My friend Michelle, (not her real name), is stressed out, and with good reason. Her intel-analyst husband is in the process of retiring out of the Army after 20+ years and is trying to find his next job. They are both up to their eyeballs in creating targeted resumes and filling out job application forms.
Their transition is further complicated by the fact that their oldest daughter is graduating from high school and is about to make her own big move to whatever college they can afford. As if that wouldn’t be enough to handle, they also have three other kids between the ages of 7 and 16, all dealing with their own life stage issues.
Between trying to find a new job, one that will most likely involve a transatlantic move from Europe to America, securing financial aid for their soon-to-be college co-ed and dealing with everyone else in the family, you can understand why my friend may be feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Just thinking about her growing to-do list stresses me out!
Recently, when I asked her how she was feeling about things, she said the magic insulating words that all military spouses have spoken at one time or another, and on multiple occasions:
“We don’t know anything yet, but it’ll all work out.”
Of course it will, and I say that honestly and sans sarcasm. I say that for you as you go through your own version of transition purgatory.
It will all work out. If being a military spouse has taught each of us one thing, it is that things may not work out just the way we want them to or when we want them to, but that they will ultimately work out one way or another.
If you are married to a service member who is retiring from the military, let that mantra comfort you in some small way as you make the change from being a military family to becoming a civilian one.
It’ll all work out even if you don’t know what is going to happen.
Comfort is cozy, but it helps to have a game plan as well. Here are some strategies you can employ along the way to help things work out.
- Rely on what you already know. You’ve experienced a PCS move or two in your lifetime. You have a general sense of what needs to be accomplished on oh-so-many levels. Channel that intuitive moving know-how and apply it to this move as well. Start your to-do list now.
- Nail down the facts as best you can. You may not know where you are moving, who your next employer will be, or where you will be living in the next 30 days. You do, however, know that change is going to happen whether you’re prepared for it or not. To that end, plan and alternatively plan for it as best you can.
If x happens, then we’ll launch Plan A.
If y happens, we’ll go with Plan B.
If z happens, we’ll just crack open that bottle of Patron we’ve been saving, and deal with it somehow.
- Be patient with yourselves. You may have the idea that your family’s military-to-civilian life transition will be a singular event that starts and ends at specific point in time. It won’t be. Both you and your spouse will find yourself in a prolonged adjustment period that continues well after you receive your last LES. Accept it. Genuine change takes time.
- Be open to the possibilities. You may hope that the first job you land out of the military lifestyle you’ve come to know and love will be THE job you’ve been waiting for. You might be lucky in that respect or you might not be. Don’t be surprised to find that what you think of as the right job is only right for the moment. It may fill an immediate need but within a year or so, you could find yourself back in the job hunt. It happens.
- Don’t settle. As you transition into civilianhood, you may think you have to take whatever is offered to you. You don’t. You have choices now. Take the time you need to make the right ones for you and for your family. Tap into the expertise of those who have made the transition before you, and just breathe.
Maybe, just maybe, Nietzche and Kelly Clarkson have it right after all.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Janet Farley is the author of "The Military Spouse’s Guide to Employment: Smart Jobs for Mobile Lifestyles” (Impact Publications, 2012) and “Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job” (Jist Publishing, Inc., 2012). Follow her on Twitter @mil2civguide and @smartjobchoices for tips, news and inspiration.