I’m going to skip the recap of my procrastination cycle that I continue to get myself in with writing this blog and just jump in to today’s post, in which I feel ready to catch up to more current events because I finally, after 9 months, feel like I’ve adjusted to our most recent military change. I mentioned a few posts back that I (and we) have been really frustrated with military stuff for awhile now. The long and short of it started with D finishing flight school and it finally feels like it has ended with hot, sticky boredom but peace in little old Meridian, Mississippi. I’ll share a little of our journey with this transition although a lot of the more personal bits have been left out.
It all started with D’s selection, which is what happens when they finish primary flight training and are selected to fly a specific air craft. For Navy guys, the options for platforms are Maritime(P3s and P8s), Rotary(helicopters), Jets, or E2-C2. At the end of training, they have the guys fill out a “dream sheet” where they rank their top 3 choices. This is a step in what I now realize is the Navy’s cruel trick of making you think you have a choice, when in reality you don’t. Maybe we were naive to forget that military life means hanging up your free will for the “needs of the Navy.” But the students are encouraged to do the best they can and given the impression that if they do well in flight school that they will get their top choice. Maybe this is true for some but we are now no longer naive to think that there are any absolutes.
Each squadron does their selection differently, but D’s basically had the guys line up at the squadron bar with family and friends around. Each student had three chips in a cup that each had a platform on it. They’d toast someone and then pull out a chip and read it. The CO would then look at the list and tell them yes or no if they were assigned to it. My husband already has two helicopters licenses, got the best score that week and 60% of the Navy pilots fly helicopters, so I think we weren’t the only ones assuming that he would get his first choice of rotary. Three chips in the cup, so if you got two no’s, then you knew the third one was a yes and your platform, right? Well, D got a no for e2/c2, a no for maritime, and then pulled out a rotary chip. Sigh of relief. Rotary means D gets to fly what he wants, we stay in Pensacola, and he’ll wing in a mere 6 months. The CO looks down at his bind and then says um, no. They steal his cup and put another chip in it. Whoops they say – jets it is. I think we both spent the next hour thinking “what just happened?” Not only did we get jets, we also were getting sent to Meridian, MS rather than Kingsville, TX which D had requested. In 3 weeks.
I won’t go into all the details of why this was difficult for us, but it wasn’t made any easier by people who didn’t get why anyone would be anything but super ecstatic to fly jets or to be a fighter pilot’s wife and didn’t understand the significant of how this would impact our current life and future. This was a major adjustment for us to wrap our heads around in addition to everything that came with it – We ended up living apart for 7 months as I commuted back and forth to my business and our home in Pensacola. D’s training started very slow and he seemed to be scheduled for duty every time I came for a visit. Then training stopped altogether due to issues with the oxygen system in the training jets. (If you think it’s difficult for a military wife to deal with the idea that her husband could die in battle, try wrapping your brain around the idea that your husband’s own plane could poison him.) Meridian was smaller than any town we’d ever lived in, and to make things worse, everyone we knew was either staying in Pensacola or going to Texas.
But here we are. A lot of problems or questions or fears that have come with this transition have not been solved, answered, or soothed. But I’m finally feeling on a regular basis like things are okay. Maybe its time, maybe its perspective, whatever it is, I like feeling this way. And I actually feel like I’ve learned a few things along the way, and maybe you’ve been here too if you’re a navy wife.
1. It is not up to you. I’d heard it a million times, you read about it, you hear it constantly. The military doesn’t care about what is best for you, it’s whats best for the Navy. You know that when you join this group, you sacrifice. But I don’t think you can fully understand what that means to give up your freedom of choice until you’re going through it. I don’t know why the Navy asks us or why we keep asking each other where we want to live or what we want for our future. Feel free not to ask me, because honestly I’d rather not make a decision that is not really mine to make.
2. You can be happy, but it’s okay if it takes time. Moving is hard. Moving to the deep south when you grew up a yankee is hard. Moving to a tiny town where the nearest Target is 90 minutes away is hard. Leaving your first home is hard. Leaving your job or business you built is hard. Finding a job or creating a new one is hard. Making new friends is hard. Saying goodbye to friends is hard. Doing all this when your husbands dreams were just dashed is hard. I don’t think pressuring myself to be happy about this move made me any happier. I’m okay that its taken me a long time.
3. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to be happy. A trip to Starbucks, a walk through Anthropologie or Target, a few minutes on my back porch, a morning on the beach, an evening in my garden – all these were effortless happiness for me. None of those things exist in Meridian, so I can either be unhappy or work for it. I will go anywhere and try anything here because there just isn’t that much to do. Make new friends, make a new beautiful home, make new hobbies and new memories. That may take effort and work, especially in a small town, but its worth it.
4. Go outside your comfort zone. I grew up outside Philly and stepped with my girlfriends during recess and I now own three horses, wear cowboy boots on a regular basis, and actually crave pork skins now and then. I don’t like leaving a/c if its over 80, but I’ve spent most of the summer dirty and sweaty on our friends’ muggy farm with horses pigs and a cow named Einstein. I bake pies and go to antique shops and rodeos. Not because these things are me, but because I want to be happy where I am, and for now that’s the deep south which is not my comfort zone. (I actually told D when we were moving to Florida that I didn’t even want to drive across Mississippi and jokes on me, we live here). And we’ll probably be here for quite some time, so I will continue to do everything I can to make my uncomfortable zone as comfy and cozy as can be. And you know what? I really do love pie.
5. Advocate for yourself. Michelle Obama may have convinced you that military spouses will be taken care of but the reality in this country is far from policy. I said awhile back that military spouses are awesome and the truth is, we are a giant ball of awesomeness that is a majorly untapped resource. I wish every military wife knew how awesome she was and wasn’t afraid to demand that people pay attention to that rather than just brush her under the rug. It is not easy and I think at times we will feel absolutely defeated. But don’t let the defeat take over, keep fighting for whatever it is that you deserve whether its a job, a home, a license, or something for your family.
6. Try not to make comparisons. It really felt for awhile and there continue to be things that make me feel like we are getting the short end of the stick. But there’s always going to someone who has it worse and someone who has it better. Comparing either way rarely makes us feel good. There’s no set path of what D’s military career will look like and chances are it will be different than our friends. I’m trying to focus on our own path.
7. Pie. It’s all I can think about now.