As your time is nearing an end at your current duty station and your rotation date is approaching, you are probably getting extremely anxious waiting to hear where your next assignment might be.
You want to prepare, maybe even start packing, but you don’t even know what to save for immediate use at your next duty station or what to let the movers pack.
Friends and family ask you every day if you know where you are going.
How do you answer their questions when you, yourself, have a million questions running through your mind?
“Will it be hot or cold where I’m going next?”
“What will the housing be like? Is there space on base or will I be looking for a home in town?”
“How am I supposed to enroll my kid in school if I don’t even know where I’m going?”
“We are supposed to have our PCS Move in a couple of months and have not heard anything. We are still PCSing, RIGHT?!”
Your neighbors and peers are getting assignments left and right. Every time you hear of a new assignment drop, you can’t help but judge their next base.
Regardless if it’s a dream location or one that you would like to avoid, there is a sense of jealousy for the fact that they at least KNOW where they’re going.
That’s when it happens. You get the phone call, email, tap on the shoulder, whatever it is, that you have been (im)patiently waiting for.
“Congratulations! Your next assignment is ___________.” Is this a joke? There’s actually a military installation there?
I’ve only ever heard it referred to as the location that you spend your whole career trying to avoid. I’ve heard others even console themselves after receiving a less-than-ideal assignment by saying, “well at least it’s not ___________.”
What do you do in this situation?
I’ll tell you what you do.
You hold your head high and hope for the best. Chances are, you only have a split second to figure out your emotions before people start looking for your reaction.
And guess what? Your reaction to this news is what sets the stage for the rest of your move.
So how do you stay positive when you’ve only ever heard negative things about this duty station?
1. Forget Your Past Wants
Everyone puts together a “dream sheet” of assignments, whether actually written down on paper or just in your head. You imagine all of the amazing places the military could send you.
It’s time to let go of all of that.
Your past wishes and desires for assignments don’t matter anymore (at least not right now). Turn your new assignment into your first choice and make yourself believe that it’s what you have wanted all along.
Our very first assignment drop was a public event. My husband stood in front of a room full of people as he was told where he would be going next, while I sat in the audience.
We were waiting to hear whether we would be living on the East Coast or West Coast. When my husband was told that we would be moving across the globe to a remote island, my world was rocked.
Everyone around me immediately turned to see my reaction, mouths wide open. Someone asked, “Is that what you wanted?” I was numb and don’t even know how I managed to get any words out, but I responded, “It is now.”
I have tried my best to keep this mentality EVERY time we move. I try to get excited for any assignment and research everything I can about our new “home.” It’s not always easy, especially when you are leaving a fantastic place for the unknown, but it sure makes moving a lot easier when you’re looking forward to the place you’re going.
2. Go Straight to the Source
Most of what you have probably heard about this new location is hearsay. You’re likely hearing rumors from people that have NEVER been there before. Before you get all riled up, try speaking to people that have been there recently, or better yet, are currently there.
One of the best resources I have found for gathering intel on a new duty station has been social media. Simply type your new duty station into the search bar of Facebook and you will probably find a number of informational pages.
Join the local classifieds pages, spouse pages and activity pages. Here you will be able to ask any questions you might have and receive up-to-date answers.
3. Debunk the Rumors
Each duty station has a number of rumors associated with it, whether good or bad. Try to figure out why your new assignment has a bad rap and focus on the positives. Here is an example for our current assignment:
“There is nothing to do.”
“Think about all of the family time we will have. We can go camping, hiking, horseback riding, check out local farms and attend rodeos.”
There will always be something to do and places to explore, but you have to actively search for them.
“It’s in the middle of nowhere.”
“We can do road trips on the weekend and see parts of the country we’ve never seen before.”
Attempt to find the silver lining to each of the negative statements. Maybe even make it a challenge to dispel each of the rumors during your time at your new location.
4. It’s Only Temporary
Do you remember how quickly your last assignment flew by?
Be prepared for that to happen again.
Three years (plus or minus) is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things. Make the most of your assignment and get to know a new part of the country (or world!) in the short time that you are there.
Make a point to visit that local landmark, attend the parade downtown, see the state park and just go for a drive.
Immerse yourself in the local culture and get to know your new home. If you’re not careful, it might be time to move again before you even got to know this new town.
5. Remember that Attitude Is a Choice
You, and only you, can decide how you feel about something. You can make the choice to be excited about a new assignment, or you can choose to dread every minute of it.
Don’t be tempted by those around you trying to bring you down.
When you tell people where you are going next, you might hear, “I’m sorry” or, “Maybe you’ll get a good assignment next time.”
They might be trying to be sympathetic, but in a sense they are peer pressuring you into feeling lousy about your assignment.
You still have a choice. You can still choose to look forward to your move. You can still choose to stay positive.
Finally, appreciate the fact that you have been given the opportunity to experience a place that you most likely would not have lived had it not been for the military.
I am often told by civilians that I am “so lucky” to move every three years and travel the world. Even though PCSing most definitely has its ups and its downs, I do try to remind myself that we REALLY ARE lucky.
I have made friends all over the world.
I have artifacts from each of our assignments proudly displayed in our home.
I have lived in the Deep South, the West Coast, a foreign country and the Great Plains.
I have a greater understanding and appreciation for new people that I meet.
The military has provided me with wonderful opportunities to try new places and has really shaped me as a person. I am more resilient, more patient and more curious than before.
I have to remember that each assignment, no matter where it is, is simply adding to my life experience.