Home, Sweet…Where Am I?
For years I fought the fact that I lack any directional sense whatsoever. I began to accept my ONE little flaw (ahem…yeah right) a few years ago when I realized that it makes me really nervous to drive when other people are in the car with me. When I am alone in the car, I can make as many U-turns as I need or go around the block twenty times if necessary. But I get a little flustered when others are in the car judging me as I swing a three-point turn or fly by my exit on the freeway.
What makes a person’s sense of direction go from bad to worse? You got it: moving every three years! I lived in my hometown for twenty-two years and I was finally an expert at navigating the city; in my defense, I was only a licensed driver for seven of those twenty-two years. Then, as fate would have it, I married into the military and all of that time spent memorizing street names, addresses, and shortcuts went down the drain. I was plopped into a new city, in a new state, and I was confused.
Just how confused was I? Six months after moving to our first duty station, I was still occasionally missing the turn into our neighborhood. Six months, folks! And that was just out in the civilian world; driving on base was a separate beast. Still new to the military community, I was petrified that I was going to accidentally turn down some top secret road and be swarmed by a mob of MPs! And with all of the extra rules of the road on the base, like no cell phones, a speed limit of “crawl,” and strict enforcement of traffic signs, I felt like it was just a matter of time before I was caught doing something wrong and thrown into military traffic jail! Don’t worry, to my knowledge, such a place doesn’t actually exist.
So there I was in a new place—OK, OK, six months isn’t new anymore—and my own personal GPS, my husband, deployed.
I got lost (accidentally, anyway) for the last time the day he deployed. I had no choice but to learn the ins and outs of our installation and the surrounding community on my own. I had to swallow some pride, get to know some neighbors, and fill up the gas tank, but I finally figured it out.
- Get lost. It’s hard to get to know a place if you’re always a passenger or following someone else’s directions. If you ask me, the best way to figure a place out is to drive around with no destination in mind. Just watch out for road signs and top secret roads; you wouldn’t want to end up in military traffic jail!
- Plan ahead. Getting lost is a great tactic when you’re not in a hurry, but for those times when you need to get somewhere on time, look up directions ahead of time so you have an idea of where you’re going. If you have a GPS, use it! Give yourself plenty of travel time, you know, for all of those U-turns.
- Be real. Moving is a pain, end of story. All you want to do is get settled into your new house and new town, but it’s difficult to venture out when you’re sweaty, smell like your favorite household cleaner, and nursing cuts from all that packing paper. When you meet people in your new town and they ask how the unpacking is going, be honest. Tell them you’re exhausted, sick of take-out, and can’t remember the last time you showered! People, especially in the military community can relate. Maybe they’ll have pity on you and lend a hand or, at the very least, an ear. And I have no doubt that you’ll have plenty of PCS stories to swap!
- Be nice. When you’re making all of those new friends, remember to be nice despite your exhaustion and paper cuts. Your new friends can let you in on all of the best kept secrets at your new installation and point you in the right direction for shopping, dining, and installation activities or offices.
- Ask questions. Especially when you’re trying to find your way around your installation, don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Offices and organizations are sometimes tucked away in unlikely places with little to no advertisement of their location. Either call ahead to the office you’re looking for, like TRICARE, medical records, gyms, and everything in between, or ask your service member or one of those new friends of yours!
It didn’t happen overnight, but I finally learned my way around…just in time to PCS! Here we go again!