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Don't Hold Your Breath During Deployment

I considered it once: I tried to freeze and keep everything exactly the way it was before my husband left on deployment. I was afraid to change or do anything new.

The truth is that you can't hold your breath during a deployment. Deployments can last over a year. No one can hold their breath for that long -- even metaphorically.

My then-boyfriend (now husband) was deployed to Iraq, and I knew we wouldn't have much communication during the deployment.

So at first, I tried not to change anything. I didn't want to change my routines in case I forgot to change back before he returned. I didn't want to meet new people -- because how would he feel about me having new friends in my life that he had never met? I felt the same way about new hobbies, traveling and doing anything different that might change me as a person.

I knew my boyfriend loved me. But if he came home and I was a different person -- would he still?

Of course, I understand now that it is impossible to remain the same after a deployment. Deployments change people -- period.

But I am also certain that most young military girlfriends, boyfriends and spouses go through this phase at some point. We feel a sense of fear or guilt about branching out and trying new things during a deployment. We know that our service member will come home a little changed. If we have changed too, it can make the homecoming period much more strained and awkward, right?

And no one wants to be awkward.

Here's the problem: If we can't try new hobbies, make new friends, and visit new places during deployment, then when will we ever be able to do them? Can we only do fun and interesting when we are accompanied by a spouse? Of course not!

And most service members wouldn't want it that way, either. They may be on the other side of the world, but they want their families to be happy and secure. If that means the family has visitors or takes a vacation without them, so be it. There may not be time for a vacation when the service member returns.

Luckily, I got over my initial fears and insecurities. I have been able to try new things during deployment in a big way. During one deployment, I moved to France and lived in Paris as an exchange student. During another, I taught myself to play guitar and rollerblade. After we married, I had a baby during one deployment, earned my Master's degree during another and wrote a book during a third! I have made new friends, visited new places, tried out new hobbies, lost weight, followed new TV shows and pretty much learned to do whatever I wanted to do during a deployment.

Yes, my husband has come home to a changed person. I now speak French, have more babies and I'm a published author. I'm a more confident, self-reliant person.

Guess what? He still loves me. I grew as a person during each one of his deployments. Even if he wasn't there to witness each step of the journey, he still loved me at the end of it.

4 Ways It's OK to Change During Deployment

If you are feeling nervous about branching out and trying new things during a deployment, here are some simple ways to get started.

1. Make a bucket list. Write down ideas for things to do or places to visit in the area around your base. Then grab a friend and go exploring! Try out a new restaurant, hike a new trail or do something unique to that area. If you enjoy it, you can bring your spouse along next time.

2. Challenge yourself. Deployments are a great time to try a 30-day challenge. It could be a fitness challenge, healthy eating routine, saving money or a home organization challenge. Pick one way you want to improve your life while your spouse is away. Then get to it.

3. Explore a hobby. Have you always wanted to try knitting, stand-up paddleboarding, scrapbooking or train for a marathon? Maybe you held back because you didn't have time for it or because your spouse wasn't interested. This is your time. If you don't like it, you can always drop it. But you have nothing to lose when you try something new. You might just discover a new passion.

4. Make friends. When my husband is around, he wants to hang out with people he knows from his unit. When he's gone, I want to hang out with other wives. I don't care what unit they are from. I just want friends. Deployments are my time to bond with friends, do some Girls' Nights Out, play dates with other moms, recipe exchanges, Book Clubs, Bible Studies or whatever I need in my life at that time. You'll never regret building your support group and making lasting friendships.

No one should hold their breath during deployment. You will turn blue and pass out.

Don't be afraid to grow, change and make the most of life. You will never get back the time lost during the deployment. Instead, invest it in becoming the person you want to be.

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