You’ve watched the moving truck roll down the street, turned in the keys, piled the kids clutching man’s best friend into the car, and waved “bye house.”
Whether there are days or weeks between this moment and the next when you pick up the keys to your new house, in this instant, there is no answer to the well-meaning stranger at the roadside Taco Bell. You know the one — the polite grandfatherly figure who can’t help but notice that your tribe poured out of separate vehicles loaded to the max with everything from suitcases to bicycles to flower pots.
“Where’re you from?” the man asks with a smile.
You hesitate. Each of you, down to little Cindi Lou hesitates, exchanging confused glances, before mumbling answers that don’t match. With a sigh, you explain, “We’re Military. We just left … on our way to … with a stop…” The words come out flat.
Where are you from? The place you just left? The place you’re going? The place you grew up that no longer gets you but still tolerates you at Christmas? When you join or marry into the military, the last thing you think about is how this will be the question that will stump you over and over again. The fact is, in so many ways, we are rootless gypsies, drifting from base to base on the whim of Uncle Sam. Simultaneously, we hail from nowhere and everywhere.
You can incessantly struggle with PCS problems, or embrace the suck. But how?
- Have a snappy comeback ready. Anything goes when you say it with a quick grin. Have fun with the “where are you from” question, or stick to the facts. Whether you spin a yarn the old timers would respect or quickly state where you were born/lived the longest, it’s all about what you’re comfortable with. So, get comfortable.
- Kick your obsessive compulsive disorder tendencies to the curb. Routine left with the moving van. I know it’s been awhile, but relax. Literally, stop and smell the roses or sunflowers along the side of the road. Take a detour through Yellowstone, lay on the beach for the afternoon, or just sip coffee by the hotel pool while you pull lifeguard duty for the munchkins. Take it easy because once that moving truck catches up to you, the vacation is over.
- Change your vocabulary. Words matter. For instance PCS (permanent change of station) invokes thoughts of work, goodbye, and stress. Use a different word that evokes happier, more peaceful thoughts (trip, voyage, journey, adventure). Some call it a PCS, our kids call it Army Vacation.
- Be positive, but not in a negative way. You don’t have to work yourself into a manic frenzy, but you can refuse to let those negative thoughts into your mind and out of your mouth. Instead of “Oh snap! We have to gatorproof our new yard?!” or “I can’t deal with hurricanes/blizzards/tornadoes/drought …” Think about how much you’ll save in zoo membership fees and how that natural disaster coming your way will give you a chance to visit with your battle-buddies, who will, of course, have plenty of Tequila on hand.
- Don’t get too comfortable. Of course you should make friends who become family and fall in love with the Thai place down the road. Just be careful not to let yourself get so attached that you can’t imagine leaving because the odds are that in just a few short years, the next expedition (see what I did there) will begin again. So, keep your adventurous spirit close while keeping in mind the good (you finally have enough storage) and the bad (this school isn’t up to par with the kid’s old one) of your new home. As the mom of the house, your kids and even spouse will take your lead. So, have a glass of wine for the memories after the littles have gone to bed, and the rest of the time, embrace the suck.
Teach those little darlings to make lemonade out of lemons, snorkel in the ocean, hunt for dinosaurs in the forests, and ask for ice-cream in German. Laugh at this life’s challenges while you make a point to enjoy all of the opportunities that moving to a new part of the country or world every few years gives your family. You just may do more than survive this gypsy lifestyle. You might enjoy it.
(Be sure to check out “Embrace the Suck (Part 1).”)