I’m going to be perfectly honest: I had no intention of leaving the state of Pennsylvania when I went to college. But God had other plans when I fell in love with someone who was serving in the military.
I was resistant to the idea of the Army. It made me uncomfortable, and I felt like I had no say or control in our future. It was a life I didn’t know and frankly, at the time, didn’t want to know.
Now after 10 years as a military spouse I find myself reflecting on everything I didn’t know when I stepped into this world.
I didn’t know I would make lifelong friends along the way.
We are stretched across the country and in some cases the world but still keep in touch. We know we will always have each other’s backs no matter what. When our paths cross again it is as if we haven’t spent a day apart, and we easily fall back into our friendship routine.
These friends will understand your struggles and venting sessions in a way no one else can because they have experienced it themselves. They know the pain of dropping off a piece of yourself and learning to live without them by your side for months on end.
I didn’t know how this world would shape my professional life.
The frequent moves forced me out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. It also brought new opportunities and mentors into my life I never would have had otherwise.
I didn’t know the gratitude I would have for the time spent with family. I knew I would miss my family; in fact, this is something I still struggle with. But it does make me incredibly grateful for every moment that we do have together.
I have dragged an entire chaise chair up the stairs and put it together myself. I have learned how to grill, paint, hammer, and drill—because if you don’t do it, it won’t get done. I’ve held my 18-month-old daughter in a downstairs bathroom during a tornado warning while sirens screamed out in the night.
I am stronger and more resilient than I ever thought possible.
I didn’t know your spouse’s return from deployment would be second to only your wedding and the birth of your children. That there is nothing in this world like finally getting to see your other half. How a piece of you that has been missing for months is finally put back together again. I didn’t realize that as challenging as this experience is, it will make your marriage stronger than ever.
I didn’t know how the military world would shape our family, friends, professional life, marriage, and everything in between.
But I wouldn’t change it for a second. It has made me, me. This version of myself has grown from the scared and uncomfortable 22-year-old to my current self who has learned how to be part of something bigger.
Previously published on the author’s blog