Lesson 1 from Bryson and Lori Smith: Love God. Love People.
Lesson 2 from Rob and Cynthia Wittwer: Work Hard. Play Hard. Choose to be Happy.
I grew up as a military brat. I went to 3 different high schools and the longest I have ever lived somewhere was in college. I lived in that town for 5 years. That's a long time for me. Troy was a military brat too. But after his dad got a staff job at the Pentagon when Troy was in 6th grade, he stayed in the same school system until high school graduation. We were both used to moving and making new friends and starting over.
Troy and I got married right after undergrad and they scheduled him to go to ASBC in Montgomery 3 days before our wedding. Oh. Hell. No. Troy called and asked them to move it back seeing as how they were giving him 2 weeks notice to report to Alabama and our wedding was already paid for, guest airline tickets were bought, honeymoon arranged, etc. They obliged. Thank God. However, that meant that his active duty date was pushed to November 6th of 2007 rather than in July.
We lived in a tiny apartment in downtown Harrisonburg with my roommates (I was starting my 1st year of grad school, which was on campus). It was seriously the tiniest, cutest apartment you ever saw. Anyway, we got lucky and Troy and I got an on base house. And it was brand new. Seriously awesome. They literally finished the house painting the day before Troy moved in. Poor guy. He had to move in by himself because I was still in school and he didn't know anyone there. Yet.
TRUTH AND SHANNON FINCK
His first day reporting to work, he met Truth, another 2nd Lieutenant with vast prior enlisted experience. And yes, that's actually his first name. And Truth was on babysitting duty for the new LT. The job NOBODY wants. Watching the newly commissioned officer, who has no idea how the military works yet, asking all kinds of silly questions and is trying to figure out their ass from a hole in the ground. Truth had been prior enlisted for 8 years (like Rob) but he got picked up for Officer Training School after busting his butt to get his degree while working full time and raising 2 kids.
Lesson 3: Have your own friends and have your own hobbies.
Truth and Shannon were dating when they were 18 and 19 (Shannon was a cougar...rawr) and working in an Italian restaurant. They got married and Truth went off to basic training and Shannon lived with his parents and their first born, Jake. She's a saint. I kid. I've met Truth's Mom and she's AWESOME. She brought me puppets for when I worked in a school and the kids loved them. Anyway, they were finally joined again when he finished basic. They had another little boy named Issac.
It is important to mention that their ENTIRE families live in Ohio. Grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews. Their whole life. In Ohio. "The Land of Milk and Honey." Seriously. When they talk about it, their eyes glaze over. And Ohio State. Don't even get them started. Truth met Jim Tressel when he was deployed and it was like he met Jesus in the flesh. I learned the most interesting things about Ohio. The first Buffalo Wild Wings was there. Every time we went, they mentioned it. Rascal Flatts is from Ohio. Every time they were on the radio, they mentioned it. They plan to move back there when Truth retires from the Air Force. Wright-Patterson AFB is the number 1 move on their wish list. Being away from their very large families is hard very for them.
When my Thanksgiving break started (JMU got a full 10 days, not just a 4 day weekend) I drove from Harrisonburg, Virginia to Dover, Delaware and let me tell you...it was my first time doing ANYTHING as a military spouse rather than a dependent. It is so stressful. I couldn't figure out where I was going on base. I had never done a move without my parents. Moving to a new place and knowing no one except your husband is scary. Because we were newlyweds and I still hadn't decided if we had done the right thing. And the military is scary.
Troy brought me over to meet Truth and Shannon the first night I was there. They had just moved from old base housing into new base housing and Troy had helped them with their "across the base" move. I remember when I met Shannon, she was super quiet. And me being me, I couldn't shut up. I feel this need to talk and talk and talk when there is silence. You can psychotherapy me or whatever but I can't help it. Poor Shannon took the brunt of my babbling while Truth and Troy talked shop. Looking back on it, that was probably the best thing for our friendship. She understood early on that when I was on a roll, to get out of the way or hop on the train cause I can bulldoze you with my chatter. She still makes fun of me and the way I can talk for 15 minutes without prompting.
I can say looking back on it, that particular instance of babbling was nervousness. She had kids that were 9 and 11 and a was super-experienced military spouse. I was talking and talking hoping that I would say something that she connected with or thought was funny, hoping that she would be my friend or feel sorry for me or something. Which I know now was a risk. When Shannon meets people, she's super quiet and takes everything in. Well, I'm a whole lot to take in. I think she could tell I was scared. So I met them right before Thanksgiving and didn't see them/talk to them again until June, 7 months later.
I finished the coursework for school and was going out to start my clinical rotations, which were all arranged in Dover. Shannon didn't work at the time and the guys were working like crazy because they were having an ORI (some kind of crazy inspection) and I was super lonely. So I was being a little pushy about spending time with Shannon. It was the first time as a military spouse where I needed the support of another spouse to get from day to day and vent because (seriously) Troy slept in his car instead of coming home.
Shannon is super into hobbies. And TV. She introduced us to Big Bang Theory. She knits and crochets. She paints. And refinishes furniture. And dumpster dives. And does drive bys on trash days. And hits up Goodwill on military discount days. And antique stores. And uses crackle paint. And has quick and easy recipes. She taught me how to fry chicken. And use my crock pot. And plant flowers. And make homemade wreaths for every season. She is my original pinterest. I would use her house, style, and sarcastic quotes as inspiration. She showed me how important it is to have hobbies and interests that absolutely DO NOT include your husband at all. If you structure your life around your spouses schedule, hobbies, and friends, you'd never get anything done as a military spouse. Having a military spouse means always depending on yourself. You can't depend on them to be home for dinner or help with the kids. Or change your oil or cut the grass. You have to be the mom and the dad. The chef and the chauffeur. The landscaper and the banker.
Truth deployed in January of 2009 and Troy and I took care of Shannon. Troy went over and played video games with the boys while Shannon and I went to midnight Twilight movie premieres and went to yard sales every weekend. We had them over for dinner. And had Christmas in July. Complete with decorations and music. I spent at least an hour with her everyday, but to be honest, but could have been up to 18 hours. We would have these epic movie rainy days that started at 8 am with coffee and breakfast and ended with popcorn and beer at 2 am. When Truth came home in August, we took a trip to Atlantic City for the weekend and it was EPIC. I look back at it and kind of wonder how we lived. So much alcohol. Not enough sleep. So much conversation and laughing. It was so good to be back together.
And then Shannon and Truth got orders to Elmendorf, Alaska 2 weeks later and 3 weeks before Troy was leaving for a deployment. I was crushed. We were in Germany on vacation when she told me. I was devastated. I was depending on my friend to take care of me while Troy was deployed the same way that we had taken care of them while Truth was deployed. That sounds so selfish, but I was seriously counting on them. As it turns out, they ended up living with me for 2 months (after Troy had left) while Truth went ahead to Alaska to get settled and moved into their house.
The day they left to fly to Alaska, I felt like my world ended. It was seriously awful. My house felt so empty. I went from having Troy and Optimus to having Shannon, Jake, Issac, Lucy, and Optimus to just Optimus. We were so depressed. I totally threw myself into work and hobbies. I kept busy. I kept going to Goodwill on wednesdays like we had done. And crafting. And I watched 6 seasons of Lost in 3 weeks. It was an addiction. I started watching the Bachelorette with my friend Brittany every monday. And going to girls night with some of my neighbors every tuesday. And I had an epiphany.
If I am going to be a happy spouse of a military member, I have to have my own interests, my own friends and my own life. And that's okay. Shannon totally got that before she met us and just integrated us into her life. They left, and I'm pretty sure her world didn't end without me.
I feel like the lesson I learned from Truth and Shannon was learned indirectly. I became super dependent on them and our friendship. They were the first people that we had a great connection with in Troy's military career. And we love them SO much. But when they moved, I was devastated. I had to relearn how to keep myself occupied and literally GET A LIFE. Having friends is SO important and having hobbies is SO important. I knew this, but it was reinforced when reality hit hard and I was left alone.
When Troy is home, we definitely love doing things together. But we also realize that when we have our own interests and friends and spend time apart, our time we spend together is better. You bring a different experience, perspective or skill to the conversation. You have more to talk about.
As much as Troy and I love each other, sometimes you just want to do something alone. Or with someone else. To make yourself better. Or the world better. Or have an experience to share. When you get married, do not lose yourself to the title of husband or wife. Or become dependent on someone else to keep you happy. You need to have things that you do alone that bring you joy.
Thank you to the Fincks for abandoning me or I may not have figured this out. And this is becoming SO important now that Troy's schedule is such a mess. I love you guys.