So, all military brats are familiar with separation. Our parent(s) deploys, goes out on trips, or leaves for any of a number of reasons.
It’s hard, but we manage. Heck, we’re military brats; we always manage!
Well, when you grow up as a military brat to a career sailor/soldier/whomever, that feeling of transience and distance never gets to go away.
In my family, neither parent stays one place very long. My Dad is a career sailor with 28+ years under his belt, and he still moves every 2-4 years. My Mom works for the DOD, and just moved overseas again after several years of life just south of Atlanta, Georgia.
And where do I love? Oh, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I moved here in 2006 to live close to my Dad after graduating from Lakenheath American High School, and all went well until the Navy sent him elsewhere.
Sure, I see my family often (every few months), but I still have no sense of home.
You see, I figured that once my parents each settled down somewhere, I’d have one room or at least half of a room somewhere that I could count on.
It’s been 6 years now (the longest I’ve lived anywhere), and I still can’t use pen in my address book. My Dad could move to any of a number of places, and my Mom plans on living the life until she retires. Hey, that means I still get to go overseas, though!
My life never has been, and never will be, “normal.” I didn’t really know what normal was when I used that phrase as a child, but as an adult, it means rooted, stable, and secure.
The funny thing is that my family is one of the sturdiest I know. Sure, we move all the time, and I can never imagine myself spending the rest of my life in one place, but we’re incredibly strong.
We never just drop people off at the airport. We always park, go inside, and linger, even if the flight’s about to leave. There’s an appreciation of us that other family’s can’t touch.
All this distance means nothing.
My Dad and I had a conversation the other day after I had a big argument with my long-term boyfriend about my unsettled way of living. I whined (whinged as my Brits say), complained, and moped; why can’t my boyfriend be as intense, mature, and world-weary as I am?
He laughed, and had to tell me about the 30th high school reunion he’d just attended the weekend before. He said that there were two types of kids from that low-achieving high school: ones who flung themselves to their own ideas of success, and ones who let that small town hold them down.
My father was surprised to see that he wasn’t the only student with such a negative scholastic experience, and felt rooted for the first time a long time.
Basically, everyone reacts to the world around them in their own ways. Some people use the negative as launching points for their future, whereas others use the negatives as hindrances to their own success.
Not everyone, in fact almost no one, grows up in the intense way I did. Most people don’t save for retirement in their early 20s; they don’t believe in civic engagement as a pillar of their own philosophy of ethics; they let life do its thing before jumping in with guns blazing.
I guess I’m different, just like you are too. There’s nothing wrong with it, but we do have to remember that not everyone else out there can even begin to compare to the intergalactic levels of maturity and preparation we expect.
It doesn’t matter that my parents keep moving. It doesn’t matter that the only home I know only exists in my mind and heart. My family, my memories, and my history make me who I am, and I live in my own weird version of reality.
I’ll always be a military brat, no matter what happens, and I’m done fighting it. My identity is an intrinsically mixed with the military life as it is with the English language. Sure, I can understand other languages, but they’ll never be my native tongue.