By Jenna Moede
I hope no one feels as awkward as I did when I first married into the military. The title of “military spouse” made me really, really uncomfortable. In fact, I let it make me miserable until I started embracing my new city.
Because of our spouses, we get to call two communities home: the military community and the local community outside the gate. Once I realized how lucky that made me, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started understanding how to fit in.
I owe it all to working hard at making friends and letting go of my fears. I recommend that every new spouse try those two things if they’re feeling down!
Coming straight from a college campus where I had met most of my friends as a freshman, making friends as the latecomer didn’t feel natural. Wedging myself into already established friend groups intimidated me, but I knew that spouses come from different places in life and that everyone felt like the newbie at some point.
It turned out I had nothing to worry about because no one excluded me as the newcomer, and most people understood my struggle. Because families constantly moved, groups never really got as established as they seemed.
I started really meeting new people through work. I built my network and I met some personal friends. Some of those people had affiliations to the military and some didn’t, but it didn’t matter either way. I really enjoyed not relying on someone else, like my husband, to make friends for me.
As my circle continued to grow, other community relations fell into place. I still had to work hard, but it did seem as if opportunities kept knocking, and I just had to open the door.
One of those doors led me to volunteering. It became both a way to network and a way to spend time giving back to the new place I called home. I found, and still find, most of the volunteer work online, through my job, and through the base newspaper and websites. If anyone would like to volunteer, those resources are a great start.
I also enjoyed finding out about upcoming events through volunteering that I might not have known about otherwise. Now, I constantly get invited to join in activities, and I truly feel at home in this community because of it.
Joining community groups also helped me feel connected to my environment. It made me nervous at first to go to group meetings where I didn’t know anyone, but everyone always welcomed me. It eventually got easier to step out of my comfort zone.
Since joining my first group, I have found additional groups on our base’s social media pages, the public library, local websites and the events section of the newspaper.
I do, however, wish that I had joined a study group during my undergraduate studies as another way to get involved. Studying with my friends always motivated me on campus, and I think a local study group would have done the same. A study support group can help inspire members even when they don’t attend the same college or classes. Finding one in your local area, might give you the push you need to go back to school.
Lastly, and most importantly, I had to change my attitude. I know not everyone needs an attitude change, but I think everyone feels insecure sometimes. I had to stop telling myself that I didn’t belong. After getting married I felt like an outsider here and I thought that people judged me when I didn’t know exactly what to do.
I even forgot my ID in the car while shopping at the commissary for the first time alone. Looking back, I could have easily gone out to my car before checkout, but I got so embarrassed that I just put all the food back and ran out.
It took a while before I would go back in alone, but once I stopped acting so nervous and learned the ropes, I finally gained enough confidence. Realize that you don’t have to always know what to do. That was my toughest and most awkward lesson.
Feeling like I fit into the community boiled down to putting in the effort and acting confident until I actually felt confident. I stopped hesitating and second guessing and put my whole heart into getting the most out of life.
I feel most excited that I get to leave a part of myself behind when we move someday, and I will take something very special with me from this community. I put down roots, I made this place part of me.