have planned, our little house never seems to look the same. We have moved children in and out and no one year seems to ever look the same as the one before. One thing has stayed consistent. We are a family. If someone lived with us for only 4 months, as our youngest foster daughter did, or if I gave birth to someone and they’ve been with us forever, it doesn’t matter. They are part of our family. It started with just me and Ron and we knew from the very beginning that we wanted a big family. To him, that meant 3-4 kids, but I knew what it meant to me. I wanted a house full, and I wanted them to keep coming. My views haven’t changed at all, but his has. Just last week he told me that a sibling group of 3 for adoption sounded perfect to him. Meaning we will have 6 kids! He didn’t even blink at that. Maybe 17 years of being married to me has just worn him down! That’s probably not it, but maybe! He and I have just always known that we would move around, and so we’ve tried to create memories and routines that can happen no matter where we live or what our house looks like. We still do the same things around the holidays and it makes our house a home no matter where the physical location is. Just being together is what makes it our home. No matter what.
I hope you enjoyed a glimpse at moving in the military and how it can be both good and bad. Let me know about any topics you want me to explore or explain and anything else you might want to know about our experiences in the military. Have a great week!