When my husband and I moved to our first duty station (FDS), we moved from SLC, Utah, a sprawling city, to Mountain Home, Idaho, a cozy small town located about 45 minutes from Boise. Before moving, I was on the path to graduate college, and I had a small content writing gig. But I was missing one important thing, my husband. With him away between basic military training (BMT) and tech school, I felt like I was in a perpetual state of waiting.
I am sure we can all recall those dreadful eight weeks where we had very limited contact with our spouses. And a shout out to all who are currently going through those eight weeks, you got this! See my blog post The Countdown Begins. During those eight weeks, each day was a milestone. Each phone call from him was like opening a present on Christmas morning, and each letter was a little piece of him I would carry with me. The fact was, it was hard, and there were times I questioned his career choice. But we persevered and made it through the time apart.
Our first month at our FDS, Mtn. Home, I isolated myself. Given, we only had one car at the time and a dog who had serious separation anxiety. Both factors were putting a damper on making new friends or acquiring a job. So that left me at home, twiddling my thumbs and about losing my mind due to boredom. This time led me to miss home more than ever. This was the largest move I had ever made, and let’s just say change hasn’t always been my strong suit. Lucky for us our FDS was only four and a half hours away from our families. But moving to any new place can still be a little overwhelming, no matter the distance.
I hadn’t had to make new friends in such a long time. I think I had forgotten how to. It wasn’t like in elementary school when you could walk up to another kid and ask to be friends. I mean, you could do this, but other adults may look at you weird. Needless to say, making friends at a new place will take time. Be patient with yourself, and make sure you get involved, whether it be on base or within the community. I quickly learned that isolating yourself, simply because you miss home, won’t do anything but make your duty station worse.
On my first trip home I felt like I could breathe again. Giddiness rose in my chest as we began seeing the edge of the city. Landmarks began bringing back memories of, what felt like a past life. A life that I missed terribly. I missed the family dinners with my in-laws where we laughed so hard that our stomachs would hurt. I missed the afternoons spent with my sister-in-law and my best friend, the movie nights with my father, the weekly lunches with my aunt, or the morning walks with my mother.
But missing these things gave me a twinge of guilt. I couldn’t help but think about how I am supposed to like my spouse’s duty station. It’s supposed to be a new journey. You won’t believe how many family members have told me, “It will be an exciting adventure” or “Embrace it, it’s the next chapter of your life.” I wanted to believe this with every bone in my body. I kept reminding myself that this duty station will one day feel like home, but at that moment, I still clung to what had been home. The familiarity brought me comfort as if I were a child with their teddy bear.
Then I thought of my husband who was unable to come on the trip home. If I am missing home this much, was he as well? It’s ok to miss what was. The past is what helped build us, as will our future duty stations. There will be many places that become home. With this, it dawned on me that the reason I felt this way could be contributed to the fact that I still grasped at the strings of the last chapter in my life. This previous chapter felt so close, yet just out of reach.
My first night staying with family, I had laid in bed staring up at the ceiling, willing myself to fall asleep. I readjusted the pillows probably at least a dozen times. I shifted from my left side to my right side, from my stomach to my back. That night had been the first night I had spent away from my husband since his tech school. All the memories of nights alone began to creep up, and I realized that this place I considered home was no longer home.
To all you military spouses missing home, don’t guilt yourself because you don’t like your FDS at first. Often, there are Facebook pages specifically for your duty station, make sure to join them and put yourself out there and meet new people who may understand what you are going through. Embrace the new and understand its natural to miss the past.