After the PCS Move Dust Settles

PCS Move

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in. -Alan Alda

The moving trucks are long gone, the active duty member is off to work again, and the kids are back in school. The stress (and excitement!) of your latest PCS Move is over and you may now find yourself in a sort of weird limbo. No friends, no job, not even a hairstylist who knows your name. You’ve put out multiple résumés and haven’t heard a word back about any of them. It can feel like no one knows you even exist.

Having the experience of over a dozen military-mandated relocations (PCS Move), I often say a little bit tongue-in-cheek that I only need three things to feel settled again after a move: a dentist, a hairstylist, and a church. While this may seem simplistic, on further reflection I realize they symbolize basic needs of belonging: a community, personal care, and social connections. While your “three” may be different from mine, I think we’re all looking for the same thing when we move to a new place.

But how do you get there from here? Sometimes new friendships and connections can be a serendipitous happening and are truly dropped in your lap, but it often takes more effort to find your place again after moving to a new duty station.

Community: Who is your tribe? Fellow foodies or book lovers? Do you thrive on meeting new friends at Zumba or through a running club? I often make connections through a study group at a local church. The key is you must go find them. And sometimes you have to keep trying if your first attempt (or three) doesn’t go well. For my introvert friends, I realize this is the most painful part of a PCS move—starting over and putting yourself out there to new folks.

Personal care: This can be an easy way to find potential friends, by the way! Knock on your neighbor’s door or ask on your local Facebook page for a hairstylist or dentist recommendation. If nothing else, at least you’re armed with information from others who’ve lived in your area longer.

Social connections: This is the toughest one. It’s difficult to start over again; no way around it. You may also be going through a bit of culture shock if you’ve moved overseas or to a part of the country where you’ve never lived.

Some ideas for seeking new connections:

  • Attend your installation’s newcomers’ class with your active duty spouse, if it’s offered. Everyone there is in the same boat. If nothing else, you might hear of some volunteer opportunities to fill your time and meet people.
  • Join a local Facebook group based on your interests. But…
  • Get off social media! Remember that you also need real life friends. Keep social media in its place for information gathering and staying updated on old friends, but remember nothing beats having a friend to call or text for a coffee date or emergency childcare.
  • Get out there! We’ve all run across people who maintain they hate an area, yet never took the time to visit even the basic tourist locations nearby. If you’re living on post/base, it can be tempting to stay in that safe little military cocoon. Enlist a new acquaintance with an adventurous spirit to explore the local area with you.
  • Buddy up with the locals. This can be a little more difficult, depending on your location after you PCS. But whether U.S. or overseas, these are the people who will point you to the hole-in-the wall food joints, best shopping, and areas to avoid. Non-military folks have ended up being some of my best friends. Especially if your spouse is in a high-ranking or highly visible job, it can be nice to get away from the fishbowl of military life and be with people who take you at face value. They’ll also help you remember the rest of the world doesn’t revolve around the military! Often, these friends are key to introducing you to the local area and experiencing life ‘outside the wire.’
  • Take every opportunity to connect. I recently overheard a mom checking out at the commissary talking with the cashier about her lack of sleep while raising lots of little ones. I chimed in that my youngest was 17 and she would sleep again someday! I ended up talking to her outside where she showed me photos of her rescue pups on her phone. While my kids think it’s a little insane how I will talk to literally anyone, I’ve come across some amazing people this way. Even if you’re not a talker like I am, don’t pass up an opportunity to chat with someone who seems interesting. You just never know!

Give yourself time and grace to get used to the new location and recognize your fresh start for what it is. Most likely, whatever was bothering you at your last location is now a thing of the past. And while there’s certainly no quick fix for that dreaded post-PCS Move limbo, my hope for you is that this phase passes quickly and you’ll soon find yourself feeling settled.

Don’t hold back and, remember, you’re worth knowing!

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