Military Wives, This One's For You
Goodbye old, hello new
Nights are the hardest when I am alone. Of course, I am never alone because I have my three year old son with me. My husband is on shore duty (which means he doesn't deploy for three years) so he is home more which is a definite bonus. When we were stationed in San Diego, California three years ago, however, I rarely saw him. He was on a ship and had to work a lot. I think I only saw him on weekends for the most part, in 2010. That was a rough year for us as a family. My husband had to deploy just ten months after coming home from his first deployment. Different ships operate differently and I knew frigates usually deployed more often than others, but the toll it took on our family was great. I became a single mother in an instant, my son was always looking at pictures of his daddy, pointing to them and crying...and my husband was terribly despondent in videos he would send to us from the ship. It was safe to say our family was going through a mild depression. Such is life in the military. Everybody sacrifices. The men and women who serve this country, followed by their spouses and children, and then their parents and families. I wouldn't wish this kind of sacrifice on anybody, and certainly not everyone is cut out for this life. Sadly, some aren't strong enough. It takes everything you've got to get through the military life. You should definitely always come prepared and expect the worst, so that when something happens and it isn't that bad, you will count it as a blessing. It's a good life lesson, too. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?
Back to nights. The thing I miss most...is my family back in Singapore. The first thing I think about when I think of home is my father. He will be turning seventy this November, but I won't be home to see him or celebrate with him. Sometimes I think the sacrifice is too great. What separates the foreign nationals like myself who are military spouses, from the military spouses native to this country is the fact that all their family is right here, in the States. The rest of us who are not from here don't have the luxury of being able to drive a few days to let the kids see their grandpa. Or fly seven hours from the West Coast to the East Coast. I mean, take me for example. Singapore is almost an entire day's journey of flying. Twelve hours straight from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Japan. Then seven more hours to Singapore. Try doing that with a baby. I did. Bravest moment of my life. It was hell, but I did it. And I pat myself on the back every time I think of that amazing feat. I pulled through, and nobody I know can say they've done the same. I must be a lot stronger than I think. Back to my dad. I miss my dad a lot. I miss my mom and brother and sister and their kids, my friends, my local food, my city, my entire life. The sacrifice is definitely greater when you're a foreign national whose spouse is US military. Like I said, not everyone is cut out for it. But, if you're strong enough, and you can fight through anything, then maybe these tips will help you. All it takes is effort and the will to be happy.
Learn to drive. If you don't drive in your own country because like me, you never needed to because public transportation is highly reliable and cars just cost too dang much (a 2006 Mazda 6 costs between SGD$40,000 to SGD$50,000 in Singapore, because car buyers have to purchase COE, which is a Certificate of Entitlement. The Singapore Government does this to limit the number of cars on the roads.) you need to start learning how to drive now. Driving is second to breathing in the US and if you're new to this country I suggest learning to drive and if English isn't your first language, perhaps carrying a dictionary around with you and reading a lot of newspapers or doing some general reading online (like you're doing now!) will help you stay on top of the English language. Most Americans are forgiving if you don't speak the language, so don't worry. It's all about learning something new. Driving though, is a definite must. That's your first key to establishing a life for yourself here.
Socialize. Simple as that. Put yourself out there. The only way you can make friends is to be one. So go out, join a group that shares similar interests as you such as a knitting group, a book club or a stroller-jogging pack of mommies. May sound like a joke but it will save your life. Not going out and trying these things will mean you are sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself and sinking even deeper into depression.
Pick up new hobbies. Knitting, yoga, painting, photography...I can go on and on. There is so much to do! It's when you're idle that the negative thoughts start to settle in. So don't give the negativity a chance to thrive. Get up and explore your neighborhood. Use Google Maps and search nearby areas to see what they have to offer. I personally love dance classes and have been actively salsa and bachata dancing for the last year. It's so much fun! There's always something for everyone.
These are the best tips I can give to anyone who is new to the States. There is so much to do here, if you only go out and search for it. Give yourself a chance to like it here, like I do. Life doesn't have to be a struggle when your spouse is away on deployment or TDY (temporary duty). Remember to go on base (or post if you're an Army Wife) and explore the area. The military has several options and perks so make use of them! Here are a few websites to help you along: go to Yelp for some really helpful insight to restaurants, salons, or any business really. It's the perfect place to find reviews on anything in your area and you get the inside scoop to the best places based on other people's reviews and experiences! A true life saver. For all things military, check out Military OneSource; you will find basically everything you need to know on that website. Another website I am on frequently is Military.com. It's a really helpful website and there are some interesting reads on there, too. Last but not least, here are the websites for the exchanges for all of the branches of the Armed Forces:
The links above will take you to the 'store locations' page, so you can go straight to finding your location and get shopping! Don't forget to check out the other websites; they were really my pillars of strength when I started out as a Navy Wife just four years ago. God bless you and give you the strength you need to keep going, each and every day. To all the men and women of the Armed Forces, thank you for your service. And to the spouses who stand by them, I salute you.