As I’ve said before, I have led a very sheltered military life so far. We have been incredibly lucky and we haven’t had to move prior to 2018 when we moved to the States, even though we have been together since 2011. Within a 40min drive I could be with my parents, my in-laws and most of my friends, some of whom I have known since I was 12 years old. I had my support network and I basically had no idea what ‘military life’ was really all about.
Well that was a culture shock… I knew that I would have to find a new support network and that I would make new friends, I would have to! What I hadn’t really thought about was that that the make up of that group of friends I would develop would be ever-changing.
Of course I knew that we were moving to Pennsylvania for a finite period of time and therefore we would make friends and then have to leave them at the end of that period. I hadn’t (stupidly) considered that a lot of the people I would meet are also in that situation and wouldn’t necessarily be around for the whole 3 years that we are here.
I have met so many wonderful people but there is always an awareness that the friendship will eventually become a long distance one. We have become good friends with a military family who moved here shortly before us but we are already preparing to say goodbye because their next posting starts in June, on the west coast. Not exactly easy to visit them!
The main difference between the friends I know at home and the friends I have made here is that we don’t have a shared history. Our friendship is only (at most) 9months old. They have only ever known me as a mother of two children, i.e. tired. They didn’t know me during my Goth phase (thankfully short-lived), they didn’t help me home after a night at the “dancin’”, they didn’t listen to me cry/talk about boyfriends and eventually my lovely husband. In short, they don’t know the various highs and lows of my life up until this point. In some ways that is nice, I can start afresh, but it is also wonderful to be able to reminisce with my older friends about past adventures and indiscretions!
Within our community of ‘International Military Spouses’ there is also the changing dynamics of our group. We have become very close as we are all in the same situation – we have moved away from our family to a country we don’t know and in some ways we have become each other’s family. This was particularly evident when one of our group recently had a baby. I’m sure this is one of the hardest times to be away from family but she said that she didn’t feel alone because we are all here. We were all almost in tears at that but it is true!
However, we face the same constant changes to our group. Two of the wives will be moving ‘home’ in the summer and new families will be arriving. I’m sure they will be lovely too but there will be an adjustment period as we all get to know each other, just as there was when I arrived. There will inevitably be a feeling that the new people are ‘replacing’ the old but in fact it is just an opportunity to meet even more people and hopefully make friends. At the start, I felt a little like a replacement for my predecessor but that didn’t last long as I got to know everyone.
One thing that makes me a little sad about this revolving door circle of friends is that it also impacts my kids. As often happens, when my husband and I become friends with a couple with children, our kids also become friends and now they are also having to say goodbye, all too quickly. Of course it is slightly different for them, particularly for my daughter who is a little older. She is at preschool every day so the vast majority of her friends are there and are not part of a military family. I am thankful that she mostly has consistency in her friendship group but a little sad that she also has to say more goodbyes than she would at home.
That said, it is likely that this posting will just be the start of our military life and won’t be the last time that Hubby is posted away from ‘home’. We will just need to wait and see where the posting is after this and where we will live next. At least, if we have to get used to evolving friendships and life away from family and ‘old’ friends, we get to do it in the sunshine and exploring a new country. It could be worse!
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