I’m a southern girl who was born and raised in Athens, Georgia. Due to my country upbringing, I wasn’t exposed to very much, but that never stopped me from having big dreams.
In these dreams, I was going to do humanitarian work during the day and surf the west coast waters in the evenings. Somehow, that turned into joining the Marine Corps. Shortly after I joined the Marine Corps I fell in love with a fellow Marine and eloped at the courthouse in San Diego. After that, my newlywed husband received orders to Okinawa, Japan.
Once I finished my time in service, I packed up all my things and traveled across the world so I could finally live happily ever after with my new husband. Next thing I know, my husband is deployed and I drive my 1999 Honda Civic right off the road and into a ditch. Here I am stuck in a hole and isolated in the middle of nowhere with no one to call.
I remember looking at my puppy who was sitting in the driver’s seat and saying out loud “we’re screwed!” Suddenly, scenes from 127 hours and Children of the Corn started to flash through my mind. Fortunately, a slew of Okinawan men came out of nowhere and pulled my car out of the ditch I had so obviously driven into.
As they walked away all I could say was “konichiwa,” and you can imagine how foreign that sounded in my thick southern accent. It was at that moment that I realized that my childhood fantasy of waking up next to my loving husband every morning while birds chirped outside our window and the aroma of homemade bread wandered through the house was not going to happen any time soon.
While I was still enlisted, I came up with a solid plan for when I completed my time in service; I was going to bartend and be a full time student at the University of Georgia. Instead, I was blabbering Southernese to strangers on a random island and there was no fried chicken in sight. Not only did I have to adjust to a new country, but I also had to adjust to a new life plan.
I was a supportive and encouraging wife, but I was upset. I felt limited and frustrated that I had no control over my circumstances. Of course, I missed my husband and I felt concerned about his situation in Afghanistan, but I also had to accept my reality and take advantage of the opportunities that were in front of me. I worked, coached, travelled around the world, and finished my degree all before we got orders to a new duty station.
My circumstances did not change, but I changed my perspective. My husband and I were able to grow both independently and together because of my changed state of mind. This shifted our relationship into a ‘divide and conquer’ dynamic that far exceeded my expectations. Due to the military lifestyle we are in, our relationship has never been comfortable, but together we have created a solid foundation that has loyalty and mutual respect at its core.
I thrive on deployments now. I use them as an opportunity to grow my business, find interests that I am passionate about, and invest my time in having quality relationships with optimistic go-getters like myself. I learned a lot in Okinawa, but what stayed with me the most is that we all have our own values and beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs limit us from understanding who we are and what we need to fulfill our higher purpose. When you look outside of yourself and examine the ‘truth’ you are then able to gain a higher understanding and overcome limitations.
Happiness is ideal but a mind equipped to face adversity and overcome obstacles is much more rewarding because you know, kind-hearted Okinawans aren’t always going to save you every time that you get into trouble.