I’m 21 years old. This year we're supposed to be celebrating that I can legally drink. We're supposed to be going out to bars and parties and waking up to eating carb-filled breakfasts to fight the hangover. We're supposed to be enjoying holidays, kissing when the ball drops on New Years Eve and taking pictures at the famous Christmas tree in New York City.
But we don’t do any of this. Not because we don't want to. But because it's not an option.
I’m 21-years-old and married to a military man.
I don’t spend every holiday with him, but I do get a phone call that means more than any present in the world. I don’t get to take a new profile picture every week with him, but I do get to look back on the ones I have and know how it feels to cherish moments.
I don’t get to cuddle with him every time there’s a snowstorm but I always do get a phone call reminding me to drive safely in bad weather. I don’t always have someone to hang out with when my friends are busy, but I do have time to myself to work on tasks that I’ve been putting off. I don’t get to have my husband at every major event, but when I have the chance to speak with him he’s more than interested in my life and genuinely wants to hear every detail about it. I don’t get to talk to my husband every second that I want to, but I know we’re always on each other’s minds.
I started dating my husband before he left for boot camp. I didn’t know what it was going to be like, and I didn’t know how I would feel or if I would last. Not talking to your boyfriend and having to send out letters seemed like a ridiculous amount of work for being 21-years-old, and it was.
There were so many tears that went into each and every letter mailed. There was so many holidays spent alone, so many hard days he wasn’t there, many family events and parties that I attended alone. And why? Because he chose to sign a contract.
I believe you can’t help who you fall in love with. I realized that unlike that contract he chose to sign, I didn’t have a choice. I fell in love with someone who made the decision to sign his life away (at least for a few years).
Throughout the whole process of marrying a military man so young in life I have learned many life lessons. Lessons that should take years I learned in months. I learned to pick and choose battles, I learned how to control and show emotions the proper way, I learned how to get angry but argue with integrity.
I learned how to forgive and actually forget. I learned that there is a time and place for everything. I learned that timing is the key for getting through those hard emotional conversations you know you have to have.
I learned that choosing love was right for me. I learned that rejecting it would've been a huge mistake.
So if growing up with someone you love, watching each other mature, dealing with life’s hardships together, being each others' stability and loving each other endlessly isn't something you want, it's simple: don't get married young to a military man. Leave the relationship now.
But if it is, get married, start your lives together and fall in love more and more every day. But prepare yourself for some rough patches and hard nights, and just know you can get through it, it is possible (regardless of what others tell you or what you read on the internet).
Remember that feeling of when you see him, remember his touch of when he hugs you, remember that smile that he brings to your face ... and most importantly remember not everyone finds that in life.
If you're lucky enough to have found that with someone, don't throw it away. No hardship in being married to a military man will be tougher than realizing years down the line you chose to leave your soulmate.
Rachel Udkow is a graduate student at NYIT, who recently became a military spouse to an Airman. She is working towards her master’s degree in Communication Arts with hopes of becoming a film producer and is in the midst of figuring out all the ins and out of being in a long-distance military marriage. She is looking forward to graduating and living with her husband in North Carolina.
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