Saturday, December 6, 2014

7 Things I've Learned About Being a Coast Guard Spouse

Do you love lists as much as I do?  I love making lists.  And even better?  Is making lists when I can gleefully cross off whatever task was completed.

Now this isn't a task-oriented list, but it's still one that I think is worth sharing.  Especially with fellow military spouses.  Particularly the newbs.  And know that I say that with nothing but love and respect.  Ya newbs.  Just kidding.

And for the non-military folks out there, maybe my abbreviated take on this unconventional lifestyle will provide some insight for those who might be curious.  So, here we go.

7 Things I've Learned About Being a Coast Guard Spouse 

1.  Every move gets easier.  The first move?  ROUGH.  It was lonely, uprooting, unfamiliar. I look back on our first move least fondly, but I also wouldn't trade the experience.  Because it was the first step toward getting a handle on how to handle it.  If that makes sense.

2.  About that how to handle it part.  I've developed a PCS formula for myself that works for me.  It's certainly not rocket science, but it includes a few non-negotiables - no matter how much I want to do the exact opposite.  I tend to be a house gnome, so it's really important after PCS-ing  to commit to things like establishing (or continuing) an exercise routine and sticking to it, volunteering, and embracing all there is to explore in your new "home."  Trust me.  Just do it even though you don't want to.  (For those asking themselves, what the hell is a PCS, it's the military acronym for Permanent Change of Station.)

3.  Make sure to take some time every so often to really soak in your surroundings at whatever place you're calling home.  Whether you've just arrived and are still settling in, you're prepping to haul yourselves to the next destination, or you're somewhere in between the two - I guarantee you can find a few things that are absolutely unique to that place and that place only.  Take the time to explore or revisit your surroundings.  There's always something new and distinctive to discover, no matter how long you've been stationed there.  Unique discoveries and the whole process of exploring is one of my favorite things about living in a new community.  Embrace it!

4.  I'm a stellar acquaintance maker.  Now I know some will read that and think something along the lines of, "You need to make more of an effort," or "Branch out and get more involved."  But the truth is that my friends - my longtime, sincere friends - live somewhere else.  Usually somewhere far from wherever is home at the moment.  And those friends are people I've had in my life for a very long time.  I'm not saying I don't make connections at whatever new place is thrust upon us as home.  But, I'm realistic in the fact that most folks I interact with - fellow Coast Guard spouses, co-workers, people I meet through work or volunteering, etc. - become acquaintances.  Of course there are those welcome exceptions, but generally I'm a top-notch acquaintance maker. It's just the way it usually plays out.  And really?  That's okay.  Because those acquaintances are just as valuable and important as those friends I've known for 25 or more years.

5.  It's really important to find your thing.  Or things.  Some activity or past time in your new surroundings that fuels you and makes you want to go back for more.  It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it pushes those buttons of motivation and passion.  Just be sure to ask yourself a few key questions.  You know like, is it legal? it an obvious detriment to my health or well being?  If the answer to either question is yes, then by all means jump in feet first.  Sounds like fun.  Just kidding.  A little.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the hubby in his element

6.  It's okay to be a bit of an outcast.  How so?  You may ask.  Simple.  Voluntarily choose the less traveled path of not having kids.  And be a military spouse.  And be 40 years old.  Done and done.  When you fall into this category and you live on base, it's just reality that commonalities between you and those who you live around will be few and far between.  Because most neighbors have children and many spouses are usually both much younger, and are stay-at-home moms.  When folks are neck deep in all things baby/toddler/kid, there usually isn't a whole lot of common ground.  And again - that's okay.

7.  You don't have to feel guilty about not doing everything that's out there to get involved with.  Both on base and in your community.  Yes, it's important to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone, but it's also okay to hang back a little.  Find a happy medium for yourself.  The best thing you can do during times of change (or any time really) is to pay attention to what you really want.  In work, in play, in relationships.  That inner voice is pretty intuitive.  Listen to it.

So, those are my two cents about what I've gleaned from being a Coast Guard spouse and moving around for the last 6 years.  It's not all sunshine and lollipops, but I think it's pretty good gig. - Especially when it means these types of experiences become part of our story:

Not to get all schmoopy on you, but we just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary, and I don't think this grand adventure would be nearly as much fun with anyone else!  That curmudgeonly, dedicated, funny and offbeat man I call my husband is the reason why we have the privilege of trekking around this country every few years to experience living in such diverse places.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Ta-ta for now.

Photo credit:  Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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