In April, I’ll have been a milso/milspouse for five years. I’m going to be completely cliche here, but I have no clue where the time has gone! Five years though. Half a decade. And those five years have given me a crazy ride that I was never anticipating.
And part of that crazy ride has been learning about myself in situations I never thought I’d be in.
I suck at hiding my tears.
When John and I first started dating and we had to say goodbye, I thought that I could put on a “brave face” and say goodbye without crying. Nope. I thought the same thing in the lead-up to deployment. Nope. I thought the same thing at our goodbye, and then afterwards, and then for the goodbye after R&R. Nope, nope, nope. I’m a big, hot, tearful mess when it comes to emotions. And you know what? That’s okay. People deal with stress and sadness in different ways– no one can not deal with those kinds of emotions. My way is crying. And also eating icing and cookie dough.
I’m a total introvert. And that’s okay.
Before the military life, I didn’t realize how much of an introvert I really am. It’s not that I dislike people– to the contrary! I just actually enjoy being by myself, and it’s something I’ve learned to embrace in the long hours when John’s not home.
I’m an entrepreneur! (What?!)
Three years ago, when I started my blog, I would never in a bajillion years have ever thought to call myself an entrepreneur. No way. I’m not a business woman. I’m not a math whiz. I’m not even that great at meeting and networking with people. I was an English major for cryin’ out loud. I like my books and laptop. I like creating things. But Jo, My Gosh! turning 4 this August and with freelancing opportunities and other exciting things on the horizon for me and the blog, I feel like I can finally (quietly) call myself an entrepreneur. I’m definitely still learning and I’m sure I will be for the rest of my life.
My sense of self-worth is attached to my career.
Before I married John, I was an inner-city school teacher. I loved my job. I loved my independence. I loved getting a paycheck and being able to be completely self-reliant. (Don’t get me wrong, I still love those things.) And then I had to leave teaching to marry the man of my dreams and we made the decision that I would not try to get my certification in Virginia for many financial and technical reasons. I ended up securing a teaching position with an online graduate program. I am thankful for it then and now. But the problem is, adjunct faculty positions don’t pay much. In my first semester, I made just about 10% of what my prior salary had been. Less when you take out taxes So I tried to pick up other jobs for a steadier income. I mystery shopped. I listed my lesson plans and worksheets on Teachers Pay Teachers. I worked at a National Park gift shop. I worked for a Canadian guy as a copy writer (but that’s a different story). I began freelancing for other websites. I consulted for an educational start up. I begged for more classes to teach.
I hustled and hustled. And I realized that my sense of worth is greatly derived from my career. Even though I was working so many jobs, I was happier than I had been at the beginning of our marriage when I was so very underemployed. I didn’t resent John. I didn’t resent the choices I made. My career– patchworked and crazy quilted as it is– is something I’m proud of.
I’m braver than I think I am. (And so are you!)
When John’s deployment came onto the horizon, I had no idea how I’d make it through, much less help him make it through what was sure to be one of the most difficult times in his life and our relationship. But somehow, I did. And when I thought that I couldn’t leave my job and start all over again, somehow I did. There were days I didn’t do any of those things so gracefully. Really, there were a lot of days that kicked me in the face, and a lot of days that I fell on it. But I made it through. And you can, too.
I know because I get emails and messages from military spouses and significant others who felt just like me– they’re not sure if they’re brave enough. They think that there’s something special they need to possess. There’s no special can of Popeye’s spinach, there’s not a secret code everyone else knows that you don’t. And that’s what’s wonderful about this life. The ability to be brave and succeed in military life is already within you. You just don’t know it yet.
But you will.