I just renewed my passport. I have no plans to travel internationally anytime in the near future, but if I didn’t renew soon, I would have to start the process over. This blows me away a little bit. It doesn’t seem like it was too long ago that I was waiting not so patiently for my first passport to come in the mail. But that was in early 2006, 15 years ago.
How has it been 15 years since my son and I flew over to Germany to join my husband on our Army adventure? So much has happened since the day he rejoined the Army. I have grown so much and learned so many lessons over the years.
Over the years, you can’t help but learn more about yourself, and military life in general. Lessons that will help you in the future, or as you start a new military life journey. Here is a list of 15 lessons I have learned during my 15 years as a military spouse:
- Don’t trust timelines. Seriously don’t. Hope for the best and expect the worst.
When my husband first joined and got orders to Germany, we were told we could join him over there in about a month. Nope. Luckily, I had a sense joining him overseas would take a bit longer than that.
2. Make new friends. Seriously…do it. You will need them.
Whether you are going through a deployment, or just need to vent about something another military spouse would understand, make new friends, however you can.
3. Your duty station is what you make of it.
I know, some duty stations are better than others. How can you compare Monterey with Fort Polk, but the truth is, there is a lot you can do to turn things around at a not-so-ideal duty station.
Find a friend group, look for fun things to do, and try to focus on what your current duty station has to offer. I know that doing that is hard sometimes, but it is better than feeling stuck or like you just can’t wait to get out of a place that you really can’t leave for a few more years.
4. Try the FRG. Try the spouse group. You never know.
I know, I know, these types of groups can have a bad reputation. But why not try them at least once? You might not like it, you might never go back, but maybe just maybe this can be a way to find some friends, and get to know a little bit more about what to expect during military life.
5. You don’t have to give up on your dreams.
I was mom of two small boys, bored in Germany, so I started a blog. And the blog grew. And I kept writing, and the blog grew even more. And because of that blog I now have a freelancing career and so many amazing opportunities coming my way.
Find ways to work on your own dreams whatever they might be. You can go to school during military life, you can work your own career, or start a business. The sky is the limit, never forget that.
6. Not all children need the same things
Let’s face it, military life can be really difficult for our children. They might not always understand what is going on or why their parent has to be away. And there is so much good advice out there.
However, what works for one kid might not work for another. What bothers one child might not bother another. So figure out what your own child needs, and find ways to help them, instead of feeling like you have to follow a specific checklist.
8) Get off your duty station
No matter where you are, get off your duty station. Go exploring. Take a walk. Take a hike. See the sights.
If you are overseas, you might not ever be back in that country again. See what is out there and take advantage of the time you have. You will be so glad you did.
9) Journal it all
I strongly recommend journaling for anyone going through a deployment or a difficult time. This will help you get everything out. This will help you find more peace.
Don’t know where to start? Find a journal, and just start writing. Even if it doesn’t make any sense. Just get the words out there.
10) Love letters are the best
We have love letters from my grandparents, saved from World War II. Those letters give me a picture of their lives. What that time was like for them and what they went through being apart for three years.
I cherish all the letters I have gotten from my husband over the years, even the small postcards that said, “thinking of you.”
11. Not everyone is going to understand
The truth is, not everyone is going to understand the decision to join the military or even decisions about when you will come home to visit or where you are moving to.
You have to do what is right for your military family and create those boundaries. Even people who love you very much might get upset over how you choose to handle homecoming. Be clear about expectations and let people know that this decision is what is best for your family.
12. You never stop learning and adjusting
No matter how many years you have hit as a military spouse, there is always something new to learn. I am still trying to figure things out.
Whether you are worried about how a deployment will go or how to handle being so far from family. Military spouse life is a learning experience. Take what you have been through and use it to help you in the future.
13. You won’t keep in touch with everyone…and that’s okay
Saying goodbye to friends is never easy. I like to say, “see you later” instead. But the reality is, you might not stay in touch with everyone.
But I think that is just a part of life. Some people move and you still connect with them, even on a daily basis. Others, fade into memories.
14. You can be the military spouse you want to be
Don’t like to send care packages? That’s fine! Don’t ever want to live on post? Go you! As military spouses it can be easy to be pigeonholed into the “perfect military spouse” but the truth is, you can be the military spouse you want to be.
You do you. It’s so important that you do. And trust me, there are probably other military spouses out there that feel the same way about things that you do.
15. The military world is a small world
I was taking my boys to a garage sale on post when I heard someone in a van shout, “Julie?” I turned around and it was a friend of mine from Germany. Her husband just got stationed at Fort Campbell too. It was so great to see her and reconnect our friendship during her time here.
That is what I love about military spouse life. The world is small. And you might just end up with friends from a previous duty station back in your life again.