Ok guys…let’s get real today
I’m in the military. Yep. This 5-foot 2-inch girl who likes dresses, makeup, Disney Princesses, and all things pretty is an officer in the Army. And I love it. I really do. It’s given me gray hair and put me through epic amounts of stress but the past almost eight years have been some of the best of my life. I’ve gotten to travel, meet new people, and make friends all over the world. I have spent the last few years in a unique roll where I’ve learned so much about leadership, management, and myself. They have been the most challenging and rewarding years and I am so blessed to have been able to have been a part of the unit that I’m with.
But with all that passion comes a trade-off…or two…or three…or a million. In eight years, I’ve missed:
My birthday (twice)
My husband’s birthday (eight times)
My mom’s, dad’s, sisters’ birthdays (seven or eight times a piece)
My first wedding anniversary (and will be missing my fourth later this year)
The list goes on, it’s almost endless at this point all the things I’ve missed. And that I’ll keep missing.
I’m not saying this to point out all the sacrifices I’ve made, and those that my fellow Soldiers make. This is not a sympathy post. My point in this is that I know a thing or two about how to make a separation work, how to make it a little more bearable. Even if it’s just a couple of days long or a couple of months.
My husband and I have been apart more than we’ve been together in the almost ten total years we’ve been dating, engaged, and married (holy crap let me let that sink in for a minute). It’s not been easy. In fact, there were and still are so many days that just plain suck. Separation is no fun, even if you’re away just for a business trip or a girl’s weekend to the beach. Being separated from your family (whatever that may look like to you) is hard on everyone involved.
There are some things you can do that will make the time apart better.
Number One: Love what you do. I cannot stress this enough and here’s why. If you don’t enjoy whatever it is that is taking you away from your family (yes, even on the stressful days) then it’s just NOT WORTH IT. If your job requires a bunch of travelling, but you are suffering because of it, something’s got to change. You may not be in a time and place to quit your job- please don’t do that if you aren’t ready for it- but you can make changes in how you and your family handle the separation. If you’re passionate about what you do, it also helps those around you who love you and want the best for you support your decisions and opportunities.
Number Two: Make the distance seem a little less. I always make it a priority to answer texts, calls, video chats, and emails from my family when I’m away. Even when I’m hours ahead or behind them. The communication helps give my family a peace of mind while I’m away. Communication has always been important in my relationship with my husband. It helps keep the trust between us, and while I’m away we communicate to build our relationship. Talk as much as you and your loved ones need, and make an effort to talk about their interests. Right now I make a weekly video chat home to talk to my parents, and some days I get up early so I can spend more time texting with my husband. Do what works for you and make every minute count.
Number Three: Make time at home special. No matter how used to it we are, and believe me we’re used to it, saying goodbye is the absolute worst. We dread it every. Single. Time. But one thing that we do is make sure the last thing we do together is something special, and then we plan something special for when I get back. Right before I left this time we took two days and went to Charleston…it was amazing! And when I get back, we’re going to take a cruise!!! It will be our first actual vacation in four years. Carving out this special time on either end does a couple of things: it creates fond memories for while we’re separate, it gives us something to look forward to and plan while we’re apart, and then at the end of it all we get this amazing opportunity to reconnect. Now you don’t need to go all out (we’ll have been separated for 11 months by the time I get home) but make time for the people you love, and it will make all the difference.
The most important thing I will stress to you is this:
You are in a unique situation, it may be good, it may be bad. Heck it might even be great. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to make what you’re going through easy. You have to take the time and sort out what works for you and the people you care about. I can’t tell you what your partner or mother needs to hear right now. It’s up to you to make the effort to listen to their needs while you’re pursuing your dreams. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise that it will improve your relationships.
I don’t know where I’d be without the family that I leave behind. They are infuriating, and quite possibly certifiably mad, but they are my everything. And I owe it to them to make sure I put their minds at ease while I’m away, and I’ll do it whatever way I can. So this weekend I will call home and we will all be one phone call closer to seeing each other in person.
I can’t make the time go by faster, but I can determine how I spend it. I encourage you all to be intentional with your time, it doesn’t matter whether you’re at home or across the world.
Every day counts, how you spend it is up to you.