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Retirement: When looking ahead means feeling lost

We just passed our second Fourth of July since we arrived here in Florida last year and completed our last PCS as an Army family.


In the next 12 months we’ll mark our second school year here, our second birthdays here, our second Thanksgiving, our second Christmas and New Year’s and Valentine’s Day and Easter and Memorial Day.


The first year in a new place is always a learning experience. There is trepidation, but also excitement and challenge and stimulation, usually in a good way.


If you hated your last place, the new place is a fresh start. You can try a new job, new hobbies, new friends. You can completely reinvent yourself if you really want to.


And if you loved your last duty station, the first year is a time to grieve. It’s a time to realize that things change - always. Even if you stayed in the same place, others would have moved on. It’s also a time to open yourself up to new experiences, no matter how hard that might be.


You know what both those scenarios remind me of? A rebound relationship.


And just like a rebound relationship, by the end of that first year you almost always realize that everything will be OK.


Then comes that second year, and it’s a whole new ballgame.


For us, the second year at most duty stations was also our last. So just when we hit our stride and got over that last great (or awful) duty station, and made new friends and passed all our first milestones in our new home, we were celebrating our last ones there, too.


That second year was always a weird time of looking backward and forward all at once. It was when I started to compartmentalize my memories and emotions to make room for whatever was to come at the next place.


But this second year is different.


I was fine with leaving Army life behind and, honestly, hadn’t thought about it much until the past few weeks.


Then, the “seconds” started.


 And so did the looking back.


Suddenly, I’m gripped with emotions. I find myself in tears at anything remotely military-related – a Facebook post about a friend’s retirements, seeing service members in uniform at the commissary, even those USAA commercials.


Is it delayed grief at leaving that life behind? Nostalgia for what was but will never be again? Loneliness? Fear?


Not exactly.


We left the Army at the perfect time for us. We loved that life and have many fond memories and lifelong friends, but we’ve moved on. We’re doing our best to put down roots here and become a part of the community. We’re settling in, hopefully at least for the next five years until our kids are in college.


This time, our second year here isn’t our last. And our third and fourth years probably won’t be, either.


The best way to describe what I feel right now, as the second milestones start hurtling by one after another?




Not because of where I am or where I’ve been, but because of where I’m not going.

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