Kristi’s family sitting in front of their Christmas tree

A Letter to My Former Self

Whenever I have one of those retrospective moments — usually those moments when my kids are being particularly cuddly or sweet and I’m wondering how they flashed from squishy babies to preteens oozing smells and attitude — my mind goes to an unlikely place.

I flash back to a bathroom stall in the Barnes and Noble in Corpus Christi, Texas — I warned you it was unexpected. I was in college at the time, and my college best friend and I decided we’d take ourselves down to the wedding-planning corner of the bookstore to plan our weddings. If you’re thinking this sounds like a Hallmark movie — two college besties engaged at the same time and planning their perfect weddings alongside each other — I should share that neither one of us was actually engaged at this point. Yours truly didn’t even have a prospect at the time.

A few hours in, we had every wedding binder and magazine pulled off the shelf and in an “organized chaos” type pile. We decided to break for a run to the bathroom, sure no one was going to dare tangle with our mountain of publications.

Through the stall walls, our conversation shifted from flower sprays and engagement ring settings to something a little deeper. I don’t remember which one of us started it, but someone asked, “Why do we do this to ourselves?”

At the time, we were just two free 20-somethings. No real responsibilities outside of school. No nine-to-five, no expectation to grocery shop, clean the house, make dinner. No worries. Just think about the free time and headspace we must have had to spare just trying to fill an afternoon with a hypothetical dream wedding.

We must have been crazy, right, to rush through such a great phase of life just to rush into the American dream. And, perhaps the worst part: We knew we were crazy for trying to fast forward to “the good part,” but that didn’t stop us.

Skipping to the Good Part

Kristi holding her baby girl

Now, make no mistake, I love my life as is (save for maybe taxes and the morning commute). The life I’ve built, the people I’ve surrounded myself with — my husband, our kids, family, friends — I wouldn’t trade them to go back to college and do it all over again. I still find myself rushing through the “now” to get to the “next.” I muddle through the weekdays to get to the weekend. I can’t wait to get orders, then I can’t wait to find a new house, then I can’t wait to pack, arrive, settle, then do it all again.

Those retrospective moments come more frequently these days — maybe it’s a product of aging, like wrinkles and creaky joints. Maybe it’s because I know we’re coasting toward military retirement (TBD on whether that’s three, six or nine more years, but still). Whatever the cause, the lesson remains unchanged.

Note to (My Former) Self

If I could give my former self one piece of advice it would be this: Don’t spend today wishing for tomorrow. Tomorrow will come whether you’re ready or not. And this applies to every phase of life. In every phase — newlyweds, pregnancy, first-time parents, second-time parents, and in every place we’ve been, there is something I miss. There is something I will never have again, and that is hard to accept when it finally hits you.

So, former self, focus on what is right in front of you, right now. Ignore the laundry to play a game with the kids before they stop asking you to play with them. Don’t let the distraction of stress from work or moving, or other boring adult responsibilities keep you from laughing with your husband, tickling your kids, cuddling with the dog (and, if you have time — sure — the cat too). Make the mess, take the trip, order the fries instead of the salad. Wear what you want; say what you think; ask for help; give yourself a break sometimes; and for the love of everything don’t wear shoes that hurt your feet. (That last one doesn’t really have anything to do with my point, but my feet just hurt all … the … time now, so relevant or not, still something my former self needs to hear).

Putting it Into Practice

A family photo of Kristi, her husband and their two wearing football jerseys

It’s not easy to take that advice today when I’m a creaky creature of habit, stubborn and stressed and set in my ways. But, I have the benefit of knowing I’m not the expert at being present — not by a long shot, clearly. But I know a couple of people who are: our kids. So, I’m going to try to be a little more like them.

I’m going to try not to wish away a day, even the bad ones. I’m going to give myself space to get excited about even the smallest thing. I’m going to try not to let traffic get to me, but honestly, that might be the first part of this I give up on — just being transparent. Because, as ready as I am to wrap up our chapter here at our current duty station, I will miss things about it when we leave. It might not be the obvious things like landmarks and museums; it might be the way our daughter’s laugh sounds at this age or the way our son is starting to grow into his sarcasm and it’s still kind of cute when he tries to get sassy.

We’ll never be here again (metaphorically, at the ages and stages our family is in — I never put it past the Marine Corps to send us to the same geographical place twice). And I, for one, don’t want to miss a thing.

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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  • Paul says:


    I really enjoyed your blog post. I stumbled upon it while looking for a resource for another service member. TBH, I planned to skim the first few lines and move along, but i’m really glad I didn’t. I’m in one of those transitional spaces myself. I’m getting married in a few weeks and im so exhausted. I’m anxious and ready to be married already. I wish all the planning was complete, I wish I had more time with my friends (Living in WA due to work, met my fiancé, but original from TX. We can through ATL in there too. That’s where my formative years were solidified); actually I wish this wedding was everything I dreamed about as a kid. Things are great, please don’t misunderstand, but there are parts of me that are mourning my past and other parts, I’m thinking about the future. Being a married, having kids, all the expenses and life obstacles we may or may not experience. Needless to say, being present isn’t one of my strong suits. I’m working on that aspect and coincidently i see this as one of those moments where being present made room for this communication. I want to tell you I appreciate your blog and thanks for the reminders. I wish you and yours health and prosperity. Take Care – Paul

  • Social Media Admins says:

    Hi Paul, thank you so much for your kind words. Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous future!

  • You did a great flashbacks of your life journey. I enjoyed it very much and wish I could do the same thing. Thanks.