When I used to hear people talk about their sorority or college dorm living, I would get wistful for an experience I never had. I graduated high school at age 16 and started college right after, only to realize that at that stage in life, it wasn’t for me. I joined the work force and while working a job I loved, bought my first house before I could legally buy my first beer. I “adulted” in the real world instead of going to college the traditional way, and often regretted that decision.

When I finally decided that a Bachelor’s degree was something I wanted to pursue, I had already married my service member; going to a brick and mortar school wasn’t in the cards for me. I completed my degree entirely online through my husband’s B-Billet, two duty stations, four cross country drives, two deployments, a preschooler and the birth of a second child…you get the picture. While I was unpacking my laptop in strange hotel rooms after eight hours of driving so I didn’t fall behind, I was cursing myself for not finishing my degree the first time I had the chance.

To my fellow spouses out there that might be struggling with those feelings of regret, putting in late nights after the children have gone to bed, I am dying to share with you the “ah-ha” moment that changed my outlook forever.

My husband has the privilege of serving at Marine Barracks Washington, where I have attended many of the Friday evening parades. If you’ve never seen one, put it on your bucket list now! At one of these Friday evening parades, I had the advantage of sitting front and center– my toes were about three inches from the Commandant’s Lawn. I was smiling so uncontrollably that I paused to look around me to see if anyone was watching my display of happiness. Then it hit me that I belong to the absolute best group of people in the world – the military spouses that I call my brothers and sisters.

It took me years to wrap my head around a concept so small that I was ashamed of harboring these feelings of regret. I was welcomed into a family, a Corps and military that I have grown to love and make my own. While I wished for a sorority experience, I had an active duty Marine hold my hand as my first child was brought into this world while my husband was in Iraq. These “life changing experiences” I thought I missed out on were happening all around me.

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks reading Corie Weathers’ book Sacred Spaces, where she is vulnerable about personal experiences in her marriage. Without that I might not have the courage to share my feelings of regret and borderline resentment. Aside from looking at my marriage with fresh eyes, a large take away I had is that in order to really connect with people you have to put yourself out there, the good and the bad. I’m sharing this in hopes that it can help some of you going through something similar.

Perhaps it could be chalked up to becoming numb to hardships over the years and a “Semper Gumby” mentality. Whatever the reason, I hope it doesn’t take you as long as it took me to lay down my regrets and truly appreciate everything that comes along with being married to the flag.

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