Have you ever lived in an amazing place and still hated being there? Maybe it was Hawaii? Or Europe? Maybe it was a place you thought you would love but now that you have been there a few years, you really can’t find the love? Maybe you are trying to bloom where you are stationed but coming up short?
Hating your duty station is a thing, and some places get a worse wrap than others. On the other hand, I know plenty of people who have been stationed at places like Fort Polk, Fort Bliss, and 29 Palms and loved their time there. Yes, they did.
So why do some people hate a perfectly decent duty station and why do others love the more unpopular places? I have a theory on this. I know the secret to not hating your duty station. It is part of the reason why sometimes I love living near Fort Campbell and sometimes I don’t. It is why some people love Bliss, and others hate Germany.
The secret to loving your duty station is finding your people.
Sure, there are always exceptions to this. You grew up in Florida, you hate the snow, and now you are at Fort Drum. Your entire family lives on the East Coast, and you are in Alaska for three years. Your house sucks, and your husband has been deployed way too many times since you got to this duty station.
But even in those situations, finding your people will help you.
Having a friend group is going to change things around for you. Having people to connect with, hang out with, and to call friends is going to make you fall in love with almost any duty station, no matter how much you hate the weather.
Think about it.
You PCS somewhere new. You are not sure what to think. You never even thought you would live in that state let alone this part of the country. You feel lost, like you will never fit in.
You worry you won’t find your tribe. That you won’t find people, who get you. That you will have to do this by yourself, all by yourself.
But then, you meet another spouse who loves to read just like you do. And she has a two-year-old too. Maybe you don’t have any kids but you have three dogs, and you find out your neighbor has three of her own. You get invited to a playdate and realize that you may have found your people. You have figured it out. Things are looking up.
When you connect with others, when you have people to make plans with, when you do not have to walk this military road alone, something happens. You start to feel better, you start to feel like you belong, you realize that no matter how much you didn’t want to come to Fort Whatever You Now Live, you can start to call that place home.
The hardest part about finding your people is taking the steps to find them.
Because sometimes that can take a while. Sometimes the first people you meet are not going to be your people. Sometimes giving up and trying to be okay without friends is the easiest thing to do.
But…this is not the best plan.
You need to find people. You just do. Your spouse is going to deploy eventually. And if they don’t they will probably have to go somewhere at some point.
You will want people to text in the middle of the day, to hang with. People who share the same fears you do, and can help you through your struggles.
So if you hate your duty station, before you write the place off, have you found your people yet?
If not, choose to try to do that. Commit to get out there and meet new people. Keeping trying until you do, the struggle with be worth it.
If you have children, look for a local MOPS group. MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. You don’t just have to have a preschooler though. A typical MOPS group is for newly pregnant women through women whose youngest child is in Kindergarten. MOPS Next is for those whose youngest child is in the 8th grade. They have childcare for your kids, and you will be able to meet other moms to connect with.
If you are religious, check out the chapel for programs. There are Bible studies, book clubs and even events for kids.
If you like fitness, look for a local work out or running group or join a gym and take some classes.
If you like to read, look for a book club.
If you are new to your duty station, check out the newcomers class, you might meet some new people there.
If you have free time, check out the volunteer opportunities on post as well as in your civilian communities.
If you want to connect with military spouses in the FRG, go to a meeting, see what is going on there. You could end up with a great FRG that would be a fantastic resource for you.
If you have school-aged children, get involved in the PTO or PTA.
If you don’t have children, see if there is a child-free Facebook group at your duty station you can find people to connect with.
There are so many different ways to meet other people no matter where you live. Sometimes duty stations in the middle of nowhere make finding other people easier than in bigger places. You have to depend on each other more, and the community is a closer-knit one.
While meeting new people, you might run into drama and frustrating situations that will make you want to stick to your own home, but don’t let that stop you from finding your people. You need them and trust me, not everyone is awful, even if it feels like it sometimes.
Change things up, go to new places, join a new job, and keep trying because once you figure out the secret of not hating your duty station, you might just fall in love with the place.