Having graduated from both high school and college, I’m at least familiar with the idea of starting a new chapter of my life, in a potentially new place, with potential new anxieties (i.e. grocery stores that don’t sell the brands I like, street signs in weird colors, gyms without preset 30-minute weight lifting rotations, different television schedule time zones, etc.). Which is probably why, up to this point, I’ve intentionally only moved to places that have CVS pharmacies and BB&T banks, because the idea of having to transfer or move around all those little parts of my life seems way too difficult.
I am the perfect candidate for army wifedom.
I’ve been taking my transition into military life very one-step-at-a-time, based on the same principle that teaches deep-sea divers to return to the surface slowly if they want to avoid their brains exploding during the ascent. (I realize my medical facts might be slightly off. I’m not a doctor.) So now that I’ve graduated from dealing-with-deployments 101 and I’m working towards a basic understanding of acronyms, the army has decided it’s time for me to move past the prerequisites and onto the 300-level course: the reality of reenlistments. I’m calling it 300-level because it’s overlapping with dealing-with-deployments 201, and I haven’t really finished my homework on acronyms.
Because lists are one of my coping mechanisms, I’ve narrowed it down to three basic reasons why I’m struggling with Jonathan’s impending reenlistment (and by “impending,” I actually mean I’m pretty sure he needs to make a decision in, like, a week):
- My contact with Jonathan has been infrequent and unpredictable, so even when I do understand what he’s talking about, half of it has changed by the next time I talk to him.
- I rarely understand what he’s talking about.
- His new contract with the army, his new location with the army, and my entire new life will all be starting around and during THE WEDDING I’M TRYING TO PLAN.
- So many army bases are in parts of the country that don’t have CVS pharmacies and BB&T banks.
I spent the first year or so of my relationship with Jonathan holding as tightly as possible to my delusions that the relationship could continue longterm without my life changing very much. I held onto these delusions not because I’m stupid, but because thinking about life as an army wife was confusing, terrifying, nauseating, and generally too unreal for me to dwell on. And even though the concept is now very real to me, in a lot of ways it’s still doused in that same uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
It’s been frustrating for me to try to help Jonathan sort through his reenlistment options and make an educated decision, because I feel so inadequately educated about the educated decision. Even when Jonathan has laid everything out for me as clearly as he can (in his defense, he’s exercising a huge amount of patience with me through this process), I still feel like I’ve just pulled up to an auto repair shop with smoke billowing out of my engine, and I’m looking up at the mechanic, saying, “I don’t understand what’s happening, so just tell me what to do and I’m depending on your adherence to the honor system for you to not screw me over.”
As a control freak, it’s difficult at best for me to admit all this ignorance. It’s difficult, at best, to feel like there’s a problem I’m not naturally equipped with the tools to solve. To feel helpless. Relatively helpless, that is, because I have great trust in Jonathan, and I know that he does understand what he’s talking about, and will make the best educated decision he can (both about his reenlistment, and about my car problems). And if he doesn’t, at least all the blame is on him and I’m free to be extremely bitter about it. He’s a lucky guy.
I know that my understanding will increase with time, so I’m trying to stay positive by breaking the facts down into small parts that I can currently wrap my brain around. The simplest of these parts at the moment is the part about location. And now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’ve really narrowed down all the places Jonathan could be transferred to that I want nothing to do with.
To be proactive, I’ve drawn up a map of the continental United States that shows all the locations of army bases, and all the places I’ve decided I do or do not want to live, for various reasons.
Let’s start with the happy places (click on the image if you don’t feel like getting out your magnifying glass to read it):
And then the terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad places:
For comments on Alaska, please refer to the comments I made about the Northeast. It appears that I’m pretty ambivalent to Texas and Colorado, which is probably because Colorado is home to Mike the Headless Chicken, and in Texas I feel like it’s socially acceptable to wear big hats, but I’m still speculating. Also I’ve conveniently left Fort Campbell out of the debate, since I already know I’ll be living there, and I’m starting to really like the Nashville airport.
All that having been said, I’m (mostly) past my delusions, and stuck firmly on reality. I’m always going to want to do what’s best for Jonathan’s career and happiness, what’s best for my career and happiness, and what’s best for our family, however small or large it happens to be at the time. And that firm reality of army life means the “best” option for those things will probably not be located inside my hearts and stars, because reenlisting is a little more complicated than shapes you can draw in Microsoft Paint. I know that I could end up anywhere. And I know that I’ll be okay anywhere, even if it means taking on a part-time job to pay for all the anti-friz hair products. My only real unnatural fear is about tornadoes, which is what makes me so positive I’ll end up in the Midwest, because now I’ve said it out loud so it’s sure to happen.
Advice is welcome. So is Valium.
P.S. I’m really sorry if I personally offended somewhere you live, somewhere you’re from, somewhere you sometimes visit your second cousins, or somewhere that’s never been featured in a Meg Ryan movie. I’m sure there are great things about all the places I’ve insensitively tagged as terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad. Don’t blame me; blame society. And meteorology.
P.S. again. Thank you to Jacki and Curtis, who both sat through all the previous dialogue well before I’d abandoned my delusions.