Blazing Your Own Trail
Your spouse wears the same thing as the service member across the street. Your house is pretty neutral except for the house number and plants, or lack thereof. Your salary, benefits, and compensation are online for the world to see, and, like other military spouses, you manage constant upheaval due to PCS moves, training exercises, and deployments. With all the uniformity around you, can you be your own person and blaze your own trail?
I have never hidden the fact that I love being a wife and mother. But I have also always stood firm on maintaining my identity as Kelli, even while fulfilling my role as the little Mrs. and Mom. I have wonderful friends all around me. They are opinion leaders, movers and shakers…you know, those spouses that always seem to have their finger on the pulse of everything. Some of them can whip up a meal without directions, leap a pile of laundry in a single bound, run the parent/teacher organization, and have a clean house. I mean a CLEAN house, one where the closets are organized. Other friends are career women climbing the corporate ladder and attending all kinds of important sounding meetings and still being able to have children that never seem to get dirty. A few are beyond creative, never singing off key, painting murals, sewing quilts for every occasion, hammering, welding, and looked good doing it.
Then there was me. Barefoot, pregnant (again), and happy with life but eager to figure out where I was going.
I felt like society had already decided who I was–military spouse and mother–and like I was being forced into some stereotype. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” I don’t think that is THE greatest accomplishment, but being true to who you are and what you believe is pretty high up there.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, much less could do. I had become a military wife, started having babies, and was handed a platter of PCS moves, deployments, war, and 1943 base housing. While I loved and still love that part of my life (I call my kids my passion projects), I was just trying to maintain my sanity. Meanwhile it seemed my peers were moving at the speed of light and passing me up. What I did know was that I didn’t like being pigeonholed.
I love the quote by Gerard Way,
“Be yourself, don’t take anything from anyone, and never let them take you alive.”
I appreciate the admonishment to “be yourself,” and the advice “don’t take anything from anyone,” which ignites my desire to obtain personal goals. The last part… well that just makes me laugh and want to yell, “ooh rah!”
If you can relate to wanting to forge your own way but it just seems too much or too big, figure out who YOU are and what defines you. Still not sure how to let that person out? Think on this: Alan Ginsberg, a man himself who defied simple classification, said,
“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”
I’m pretty sure he was talking to me. When we head towards unchartered territory, it can seem like madness. Nothing amazing came out of a “sane” idea I assure you. Someone had to think beyond what society thought was normal.
Mr. Ginsberg and I would not have seen eye to eye on every aspect of life, but his call to look inside myself as to who I wanted to become was heard. I stopped worrying about what I couldn’t do or, more importantly, didn’t want to do, and started letting out the “madness” of who I wanted to become.
I laugh thinking of some of the things I actually said aloud, like “I really believe some day I will stand before Congress and speak on quality of life issues.” I said this to a two star general…To this wonderful Marine’s credit, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Kelli, I don’t doubt it for a minute.” What a gift of potential he gave me. However, back to reality…
You can take the road less traveled Robert Frost talks about, but Mr. Emerson has another good point. I believe we as military spouses embody this: “Don’t go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path… and leave a trail.”
That’s where I wanted to go. Each of us has a trail to blaze for others to follow. Sometimes I would cut through the underbrush of nay sayers and create a path for other spouses. Other times the trail I was blazing was for my children, or the youth in my church. People tried to compartmentalize me because we were a military family, or because of rank, religion, or the hometown we hailed from. Whatever one dimensional aspect of me they saw is all they wanted to see. I view those things as facets of who I am and for others or myself to pigeonhole me based on one part of my life is not only unacceptable but short-sighted.
There is always a way to grab a proverbial machete and start blazing our own trail. Find your own passion and inner moonlight. If some hope or dream we have seems like madness, it is most likely only because the company we keep at the moment can’t see the possibilities. I’ve followed some of those trails created by spouses that have gone before me and, when appropriate, I’ve veered off and started cutting away at a path of my own. Others have followed as far as they needed and then found their own trails to blaze. Some of the most wonderful programs, resources, and support for families have come from innovative spouses who let out their inner moonlight.
That’s what we do as military spouses. We blaze trails many never even think are possible.