When I originally got into blogging, my very first (short-lived) blog was called “No Thanks, I Got It.” That should sum up how ridiculously independent I am. I would rather make a pyramid of chairs to finish painting the high point of a living room wall than ask the neighbor to borrow a ladder. That’s not a strangely specific metaphor, I’ve actually done that. I’ve always hated asking for help. I’ve never liked burdening the people I care most about for favors, however small.
Then I moved to Japan. I was awake for 40+ hours, not counting the times I dozed on the plane for a few minutes only to be awoken by:
- My head jerking back to the upright position
- The beverage cart bumping into my seat
- The drool taking over my face
- My child asking me for something to eat or play with
When my family of four finally landed in Japan, my head was still in the clouds somewhere over the Pacific. It hit me right about then that I was in the middle of a country where I didn’t know the language, we didn’t own a car (let alone have drivers’ licenses) and neither my best friend nor my mom were anywhere on the island. I felt overwhelmed there in the terminal – people and thoughts swirling – as we followed the masses of tired travelers stumbling toward the exit.
I’ve learned quickly that offers for help aren’t rhetorical here; they are legitimate and we have needed each and every one of them. If your sponsor is supposed to set up your mailbox, it will get done. If you’re expecting a ride at the airport, it will be there curbside and your driver/new favorite person will even install your kids’ car seats for you. If you have an amazing sponsor, your kitchen will be stocked with food – perfect for when you’re wide awake and starving at 3 a.m. If a total stranger offers to spend the day watching your kids while you attend an all-day “Welcome Aboard Brief,” she will show up and have activities planned.
Living here is slowly teaching me that it is okay to accept help and that there is nothing wrong with asking for it. I have accepted rides around town as I learn my way from place to place and have asked for recommendations on where to shop. The people have made all the difference for my family so far.
Because I remember clearly what it feels like to stumble off of that Patriot Express, I’m learning to be better about offering help, too. Incoming families can barely tell right from left (and it doesn’t help when you see cars driving on the opposite side of the road) and need someone to take the reins until they are comfortable enough to steer. Not to mention, paying it forward makes me feel a little less indebted to the wonderful people who helped us get settled.
Community is a concept that’s alive and well in the military, but I have spent nearly nine years as a military spouse without having to ask for favors – until now. That wasn’t the case leading up to our OCONUS PCS, or as we’re getting settled in our new home. It turns out I may just be one of those “It takes a village” spouses after all!