I just moved back to the states. My family had the (wonderful, amazing, life changing) opportunity to live in Germany for three blissful years. I was able to ride a cog train up a mountain in the Swiss Alps. I got lost on the streets of Venice. I had dinner under the Eiffel Tour, and I explored castles that have seen more history that I could even imagine.
It was the perfect assignment. We had friends over for every holiday, and there was always someone to call to join me for lunch when my husband was TDY and I couldn’t stand the lack of adult conversation another second. I knew my city like the back of my hand, which bus to take to get to the pastry shop, where I could find free WiFi, and what stores had the best play areas for the kids on hot days.
We are “home” now in the Washington, D.C. area. When I meet people, and they ask the typical “getting to know you” questions, I am always quick to tell them that I “just moved here” from Germany.
The problem? I moved here a year ago. It’s probably time for me to stop saying “just.”
I’ve been a military spouse a long time (something like 70 years in dog years) and I have never had this problem before. I’ve never taken so long to get settled in and plugged into our new community.
To be completely honest with you, my home is still not unpacked. I have boxes in my garage stacked so precariously that no one can go in there without fear of a crush injury. Never mind making claims about all the items that are probably lost and damaged in the move- the paperwork has been sitting on my counter long past the 60 days I was given to file for a reimbursement.
After 10 years as a military spouse, I know the saying “bloom where you are planted” is more than just a nice thought. It’s a survival tool. Blooming requires so much more than just being set down. The mistake I made at this duty station so far was assuming that I could bloom without help or effort.
For me, blooming requires a few things.
How I Bloom Where I Am Planted1. I have to get involved with the unit
The very first step for me is typically is to see if the unit has a Facebook page, Yahoo group, or email list I can get added to, and then I jump right in. I try and pinpoint which spouses are active in the groups, and make sure to send them a note to introduce myself.
In most units we have been in, I’ve been a “key spouse” and have given my time and talents to spouse support groups and booster clubs on base. While these commitments take time (and sometimes a lot of it) the friendships I make are well worth the effort.
2. I have to get involved with the neighborhood
My kids are fantastic at helping me feel at home in the neighborhood. I often sign the kids up for sports, clubs, scouts, ANYTHING that will get them into a small group of kids with similar interests. My most coveted friend is always the girl with the kids the same age as mine (with a similar love of wine and cake). I always find her through the kids.
Volunteering in the local community is helpful too. This is where I find employment opportunities and make connections with the influential movers and shakers in our new hometown.
3. I have to look for the positives
The hardest thing for me, and probably the most important step in blooming where I am planted, is finding the positives in our new home. This is the step I have failed at here. I loved our last duty station. I could have stayed in Germany forever and been happy as a clam. I never knew I could be homesick for a place that isn’t my home, but Germany pulls at my heart on a near daily basis.
I haven’t stopped to see what is so special about this area. I haven’t taken time to consciously look around me to notice how green and beautiful it is here, or to appreciate the amazing amount of opportunities I have as a military spouse in the D.C. area. I haven’t stopped to pinch myself and realize what an amazing blessing it was to go to the White House for tea, or to the Pentagon to meet the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as part of my new job at the National Military Family Association, or to just stand in front of the Constitution of the United States and soak up the history of this great city.
That’s the problem really, for me, and probably for many spouses who have “just” moved and feel terribly sad and out of place. It’s all about perspective. It’s all about looking around you, seeking out the people who will make your new home amazing, and focusing on the good. Sometimes it’s just taking it a day at a time, or rather, one box at a time, as you find a way to bloom where you have been planted.
Are you having trouble settling in after a PCS? Make sure you stop by to visit the National Military Family Association on their Facebook page or on their blog to read more stories and tips to help you #OwnYourPCS. They are here to help, and want to know how your recent move went!
Heather Aliano is a proud wife of an Airman, and the mother to four wild and crazy kids. She is the social media manager for the National Military Family Association. When she’s not at work, she’s eating chocolate in the closet, and blogging about life and learning on her personal blog, Only Passionate Curiosity.