Goodbye in the military really does mean ‘see you later’ whether we like it or not.
The world is small, but the military world is even smaller. As years go by you will indeed encounter those you said goodbye to once. The meeting may be joyous, refreshing, awkward or dreaded, but it is inevitable. Regardless if your blast from the past held a best friend or worst enemy status, the following tips will help you prepare to have the greatest reunion possible:
Understand time changes people
You are not the same person you were at your first assignment nor are you the person you were at your third. The crazy things is, neither is anyone else. Time offers experiences and opportunities that soften parts of us and harden others. It alters some convictions and solidifies others.
There is no need to shout out to the rooftops you have matured or to hide those wrinkles in effort to be who you were because accepting your own changes, and recognizing the alteration is not over, is essential to pleasant relationships. Evolve alongside others and avoid pre-judgments by leaving room for both their and your transformation.
You may find the close friend who at one time stood beside you in every activity is now difficult to relate to, while the individual you once struggled to be around for more than five minutes now inspires you and captivates your attention with their conversation.
Avoiding a hello seems acceptable, but avoiding a chance to show love does not. Make it a goal to reach out in kindness without expectation of any return. The individual before you may not remember you, may not be interested in conversing, or may desperately need someone to remind them they have worth. Take the chance. Be kind, be understanding, and say hi when they are standing in the same isle at the commissary.
Interact without bias
Whatever judgments you formerly held onto, good or bad, they are void. You do not know what each other has been through over the years regardless of what has been shared on social media or spread through the spouse network. If a conversation is welcomed, listen to what is said with a fresh perspective and be willing to openly share your life. This is your chance to grow the community of authenticity so many people strive for and we all desperately need.
You do not have to be best friends
Saying hi to someone does not mean you are committed to hanging out, however, if you have apprehension, consider whether it is based off of past judgments or who they are now. If the opposite is true and your invitation to hang out has been denied, respect that but keep the door open. Time changes people and when you see them again in five years at the next reunion, the desire to hang out may be mutual.
Allison Struber is an educator, writer, military spouse and mother of three. Inspired by her kid’s energy and her husband’s dry humor, she spends her days speaking in schools, facilitating support groups and steadily taking in each moment. Read more of her writings at fb.me/STEMwritings.