Two kids standing against their luggage which is on a bell cart.

The Last Act


“I can do anything for three years.” That is the way I’ve approached five sets of orders. Home was always just temporary — transitional, really, because we were always on the way to the next step transitional; it was temporary. So, when that 20-year mark that was so far out of sight and mind, PCS after PCS, that it was more like fantasy than reality is suddenly staring you in the face, telling you to make some big choices, it’s a little jarring to say the least.

What’s Her Deal?

The whole “should we stay, or should we go” question that activates military retirement is a pretty heated debate — totally get it, and the separation doesn’t need to be retirement to carry all the what-ifs and agonizing rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide where to go and what to do when you’re free to make those choices. To all the service members and spouses (and heck — kids too) counting down to the end of service, I see your point. The moving is hard. The separations are hard. Making new friends and reacclimating is really just exhausting.

But it’s also comfortable. It’s also all we know, and for families like ours who never really had a home base (husband was a military brat) or have no desire to return to home base (I love you, South Texas —I’m just not in love with you anymore), there’s no “going home” to look forward to.

With one remaining (and believe you me, I am throwing some strong air quotes around “one” because I know literally anything can happen that could keep us in another year or two) — anyway, with one more set of orders with our name on it, here’s what we know.

  1. We have no idea where we want those orders to take us. And 18 months out, we barely know what our choices might be.
  2. Ideally, we’d like orders to a place where we wouldn’t mind staying a while after the military to give the kids some continuity for middle school and high school.
  3. As dreamy as it would be to put down roots at our last stop, I don’t count it likely because for that to happen, the kids would have to love it, my husband would have to find a full-time job, and I would also have to find a full-time job.
  4. We could stay put in the Washington metro area at the cost of waiving off one last adventure.

It’s a bit of a suffocating, stuck feeling to think about moving (or the absence of it) as something so permanent. Maybe that sounds crazy, but I’m the girl who has to rearrange the furniture on off-PCS years to “shake things up.” The idea of being “regular people” as my daughter sometimes says is weird and foreign.

Two kids posing in front of a home.

Mountains or Mole Hills?

Deep down in my gut, I think I know that all the stress — is self-inflicted, first of all — but all the stress is in the “wait.” When the conversations start happening with the monitor, I know things will clarify somewhat, and I won’t have nearly the infinite choices to make all at once like I think I will. We’ll have the usual wish list. Decide — I mean as long as it’s cool with the Marine Corps, obviously, then go do our thing wherever that is. This pressure to get it right is only a mountain of pressure if we try to figure it all out at once. Take it one step at a time, one decision at a time. And for the love of everything, fight your inner Kristi who wants it all decided right now. In the words of everybody’s kooky friend, Phoebe Buffet, it’s OK if you don’t have a plan, because “I don’t even have a pl–.” And, you know what else? If we settle post-military, decide that map dot isn’t a good fit, we can just pick a different one. We’re pretty good at the whole moving thing, and I don’t think it would really phase us one bit.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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