By Sharon Van Heest (This post also appeared on Military One Click.)
The signs are everywhere. Signs that we’ve already lived here for a year. The time change and light into 8:00 pm. Humidity creeping into the endlessly bright forecast. The waxing and waning of a spring break crowd. Red tide washing up onto the shores of the Island. School registration. Alice Virginia’s mobile gallop and her tender voice speaking in staccato sentences. Meggie’s spurt of growth, her lanky legs in 5T clothes. My birthday even. The moving van pulled up to our little beach bungalow last year on my 28th birthday. The signs are everywhere such that I cannot ignore them; the turning over of another year for us in this place.
These signs cause me to reflect on the last year. What surprises me most about these turning over signs is the realization that I’m happy here. I still miss our life in Oklahoma and in many ways still grieve the friendships we left behind, the support network of both Navy family and church friends who made up our village, but the ache is less. Even when I doubted it a year ago (as I always want to do at the start of something new and even when I know better), we’re happy here.
I grew up moving. Not as often as we move now, but enough to claim it as a lifestyle. Honestly, my siblings and I were not kind to my parents through all of it. We blamed them for the disruption of our friendships even while small parts of our psyche realized that the moves were for us and brought better opportunities for our family. I wish I could go back to that stormy-eyed girl with a teenager’s attitude and give her some of the perspective I have now. As a Navy wife. As an adult. As a parent. What I’d whisper to her in those quiet moments, her guard down and really listening is that:
Moving is hard, but the hard gets easier with time.
Just keep doing the next best thing. Don’t think too far ahead, but focus on what is immediately in front of you. When you next look up, a whole year might have gone by.
Keep yourself open to new friends. Initiate conversations and seek out soul mates. Kindred spirits are everywhere, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
Don’t give up until the unfamiliar becomes the familiar. This process happens gradually and will often take you by surprise. And, oh, the comfort that surprise brings!
We are a family, a team, and we stick together. We’re our own traveling band and no one else on the earth will ever know exactly what we’ve experienced except for us. So we share together, the losses, the heartache, and the hills of triumph, and that makes us special. Our love will be there through the hard, to see you to the other side of it.
It’s okay to be homesick, but know that beauty is everywhere. Yearn for it and search it out. Explore the hidden delights of every new place. They are there, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Appreciate the differences in each home and culture, knowing all the while that the very newness is shaping you for something in the future. Change is scary, but it’s okay, too.
Do not fear. You will make it. In fifteen years you’ll be able to see the reasons why you did. Why moving was a part of your story.
And when those first year doubts creep in, when the urge to look back is ever present, when they can’t yet glimpse the first year, turning-over signs, it’s what I’ll tell my daughters, too.
Shannon is a Navy wife of six years, mama to two daughters three-and-under with a third baby girl on the way, blogger, and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling. She’s a lover of simple things like farmer’s markets, barefeet, and bluegrass music. When she’s not tickling sweet toes or chasing toddlers, you can find her reading a good book and sipping sweet tea. For more, follow her at This Foxtail Lily.