I understand now that the mistake I made was to put too much pressure on myself.
I engorged social situations into something frightening; I put too much weight on how I was perceived, versus actually remembering to enjoy myself. I fretted over my appearance, how well I managed to “follow up” on good social interactions.
I was too hung up on the fact that I lived in a world where being married at 22 was normal.
Bit by bit, I eked all the potential fun out of socializing by over-analyzing every situation, and critiquing it.
This wasn’t a good attitude. It wasn’t productive, or conducive to our overall happiness. So, I stopped being petty, and picky, and sour.
At the same time, I came to learn that it was OKAY for me to be myself.
There was a place for me in this world. I could continue being my barmy, scatterbrained self, because it was me that people liked — not the censored, stuffy version I’d tried to rein myself into being before.
It wasn’t sustainable. More so, it wasn’t how people actually were, once I came to know them.
We were all going through this evolution as new spouses together, and once the realization hit that we could just loosen up and learn to enjoy the ride, things got so much easier.
I realized it was okay for me to go and have the odd cigarette, or make my stupid faces.
It was okay to forget to talk about my husband.
It was cool to admit that I didn’t want kids soon, or that I barely knew how to act around other people’s babies.
And it was also fine to chat to their babies like grown-ass adults. I just did my own thing. And I appreciated others who did the same — which, incidentally, was mostly everyone. Who knew?!
These days, I’m a pretty active member of our base community. Instead of burying my head in the sand, I volunteer for things.
Instead of sneering at the concept of a bingo night, I muck in and have a glass of wine (or two) while I’m doing it. Yes, small talk still makes me balk. But hey, we can’t have everything — and that’s okay.
To other new military spouses, all I can say is this: Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.
There are always going to be people that you don’t like, but be polite to them anyway.
There are always going to be people that you will click with — be patient. You’ll find them.
There are going to be days when the military will make you want to tear your hair out, or just sit and weep. By all means, weep (but, y’know, don’t tear your pretty hair out). FaceTime your best friend. Read a good book. Remember why you’re here.
There are going to be times when you’re sick of comparing yourself to others, to “keeping up with the Joneses.” Screw the Joneses. Your family unit is your world, and don’t let anyone make you feel like your world is inadequate.
There are always going to be days when you want to curl up on the sofa and pretend you don’t have obligations. That’s fine.
Make as much time for yourself as you need. Don’t sign up for more than you know you can handle.
There are going to be duty stations you hate. Remember that these are just a few short years in your long life.
And remember that age-old military cliche: Bloom where you’re planted.
There are going to be times when you forget who you are.
Don’t EVER forget who you are. Remember that, and you really will be fine.