Be Yourself First, Military Spouse Second
By Sunshine Burgess
The military is a big melting pot. People come from all backgrounds and walks of life into the same, often small world that is the US military. This can be an advantage we have to diversify our relationships and hopefully, learn about people from all areas of this country (sometimes even from around the world) and other cultures, something that our counterparts in the civilian world may never have the opportunity to experience. This can be a blessing and a curse all at once.
As a new military spouse, you may not have ever left the comfort of the world you grew up in. If you are like me, you could have grown up in a small town and lived in the same house most of your life. I went to the same school from kindergarten through graduation. We knew everyone in the school, their parents and siblings, even extended family. We weren’t wealthy and the extent of travel was within our area of the country that could be reached easily by extended car trips. Until I left for college, my little world was all I knew. Although college opened my eyes to a larger variety of people, nothing prepared me for adjusting to being a military spouse and being whisked away to Europe, and everything I knew and found comfort in, shortly after marrying.
The adjustment to new assignments is where the curse comes into play. I want you to know, it is only a curse if you let it become one. It is only a curse if you choose to not be open to the new experience and the new people you will meet. I am a mom and I am going to advise you the same way I do my children…every new assignment is a new beginning. Don’t take the baggage from your last location into the new one and that baggage can be good or bad. Every assignment is different and has its own benefits and challenges. If you constantly compare your new location to the past one, you may have trouble adjusting. Maybe I am just too observant, but when I see people post on social media constantly with memories from a past assignment, saying things like “miss these people” or “wish I was there right now”, I instantly think they aren’t accepting where they are currently and that location will not likely change anytime soon. Occasionally, you will have memories you just have to share, but when those memory posts greatly outweigh any positive posts about what you are doing in the here and now, it gives me pause. You have to live the life you have in front of you. Sometimes it isn’t exactly as exciting or great as the one you were living 5-10 years ago or even last year, but it is the life you have and you can’t find joy in the present if you live in the past.
As you adjust to the new assignment, you also have to adjust to the people. Some assignments have people that you just mesh with. It is like you find your place as soon as you arrive. Everything feels meant to be. That doesn’t always happen. In fact, that rarely happens. Most of the time it takes work and time to find your “person”. This is another place where you have to leave the baggage behind. Just because you got hurt or burned once upon a time at a location far, far away, that doesn’t mean that everyone is bad. That is the BEST thing about moving around and even if you don’t move, new people move in all the time. Not all spouses are bad and out to get you. There are good and bad. As with life in general, you should always proceed with caution and be sensible. Don’t open up with all your deepest, darkest secrets to someone you just met, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share stories and experiences and develop friendships. Actual trusting friendships take time to develop and thankfully, modern technology allows us to continue those from even a distance. However, don’t get so wrapped up in your relationship with one person a thousand miles away and your bitterness over another person who may have wronged you that you close yourself off to the opportunity to possibly enrich your life with new people. You can’t let the bad people you have encountered have the power to ruin your future possible relationships. Negative experiences are opportunities to learn and form the person you become. When people ask me if I could go back and change anything in my past, what would it be? Have you been asked that? My answer is always the same. NOTHING. Everything in my past, every person I ever met, was friends with or adversaries, or even the guys I dated (and there were plenty of not great ones), they all played a part in making me the person I am today. Honestly, I like that person and if someone doesn’t, they can be on their merry way.
My last reminder would be to always be you. Be the you that you want to be, not the you that you THINK you should be or that others INSIST that you should be. Don’t let people silence you during your journey just because they don’t like your voice. Even after my sixteen years of being a military spouse, I have to remind myself of this almost daily, because silencers rear their ugly heads even now. There is always someone who will be critical of you or who is intimidated by you and who you are. This is their problem, not yours. People who feel small are fighting their own internal demons and they will project them onto you and you can’t let little people bring you down to their level. They are usually the ones who aren’t happy in their own skin/lives and misery loves company. Always rise above. It is your life and as long as you are true to yourself and the person that you want to be, for you and your family, you will find your place. Maybe it is with one person who remains a confidant for life or a large group of people who are like a village, a home away from home. People change with each location and you will fit into each location in different ways. There isn’t one type of military spouse. We come in all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and experiences, ages and sexes, etc. If we were all alike, it would be a very boring life. If you have the courage to open yourself up and embrace the possibilities, you will find your fit. Your fit. Not mine or anyone else’s. You are your own person first, being a military spouse is secondary.