This Is It, the PCS Pause


For the last few months you’ve wondered, worried and (maybe) dreamed about where military life is taking you next. Changes -- along with orders -- are coming. What do you do during this time? This limbo that sits in between not knowing where you are going, but knowing that you won’t be staying put much longer?

This is the PCS Pause.

Every year at least once during a conversation I’ll find myself caveating plans with “as long as the military’s schedule doesn’t change.” On one hand, I hate that I’m planning major life events around my husband’s job: Vacations, trips to see family, etc. On the other hand, well, there is no other hand. It’s just how it is.

PCS season is upon us, and once again, I’m preparing myself to live in that state of knowing, but not knowing. But as the years go by, I’m starting to embrace the PCS Pause as an opportunity to slow life down a little and enjoy the little things that mark this particular peculiarity of military life.

A little extra time with my friends.

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend and referenced the fact that we were waiting to find out if/when/where we were moving. Her surprise reminded me that we had made plans to take a day trip to a cool store that we simply hadn’t made time for. We immediately compared calendars and made the time. There is nothing like knowing you have a limited time left to goad you into taking action on all those little things you’ve been pushing off for a more convenient day.

It can be too easy during this stage of the PCS cycle to pull back and stop making plans. You’re preparing to leave, you have so much to do and your mind tends to focus on the next place, or the possibility of it. But, right now, you have these people and these places. While it may be pragmatic to look ahead and distance yourself from the things that tie you to your current location, the biggest takeaway of the military lifestyle should be to live “in the now.”

The Household Goods purge.

One of my least favorite things about military moves is the terror that comes with packing up all of my precious belongings and hoping they arrive where I do. Since both my husband and I tend to be pack rats, we have a tendency to collect ALL THE THINGS. Truly, it’s a good thing we have a weight allowance that we’re required to stick to because it forces us to evaluate all of the physical stuff that we hold on to. Do we really need to keep the extra car seat our son has completely outgrown that lived in the garage in case of emergencies/grandparent visits? Maybe this shelf that broke two years ago that we keep meaning to fix should simply be thrown out? This pause before the PCS rush starts is the perfect time to let go of the things that are weighing you down, just don’t sell your mattress while you still need a place to sleep like Military.com’s own Amy Bushatz did!

A little self-evaluation

During my family’s last PCS, as I was trying to tie up the loose ends of numerous volunteering efforts, I realized just how large a chunk of my time was spent outside my family and personal friends. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, I was tired. But it was difficult to end those obligations—that is, until orders came down. I recognized that I needed a break, and our PCS offered the perfect reason to do so as we prepared for a move. Taking it a step further, I could easily carry that forward, and at our new duty station limit the number of obligations I took on to avoid that burn out again. It offered an opportunity to push the reset button on how I allocated my time without feeling like I was letting someone down.

You might need to put yourself out there more. There may be goals you have that are just waiting for you to focus. Like me, it may be time for you to simplify your schedule. Whatever change you see your life needing, the pause in all those daily activities as we prepare to move is the perfect opportunity. The military may tell us where and when we move, but you decide what life at that duty station looks like for you.

Ironically, this year our PCS limbo ended with the news that we were staying put at Fort Hood for another year. As crazy as the waiting for the news felt, I’m glad things were up in the air for long enough that I could process that list of what I would miss about Central Texas, the things I still wanted to and the things I was a little relieved to put down and walk away from. It was a clear and definite glimpse into pieces of my life that either need a tweak or need a little more attention.

This year, even though we’re not moving, I’m going to take the opportunity to apply that internal feedback so that next year’s PCS pause can focus on looking forward.

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