"Military transition." How can such an innocent pair of words be so loaded?
As you prepare for your family's move from military to civilian life, you probably feel like there are 11 million huge decisions to make.
Where are you going to live? Do you have a job? How will your family adjust? What about health care? What if you don't get this right?
We know there are things that really do need to be worried over before you leave the military. But there are also plenty of things you don't need to worry about right now, or possibly at all.
We asked former service members and their families who retired from or left the military what they wish they had not worried about during transition.
They said you can skip spending energy on these things:
1. The "forever" question.
After moving every two to three years and a life based on the temporary, it's natural to view stepping into the civilian world as the start of the rest of your life.
But that can lead to a lot of pressure to find "forever" solutions to your transition decisions -- "forever" house, "forever" job, "forever" town.
Now is not the time to stress about forever, former military family members told us. Just move on to the next best thing in life, and enjoy the freedom of deciding what that is for yourself, instead of looking to the military to decide it on your behalf.
Looking at all of life as a series of small transitions alleviates the pressure to find "forever" right now.
Forever, they said, isn't realistic and is not worth the stress. Instead, focus on doing what's next and enjoying the journey.
2. Pleasing extended family.
Now that you get to choose where you are going to live, you might be feeling pressure from extended family to move home. Your decision to factor that input into your transition plan will depend on your priorities.
But consider making decisions based on what you and your immediate family want, not pressure from relatives. This is your transition, after all.
3. Finding the perfect career.
You may not start your new civilian life at the same income level you left behind in the military, and that might take some budgeting sacrifices up front.
Former military members rarely find the perfect job fit at their first gig after leaving the service, and it's unrealistic to think that you can predict exactly what you want to do as a permanent career.
Instead, choose a job you think you will enjoy, and know that it's OK to change to a new one later.
4. Finding the right doctors right now.
Unless your family members have chronic diseases or serious health concerns, finding new doctors and dentists before your move is probably just an unnecessary stressor.
You will find these services when you need them. Why worry now about where you will go to the dentist in your future hometown? Give yourself permission to worry about this issue later.
5. Starting your civilian job right away.
You might be tempted to move from military life to civilian life as seamlessly and quickly as possible, leaving active duty on day one and starting your civilian job on day two.
But there's nothing wrong with taking full advantage of that terminal leave. Give you and your family some downtime, especially if you are transitioning out of a high-stress military job.
If you're a military spouse, suggest your former service member seize the chance to breathe a little. This is a big change, and taking a vacation could help you process it and lower everyone's anxiety levels.
Settle into your new home, take a few weeks off, drink a margarita in the middle of the day or live a little. Your time is now your own, and there is no law that says you have to immediately give it away again.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.