I can hear you laughing right now. “Planning my life around the military? Yeah, right.” And I agree, it seems laughable since the military’s plans seem to change all the time. How do you create a life when it seems like someone else is pulling all of the punches?
It’s tough. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the expert at it. Often I get frustrated at my lack of control over a particular situation and I find myself feeling helpless and, usually, hopeless. However, it is possible to create a plan to take you into the future as a military spouse.
On the internet, you can’t click more than a few times without seeing military spouse education pop up. It’s a favorite (and of course, necessary) topic for blogs and publications, Facebook ads, and spouse groups. There’s MyCAA and the GI Bill and a bunch of other scholarships and grants out there for us to formally earn that degree or get that particular certification. And many of us take advantage of those programs and make great use of them. But afterward? Just like you had a plan for getting your formal education, you need a plan for how you’ll continue to stay up-to-date and in the loop when you’re PCSing, hunting for a job, or unemployed. Consider subscribing to your industry’s publications, blogs, and websites. Keep up your credentials and certifications if it makes sense to do so.
Often, when we’re constantly moving and our lives are in flux, it can feel like we’re unmoored. Home looks different and sometimes those traditions that we used to care about don’t seem as important or poignant when it doesn’t feel like you belong anywhere. Traditions are important for that exact reason. They help us make our homes anywhere and keep a sense of continuity. So break out the Scrabble board and order pizza on the last Friday of the month. Put up your Christmas tree and play the same goofy CD your parents use. Take the kids out for ice cream on the last day of school—no matter where that last day is. And make new traditions that will stick with you far after your military life is over.
Talk About Long Term Goals
Talk about them frequently. Where will you and your spouse be in ten years? Twenty? How are you preparing financially? How are you preparing professionally? Does the military still fit into those long term goals, or is another path unfolding for you? When you have a united front and are able to both talk about your dreams for the future, you’ll be able to work towards that future together.
Have Different Kinds of Goals
And while we’re talking about goals… long term goals shouldn’t be the only ones you’re thinking about. Create a list of personal and professional goals for this year and then break them down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. You’ll find that many of those smaller benchmarks can be done despite the monkey wrenches the military might throw your way.
I had it easy—as an English major and English teacher, freelancing as a copy editor and writer just made sense—but there are freelancing opportunities for many career fields. You just might need to be creative to find them. Freelancing and entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but they can be a great way to keep up your skill sets and stay in touch with your field while creating a mobile career for yourself.
Okay, okay—this last one isn’t so much about planning as it is about being flexible. Plans are just that—plans. They’re what we’re working toward when life gets in the way. I’ve learned that it’s often valuable to say “yes” to opportunities as they present themselves, be okay with being flexible, and to alter the plan accordingly. You never know where the twists and turns of life may take you. Many times, there to places you never dreamed you’d go.
If you’re making a life for yourself alongside the plans the military has for you, how do you do it? What tips can you share with others?