A long time ago, I was told that I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I wanted something in my life to go a certain way and, well, it just wasn’t. As a particular child with particularly impossible dreams, I had a vision for my future, and I was going to make it happen. Independent, headstrong and resourceful, I knew I could make things work out exactly the way I wanted.
What I wanted was a career in advertising in a big city. For a short period of time, I actually made it happen. After working at a television station in Indianapolis, Indiana, I was hired by an advertising agency. It wasn’t the city of my dreams nor was my position exactly what I wanted, but I had grown to love it and the friends I had made.
Then I started dating my future husband. As things became more serious, he suggested I move closer to him. The decision was not necessarily an easy one. He had recently joined the Air Force and was going through pilot training. He was committed to the USAF for the next ten years. If we were to be together, then I would have to be committed as well — committed to multiple moves and multiple job changes.
My corporate ladder would be cut off at the first rung.
I remember talking things over with my soon-to-be husband, telling him how I had achieved every goal I’d set for myself, and yet I still felt unfulfilled. I had squeezed that square peg into that round hole, and surely enough something was amiss. He suggested I set new goals, and it was like an epiphany.
I decided to put my relationship ahead of career and to start living a new dream with him. I had always wanted to write, and I knew I could write from anywhere. I had a B.A. in Journalism, after all.
In September 2005, my parents helped me pack all of my belongings into a borrowed utility trailer. I followed behind in my car with tears in my eyes and the downtown Indy skyline in the rear view mirror. My destination has been a blur on the horizon ever since.
Without a true plan or end goal, I managed to move forward into the unknown. We were married, and off we went, into the wild blue yonder with the Air Force driving the course of our lives.
Somehow, we’ve managed to not only survive but thrive in the nomadic lifestyle the military has provided. This year, we will celebrate twelve years of marriage — flying through sunny skies, cloudy skies, and even the darkest of nights. Sometimes it seems we’re flying in perfect formation, and sometimes it seems we are blue air vs. red air.
But through it all, we realize that God chose us as companions on this remarkable journey and that we need each other.
We have lived in places I swore I’d never go and in places I swore I could never leave. We have gotten to explore countries we’ve always wanted to and those we never expected. Currently, we are experiencing our sixth move — our third internationally. When an old sorority sister realized I’d be joining her a few hours down the road in England, she recommended I join a Facebook group called “I Am A Triangle.”
I had no idea what that meant but soon discovered that a “triangle” is someone who has lived in various cultures/countries. Going from one country to a second (and back), forms a circle. Add another country and the shape resembles a triangle.
As it turns out, sometimes civilians move overseas, too. They even have online communities where they find solidarity. Naomi Hattaway, in an effort to overcome the depression that had come with repatriation, initiated the group to stay connected to other triangles, like herself. She never felt like anyone back home understood her desire, her enjoyment, and her longing for life outside of America; nor did they understand the grief that she felt moving back “home.”
Military families understand the deep pride of country and the longing to connect with the rest of the world. Military families are lucky, too, as we generally find solidarity in our assigned squadrons and installations. We are surrounded by a community that understands the unimaginable challenges and unlimited blessings that come with every duty assignment. We have organizations to aid us in our journey. We have Key Spouses who can impart their wisdom and resources when we need them. We have slogans and hand signals and call signs that prove we’re part of the club. We have a unity that only gets stronger during overseas assignments and deployments. Even those whose spouses, like mine, are doing an Exchange Program and are fully integrated into another country’s armed forces have their own Facebook Group. Our members are scattered all over Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and yet we have one another if we choose to engage.
My husband and I have experienced floods of love and gratitude and droughts of anxiety and insecurity that come with every military marriage and permanent change of station (PCS). We have felt the gut-wrenching heartbreak of having to say goodbye and the swelling pride that comes with every reunion and post-deployment embrace. We have now learned our shape, which looks more like a spirograph, than a triangle, but like most expats, I’m happy to be one.
Who knew?! I was a triangle after all- and so can you!