When your spouse gets PCS orders, there is something weird that always seem to happen.
You go through this period of either grief because you don’t want to go, or you celebrate because it’s your dream location and you just can’t wait to get there.
After that time of coming to terms that you are moving, the inevitable withdraw happens.
Its that time between receiving orders and leaving where you start to pull back from your volunteer obligations, from your job, and from those friends who have made the last several years so worth it. At first you let go of one thing. You'll miss a few lunch dates with your friends, and at times you feel like they have moved on without you when you haven’t even left yet. You'll tell yourself it’s for the best because they won’t be at your next location and need to start getting those systems in place to survive life until you find your squad again.
You get through the PCS – the crazy days of having your house packed up into boxes by complete strangers, cringing when you hear a dresser thumping down a hall, and then having your household goods arrive at your new home. After that, you'll be figuring out how to fit that king size bed into the smallest master bedroom that you have ever seen (and wondering why there are still so many boxes of toys when you purged like crazy before moving).
Then it happens. You find the time to get into your groove, to get plugged in, to meet new friends and to start building your tribe again. Except, those orders you grieved over took you from one of the most fantastic places in the world, to a tiny little installation – no, not an installation. It is actually listed as a depot-a tiny little place with very little active duty military.
There are no family readiness groups, no Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC), no spouses club, no ACS, no MWR, no anything. Just "no."
You were dropped in the middle of little Podunk and told “enjoy the next 2-3 years”, and like you grieved the orders, you now want to grieve not having everything that you previously plugged into to find your people.
Where in the world do I belong here?
You church date for a while until you find one that you think might be the right one. You try to meet the neighbors, but no one really understands why in 14 years you would move 10 times and are even shocked that there are active duty military folks at the local depot. You feel like a fish out of water, and cry to have those awkward FRG meetings back again.
If you’re like me, you think this might be a good time for some self-care, to prioritize yourself and take it easy for now. But after the 3rd week of walking the aisles of Target (the most happening place in little Podunk) and Netflix marathoning the newest series you start to go stir crazy. What am I doing? Why am I here? C’mon Army, where are my fellow spouses and built in friends?
Finding your tribe in a remote location is hard, and honestly it can almost feel worse than a deployment.
It’s like not knowing how to swim, being handed a brick and told good luck. All you can do is tread water until your legs are tired because there is no one there to throw you a life raft like before. Where are my people? Any people?
But then sometimes, like a breath of fresh air, you find someone. That person who may not fully understand the crazy life we live, but the someone who takes you in accepts you as one of the locals.This is a person you could put down as an emergency contact for you kids at school, call at 2am when your husband is gone and you need to take a child to the ER, and the person who will come over to bake cookies and hang out just because that is sometimes what the good soul needs. You find that one, and then before you know it, there will be others. And while your friends may not be from the military, they will be just as good, if not better when the time comes to toss you that flotation device.
Don’t rush too hard and eagerly to finding where you belong. Sometimes we have to wonder this wilderness to find our new normal in a very unusual place. The people will come. It may not be the squad that ran deep at your last location, but it’ll be just what you need.
Hang in there my friend.
As a great lady once said,
“This too shall PCS” -Lauren Hope of Hope Designs
Megan Harless is an Army Veteran and active duty spouse of 13 years. She spends her time advocating for PCS Reform, volunteering in her community, and raising her three children. In her down time she enjoys watching movies, traveling, and searching for the worlds best chocolate!
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