By Jennifer Gardella
During a recent shopping trip to the Gap, I struck up a conversation with the salesperson. She shared that her father was career army and I mentioned my husband was retired Navy. After checking out, she handed over my purchases and said: “I gave you the 20% military discount.”
I was left holding both the shopping and proverbial bags thinking once again, “Wait, do I really deserve it?”
Yes, I did just say that my husband was retired military, but we met as he was exiting his 24-year career. I did not suffer through the long deployments nor did I move with him 11 times around the country for his service. But still, there is a military-issued card in my wallet, and the privileges to which I am entitled to are nothing short of unbelievable.
In addition to the very generous discounts offered by businesses and restaurants, my healthcare is through TriCare, car insurance through USAA, and I can use military base golf courses around the world. I can stay at the Hale Koa and Shades of Green and sit comfortably in the USO at the airport. Some of these benefits are not available to service-related disabled veterans until they retire…and yet they are to me.
It seems I have found my own very unique (and slightly overanalyzed) version of Imposter Syndrome. Those feelings of being inadequate and undeserving while thinking you are going to be exposed as a fraud.
When I shop at the commissary and see the military wives making their way through the store – juggling kids…alone…that is when it hits the hardest. Many times I have reached down to help them pick up a sippy cup and they are eager to talk to another adult. They share that their husbands will be gone for months…they live far from family…they feel so very exhausted and alone. It is hard for them to piece together friendships, jobs and reliable babysitters because they lack permanence.
Now, I can confirm that my retired military officer never fully left the service, and in many ways our home is run under his “command,” (well, we let him think it is). So I do see and live in a military home. Acronyms fly over my head in conversations and movies – VFR, PFA – and when I ask for clarification I’m called the “cute little civilian.” As soon as we got married I was told “leaders must do before assigning tasks” as he started the lawnmower and off I went – mowing the lawn for the first time in my adult life before the chore was given to a teenager. “Routine and repetition” is his guiding force when training on all aspects of household procedures. I was given a call sign that I despise, assigned only after loudly protesting (rookie mistake). If we ever meet, please feel free to call me “Jersey” and we can laugh together as I cringe.
In preparation for this article, I have been thinking (and overthinking) how to share a plan to move past my self-imposed imposter syndrome. So here goes…the privileges are mine, and I accept them with greatest of gratitude and respect for how they came to me.
The pride I feel in Dave’s service is substantial, even though I never knew him while on active duty. I didn’t marry him for the benefits…(although they do sooth the lawn mowing). It was his steel center core of integrity that made me want to be the girl on his arm (especially when he is in those dress blues). That core was ingrained in him, at least in part, through training and service. I humbly accept the benefits with the greatest respect for all that brought them to me.
I also want to make it clear that I have the greatest respect for those military spouses who have lived through the career – the separations, the moving, the lack of family around you. I’m not sure how y’all do it. You guys are real troopers.
And lastly, I can really do something – to help military spouses in their struggle to find jobs. As my business is growing I am in need of writers to join my team. And it is time for me to step up my game and help those spouses in the trenches. After all, you can work for me and work from anywhere and on your own time. It just might be the perfect way for me to be able to give back. Here are the details on applying.
Thanks for listening.
Jennifer Gardella, PhD lives in Doylestown PA with her husband Dave and their 5 children who are at various stages of leaving the nest (and getting off the family payroll). .