I hesitated to write this post. I realize that in some ways it could be taken offensively by our families and friends even though it absolutely isn’t intended that way, but I’ve always wanted a part of the blog to be an account of what it’s like being a military family. And seeing as the number one question I’ve received since we returned to South Dakota has been “how was it going back?” I felt it was an important subject to cover.
I think for anyone, and any family, that enters into life in the military, and is pulled away not only from their friends and family, but also life as they know it and all the comforts they didn’t even realize they would miss, creating your own independent life becomes imperative. It’s a sort of survival tactic for getting through lonely times when there is no access to friends and family, not to mention, there is a great need for creating a solid bond with your significant other and taking on the responsibility of being more than just their husband or wife, because at that point you have to be each other’s everything.
That in itself can be difficult. I remember telling Will he was going to have to step up and be more for me than he ever had been, because I no longer had friends to take on the duty of listening to my concerns, my silly thoughts, or even something as simple as how I looked in my new jeans. And he was genuinely concerned about taking over that role. It’s a lot to realize that your spouse is now completely dependent on you. In our case we had been apart so much in our relationship that I had quite literally outsourced almost everything (except romance obviously) in my life to people other than him.
Moving out here (South Dakota), and having to accept that dependence, did amazing things for our relationship.
Once you start adjusting and finding your place in your new home, it’s really quite awesome how freeing it can be. To live without the expectations of friends and family, and be able to just focus solely on what the two (or however many are in your family) of you want, is an incredible opportunity. I can recall countless times this past year where we marveled at the fact that we had entire Saturdays to do with as we pleased. Never, not once, when we lived in North Carolina did we have that luxury. And it’s not that we would trade the things that took up our time. I wouldn’t have missed a single weekend at the lake, Sunday birthday dinner, or weekend blast with our friends. It’s just that it’s been equally satisfying to spend some time just doing what we want to do.
So that brings me back to the question. After being in South Dakota for eight months (and feeling pretty homesick prior to our trip), what was it like going back?
It felt like we had never left, which surprised us. I think we were both expecting to feel a great sense of nostalgia and possibly a separation from what our lives there were before we moved. It felt good to be taken care of by our families, you can forget what it’s like to have people that will cook for you, clean up after you, and just love on you to your heart’s content. It felt comfortable to be back in the company of friends that know you inside and out, and who you can just be yourself around. It became easy to get wrapped up in the idea of moving back one day soon, living down the road from our best friends, and settling back into life there. We even looked at land to buy in an area I swore I would never live in again.
It also felt pretty overwhelming. When you are living close to your friends and family, you don’t really acknowledge all the expectations. But going from no expectations from anyone except each other, to being surrounded by people who all want to see you and do things with you, feels like you are being torn in a million directions. It can easily feel like you won’t be able to make anyone, and especially not everyone, happy. Including yourself.
After the normal Christmas functions, Husband and I actually ended up spending a vast majority of time apart over our break in order to spend time with our respective families. I don’t really think there was a better solution. We both felt strongly about packing in as much time with our families as possible, and that was only possible if we split up.
By the end, I really missed him. I really missed our home, which our place in South Dakota has really grown to feel like more than anywhere else. Not that I just love South Dakota, but I missed our life together here.
I snapped out of the trance that I had fallen into and realized that I was absolutely not ready to move back yet, and most certainly didn’t want to move back to the area where we were land shopping. In a matter of days being there I had forgotten all of the things that were important to me, and that I’ve wanted for a long time. It was almost as if each day that passed I let one more “want” or “standard’ go, in place of accepting what was easy and in front of me.
On the plane ride home I realized that I was no where near done exploring the world, and definitely not done getting to have this ridiculously awesome one-on-one experience with my husband.
Experiences in life cause shifts within you. I don’t believe that anyone can actually change more than a degree or two from the person they are, but sometimes your path in life brings your to new understandings of where your heart lies.
My home will always be Asheville. My heart will always be full to the brim with love and appreciation for my family and our friends. But our life in the military has opened my eyes to a different life than I have ever experienced. And although it has been challenging to adjust, I’ve grown to really love it. I’m not ready for it to end, especially because in many ways it feels like it has just begun.
These last eight months have left me feeling more full and content and satisfied in both my marriage and in my personal passions than I’ve ever felt.
So my answer is, going back was a great way to see just how far forward we have come, it was a great dose of home that we both needed (almost like re-fueling), and it left me with a sense of determination and excitement for the future.
It was sad to leave. I even had little moments of a sort of sad panic the last day or so we were there. But as soon as we got on the plane I felt, right. It felt good to walk into our house, to sleep in our bed, to get back to work, get back to the gym, and to snuggle up on the couch with Will and watch a movie. I don’t think there is any other way to put it other than it felt good to be “home”.