I think it’s pretty fair to say that military life — and all the kooky, crazy, little nuances that come with it — are somewhat far removed from, let’s say, a “normal” life.
It’s the fate of every new military spouse: When your family unit is set against a military backdrop, things you used to take for granted suddenly evaporate. You have to learn, rapidly, a slew of new customs, habits, and basically a new language to boot. It’s overwhelming, in the first fragile couple of years; it’s a truth universally acknowledged (in the military community, at least).
But the strangest thing of all is that once the dust has settled from the PCS, time has ticked on at the first duty station, and you start to build a little life in this once-alien community: It becomes your new normal.
Or, as any of your civilian friends might think from the outside looking in: You drank the Kool-Aid!
Here’s a few of the things I’ve found to be the most awkward to explain, and the hardest to relate, to my twenty-something civilian friends. Let us know in the comments what you’d add!
1. I Wife So Hard
Okay, first of all — when my husband used the term “brown baggers” in the beginning, I swore it was a joke. Either way, during his first school, he was one of maybe thirty of ’em. The sad thing was, he literally was a brown bagger — with lunches all packed and ready to go in Walmart’s finest paper lunchware, sealed with a kiss by yours truly.
For a few months, when my husband first began his military journey, I was unable to work at the time (and trust me, that was a huge blow to my self-confidence at first — but that’s another story). So I adjusted. I ran the household; it seemed only fair that I’d be the one to cook, clean, and so forth, because I wasn’t the one going out to work for fourteen hours plus. That was just how we did it.
Even now that I work full time, I do still take care of most of the “house stuff,” because of course his job is still immensely more time-consuming and difficult than my own. While I’m by no means suggesting this is how every family ought to take care of business, it’s how we’ve handled things, and yes — part of me giggles about this — I wife so hard.
It’s difficult for many of my civilian friends to imagine this domesticated life when, really, most of my pre-military peers are a) unmarried, and b) focusing on their careers. But hey! That’s where we are and we’re all equally happy doing what we do. I just make twice the amount of sandwiches.
2. They’re “Only” Away for [Insert Time Frame]
“Oh, he’s only going to the field for a month!”
After a while, I realized that I didn’t really mind that my husband was going to be gone for field exercises aplenty. If he’s home — awesome. If not? Life ticks on regardless.
Also, I noticed that everything compares to the worst time — after a deployment, who gives a hoot if he leaves for a week/a fortnight/a month? The first deployment is big and scary in so many hideous ways, but if there’s one positive to come out of it, it’s that you truly learn how to deal on your own again.
So when your civilian pal’s jaw drops because you forgot to mention that your spouse has been out in some desert range for the last couple of weeks, I guess you know the life you live is a little crazy (and it’s cool).
3. Yep, I’d Even Move THERE
Remember that gorgeous little song from the musical “Oliver!” — “I’d go anywhere/For you, dear, anywhere” — or is it just me? Kudos to my ladies who also grew up with strange Victorian themed musicals, but regardless, you get the gist. You really would go anywhere! And, if you think about it, that’s quite a lot for those outside of the military to grasp.
Case in point: When my husband got orders to the middle of the Mojave desert (hi, 29’ers!) a little part of me died…and then was very quickly reborn. Learning to adjust to living anywhere — home or away — is truly part and parcel of the military lifestyle.
No, we can’t always keep a steady career running. Yes, we might be 3,000 miles away from home. But as much as it may shock our civilian friends and family a little — we’ll keep doing it, for the love of a good man (or woman!)
4. We Always Pick Up Where We Left Off
The military life will quickly make you realize that the term “long distance relationship” is not exclusively for lovers — oh no, it becomes much the same for friends and family, too.
Being so far removed from the lives of so many of my nearest and dearest made one thing, above all else, clear as crystal to me: That, while I love them endlessly, it’s impossible to keep close and constant communication open with everyone when you have so much going on.
Maybe it’s mad that I can genuinely call or text someone after a couple of months and feel that nothing is different? Quite honestly, it feels as though life out here exists in some strange continuum where weeks will pass in the blink of an eye. I know it’s grating, maddening, and bizarre to hear — but bear with us, loved ones. We’re trying!