Did your family happen to receive orders recently? Were you disappointed because you were hoping for somewhere tropical and sunny, but ended up with somewhere in Middle America far from any signs of palm trees and oceans? I have been there and felt the bitter sting of “But WHYYYY???? I don’t want to go there!” Our last duty station dropped us right in the center of two things I am not fond of: big cities and cold weather, so I can totally sympathize with you. As a proud member of the “I didn’t want to live there, but I survived and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” club, let me offer you some pointers on how to make the most of your next duty station regardless of your excitement level.
Attitude is everything. If you go into something already determined to hate it, guess what? You will! Try to go in with an open mind, and if at the end of the day (or tour in military lingo) it still isn’t your cup of tea, that’s ok! You tried! I remember psyching myself up for that move to the “big city” and trying to find all the positives. I remember oohing and aahing over the plethora of shopping choices, the history that surrounded the area and even getting amped up for the career opportunities that come with being in a major metropolitan area. I told myself I would give it six months before I made a decision on how I felt about that duty station. At one point, I even launched my own personal social media campaign stating one positive thing about living there each day (full disclosure-I also tended to share the not so great things like sitting in traffic for hours on end or why is it snowing again?! But life is all about balance, right?).
Explore your new digs! One thing that I have embraced about military life is that we get to live places that I would never choose to visit or live on my own. How many of our civilian counterparts get to say that? Not many! How cool is that? I challenge you to find the oddest, most unique or funniest thing in your area. This will get you out exploring your new town and learning about a new part of the country (or world) that otherwise you would have had no idea about! I don’t want to hear the excuse, “There is nothing here.” False. There is something there…go find it! Maybe your town is home to the largest yarn ball in the world or is the birthplace of a famous person in history. What you find may surprise you. Or maybe you will find an awesome new eatery or shop that is unique to that area. Doesn’t really matter what it is because it meant you were out there experiencing something new!
Get involved with the military AND the local community. Even though I highly disliked our last duty station area, I made the GREATEST friends there because I was INVOLVED! I decided to hitch my horse to volunteer programs on our installation and immerse myself in activities going on in our local community. I was able to check a few things off of our “Life Bucket List” all while making lifelong friends in the process. I learned so much about the world around me and grew so much as a person, even though I never did acclimate to the outrageous traffic. Face it; you are going to be miserable if all you do is sit inside your house and complain about your disdain for your situation. Get involved! It will make the time go faster, and my bet is you will have fun doing it!
No lie, at the end of our time there I was tickled to leave. I was so sad to leave our friends and the activities that we were involved with, but I was happy to get out of town before the next winter hit. Since we have been gone almost a year and a half, I can look back at our time there with fondness. I see why life led us down the path through that duty station and I am thankful for the opportunities and experiences we had there. So while my time there isn’t all seen through rose-colored lenses, no one can accuse me of not trying to make the most of it, and I left with no regrets (except maybe not stopping by my favorite tea house one last time!).