I never imagined myself as an “army wife.”
I did imagine myself as a famous actress, singer, a princess (or duchess, as Kate Middleton prefers to be called), and a whole number of other things that might be a wee bit unlikely.. A wife, sure.
And I definitely hoped that if I did get married, it would be to my best friend/the maker of all the butterflies. Mission accomplished there.
But I just never once pictured myself as a military spouse. I have extended family who has served in the military, and it’s not that I was reluctant to be on that path, I just truly had no idea what to expect. And to tell you the truth, I still don’t. It’s certainly a new part of my life, so I guess it makes sense that I can’t completely identify with the term “army wife.”
As newlyweds, my husband and I posted to gorgeous Hawaii after his BOLC training. Christian works the kind of crazy long hours that make army life seem very real, and thus being a military spouse somewhat of a distinct role. We’ve written letters and had sparse communication over the course of training events. He wakes up early, gets home late, and occasionally receives a 3 a.m. phone call that will require him to leave for the office in the next 30 minutes. But I just wouldn’t call it one of my identifiers yet. Examples of identifiers I would/do use: redheaded, writer, brown-eyed, quirky, drama queen, bookworm, shopper extraordinaire, intellectual, etc. etc. etc.
I guess it’s that I personally haven’t done anything related to the title yet. Sort of how it feels a little bit wrong to even call myself a writer, as I don’t have a career in it, or even a blogger, because same thing. Both of the aforementioned are things that I am actively doing, though, so it’s a little easier to claim them as mine.
All of this is just to say that I do want to write about military spouse topics on my blog and share some advice and things I learn along the way, but also to disclose that I’m not an expert on the subject. Like I’ve said, I can barely even wear the title comfortably right now: it’s so new. But alas, “army wife” is sort of a thing that I am. And please don’t misunderstand me – I think the title is extremely admirable. It implies a sacrifice and service to one’s country. But to reference one of my favorite young adult books, “Stargirl,” my unwillingness to be pinned to a cork board simply makes me reluctant to call myself any one thing that might inadvertently seem to encompass or overshadow the others.
Still with me? If you know me or have met me in person, you’ll likely know I’m constantly delaying my own stories/punch line by getting sidetracked with random tangents. My point is this: While I am a spouse of someone in the army, that certainly doesn’t feel like my whole identity. And in reality, I’m still adjusting to the role.
It’s a title I’m proud to wear – one that has grown to mean immeasurably more to me over the years – but one I still need to grow into”
I have met many women (who also happen to be military wives!) who I totally dream of emulating. The higher-ranking officers whose spouses I’ve met while here in Hawaii have been warm and kind, poised and truly commanding in presence. And I’ve also met young military wives who continuously transition and adapt to new places and situations with stunning charisma, quickly reaching out to others and creating communities for themselves and their small families. I have two military-wife friends that I met while Christian was at West Point, Leila and Lauryl, who are very good at this. I’ve actually surprised myself in this category, too. Socializing and reaching out to new people when posting somewhere new is a survival method; it also engenders great character. Military spouses don’t hoard the information and advice they’ve gleaned over the years like I might do with my rather impressive collection of dresses, but rather give both freely and in bulk. It’s a beautiful and pure kind of charity.
There are times, even just fleeting moments, when as a military spouse you think about the fact that you’ve followed someone else’s career; you are in a place and a situation solely and truly because of your spouse (regardless of how much say you might’ve had in the decisions that led you there). And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Couples, and people, compromise and sacrifice for each other all the time. But to me, it’s important that what I do and where I go feels intentional on a personal level.
Hawaii is brilliant and I gush about it on here all the time, so I know (or at least hope) you understand that I’m not complaining about my situation. But what’s really been amazing for me as a military wife, and individually, is embracing travel. That has been intentional for me. We would not be in Hawaii at ages 22 and 23 if not for the military – and Hawaii has also given me a reason to finally start a blog, and thus scratch my ever-present itch to write. That helps define my personal purpose here.
We chose to live off-base, and we put a lot of time before we got to Hawaii into finding a home that was close to the army base, to the ocean, and that we could comfortably afford. We live with a great roommate who is also military, and that too is something we planned before ever PCSing here.
I don’t know where we’ll get to go next.. The army is unpredictable, and a lot will surely depend on Christian’s choices and options (which we are in constant and open communication about). But I hope you will see us travel somewhere new and exciting again – like to Europe or somewhere else we’ve always wanted to go – since ultimately we want to end up near family again. We aim to see as much of the world in the next few years as possible. In reality, it’s all very much out of our control (and particularly my control) while we’re with the military, though I could talk about hopes and dreams for hours and pages. And that fact right there provides a lesson: There is strength and independence attached to a term like “military wife,” which, though it might seem like a secondary title, also implies leadership, strength, resilience and conviction.
It’s a title I’m proud to wear – one that has grown to mean immeasurably more to me over the years – but one I still need to grow into. After some of the mistakes we made during our first PCS here, I wrote in my notebook about some of the things we forgot, messed up, or that I would do differently. I also wrote:
“It’s all ok. And that might turn out to be the big, revelatory secret.”
The truth is that I’m married to my best friend – and we will make many more mistakes and sacrifices for each other over the years. Part of me thinks you just learn a little faster how to make these mistakes, how to solve them, and how to be okay, when you are a military spouse.
And if I can share some advice-learned-from-mistakes with any of you, I want to do that. I’ll write out a post with tips about posting to Hawaii and/or overseas soon if you’d like (most of the advice can also apply to civilians!), with a weigh-in from the real expert: the one and only Christian Mapes.
Who, incidentally, I would choose over Prince William and a royal title any day.