I stare at this blank page with no idea on where to start explaining this lifestyle. It’s daunting and magical at the same time. You get married and you assume that you will travel the globe together, have free housing and healthcare, raise all these tiny military brats, and get old together living off veterans pay. Well, only some of that is true.
I’ve come to realize that it’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks it is. It’s like instead of putting your family first, the military is first. The men go to work, get shipped off on deployments, work nights, get called in on their one day off, go TDY for 30 days at a time, etc. And sometimes we don’t even know where they’re going or if we will have contact with them. Family comes second. Family is the support system that makes priority number one happen. It’s like I’m the third wheel in a marriage between my husband and the military, but somehow I’m okay with that.
When military wives complain about our husbands being gone or absent we always have that one friend or relative that says “well you knew what you were signing up for.” Really? How were we supposed to know? Do you know what you’re really signing up for in any marriage? How would this be any different? We don’t know what we’re signing up for but we’re still willing to sign on the dotted line and jump right in.
While it may not be all sunshine and rainbows there are some pretty spectacular parts of this life we have chosen. We have seen countries in Europe that we would have never seen otherwise. Castles, rivers, villages, and more. We have tried food that we have never even heard of. We have walked down cobblestone roads where are ancestors were from. How crazy is that? I’ve learned more about myself in the last two years than I have the rest of my life combined. We get to travel and explore and while that’s a huge bonus to being stationed overseas, it also means making sacrifices. We hug the people we love the most for the last time in months. We squeeze them tight wondering when we’re going to see them again then step on a plane waving goodbye with crying kids in our arms; trying to wipe our own tears. It’s heartbreaking and also makes us reconsider what is really important in life.
Our checks aren’t huge and we still pay bills. We still go to the store and buy our own groceries, we still drop our kids off at school every morning, we still go to work or choose to stay at home with the kids, we still go to church on Sunday, and cook dinner at home every night. It seems like a regular life from the outside looking in, but it’s the furthest thing from it.
We live over here guessing at half the things we do. We don’t know where to park or if we have to pay, we can’t read billboards on the highway, we don’t walk into the grocery store and know what people are talking about but we still smile and keep walking. Everything is like a game and we are just playing, guessing and hoping we’re doing things right. There’s no manual or rulebook for living overseas. We don’t go to school to learn the culture or the language before we get sent here. We are left to figure it all out on our own. It’s an adventure and so terrifying.
I am so thankful for the life that I have chosen to accept but I also have a piece of my heart constantly separated from the rest of my being. I left pieces of myself 5,000 miles away and I can’t pick them back up and put them back together. You rely on your spouse knowing that everything else that surrounds you is only temporary and in a few years you will be on yet another plane with your big brown boxes, moving into a new house you have never seen before.
I find that the most challenging aspect of this lifestyle is not being able to explain it to my kids. Not only did we choose this lifestyle for ourselves but we chose it for our children. They don’t understand why we can’t get in the car and drive over to Mimi or Papaw’s house to play with toys, or go to their friends house for a playdate, or drive down the road to Sonic for a big ice cream sundae. As moms we do the best we can to explain these things but it hurts your heart to know that your child is curious and there’s no way to explain it that makes sense to their little souls. It’s just something that happens. We move, our friends move, things change, and nothing is forever. We start to get used to saying goodbye.
My 18-month-old saying “goodbye” to her first real best friend.
What we sometimes forget through all of the hard times is the beauty of this lifestyle we get to show our children. My 3 year old has been to over 5 countries and has been exposed to so many different languages and cultures. While she might not remember every second of it, she has gained memories and been influenced in her childhood. She’s learned that not everyone is the same and that’s okay. She has even picked up some of the languages. She has been around people that are very different from her and she has learned what it means to accept people as they are.
I will forever be thankful for this lifestyle because I know that any marriage and any chosen life has it’s battles and it’s successes. For me though, the most important thing was finding myself and I have been able to learn more about myself and who I am and what I want in life than I ever thought I could. I love myself for being able to make it through these challenges and still have a strong head on my shoulders.