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The Outsider Hostess

We moved recently. And I did all the right things to get myself ‘into the zone’ as far as what my new life would look like. I planned out my daily schedule, my workouts and a list of have-to-visit restaurants and shops that I thought I’d love. I did a lot of encouraging self-talk about how I’d build my new community and how awesome my life would be at our new location. But I’m too much of a seasoned military spouse to expect things to go as planned.

Turns out, it is a lot different than I expected. I don’t have a community. For some people it’s so easy to make new friends and you’ve got all your local emergency contact phone numbers after the first week. I’ve never been that spouse. I usually find really good friendships after I’ve been stationed somewhere for a couple years. My new life is really lonely. As a military spouse, I’ve found that sometimes you’re at the mercy of your spouse when it comes to finding friends — particularly at the beginning at a new location. And sometimes it’s just really discouraging. More times than not, I find myself hosting a group of people I don’t know who are only connected to my spouse through work. When you’re an introvert playing an extrovert like myself, it can be difficult after an effort like hosting to new people in hopes of making some connections when in the end, they only connect with your spouse. It can be really defeating, and as I’m still struggling through it, here are some thoughts that encourage me to keep trying:

  1. The deeper relationships that I’ve made have been worth the struggle to make friends. I have found myself in some ridiculous situations, wondering how I got myself into them, but the answer is always that I’m trying to put myself out there to meet some friends. And I know as a fellow military spouse you will relate to that. Sometimes you have to go through several really awkward conversations, dinners or lunches before you find the person you click with!
  2. Don’t set your expectations too high. This one is a real struggle for me. The lonelier I get, the more expectations I have when there is actually a chance to make a friend. This doesn’t mean I’m going to the length of vacuuming my curtains for guests coming over, but it’s close. I mentioned I like hosting and that’s usually how I meet new people at the very beginning. But in my head, we are all going to have wonderful deep conversations and have a lot of laughs and it will be a night to remember. But honestly nights like that don’t really come along very often, and they hardly ever do with a house full of new people. And that’s okay. It’s never a night wasted when you meet new people, even if you don’t click. It’s one more person you know in the area, and that is worth something.
  3. You aren’t alone. One of the beauties of military life and being a military spouse is that we all can connect on several basic levels. Every single spouse on your street (if you’re on post) has been the new spouse before. We’ve all been through a myriad of similar experiences. And we’ve all moved to a new place without any friends starting out. So, no matter how alone you feel, we are always surrounded by people who can understand how hard the military lifestyle can be.

You have to work at finding a community in every new location, but it’s worth it. And I won’t always feel like the outsider host walking around in my own home, feeling very out of place. It’s a season, and there will be lessons learned. Even if it feels lonely, I’m not the only one. So next time you have a chance to have a new awkward conversation – have it! You never know if it will lead to your next friend.

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Finding the Right Mental Health Counselor

Making the decision to reach out to a mental health counselor, while not always easy, can be critical to getting the help you need. Many times, we are limited to who we can see based on our insurance and it can be difficult to choose who might be right for you. Here are some considerations when choosing a mental health counselor.

When meeting with a MHC, it is important that you feel rapport or some level of comfort with them. If you feel like there is no connection, it may be difficult to talk about issues and move forward with therapy. This may not be evident until after a few sessions. If you feel like there is no way to establish a trusting working relationship with the practitioner, you may need to find someone else.

Additionally, it may be helpful to know the MHC’s practices and what you prefer. For example, are they more directive in therapy, deciding what to work on in a session and perhaps giving homework or techniques to work on? Or will they let you lead in session, deciding where to go and what to focus on? Knowing how the MHC practices and what you are looking for can help you choose a practitioner. If you are not sure, it is worth exploring in session(s) to find out what works for you.

Advocate for yourself throughout the process. Ask MHC’s about how they practice, what their policies are for rescheduling, cancelling, payment, etc. Another consideration in today’s world is telehealth —so ask what software they are using to protect your privacy and information. Also, if you are not happy, look for someone else. Personally, I have done this a few times, knowing that the therapist assigned by my insurance company was not a good fit. It takes some legwork, but it is worth it to find someone that you gel with.

Lastly, do not forget about the confidential health resources available from Military OneSource. Through the call center, they can connect you with non-medical counseling, specialty consultants and other resources available to help you and your family.

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MilSpouse Entrepreneurship: Starting Your Own Business

My dad’s career advice has always been simple and straightforward. “Find something you love to do and then find someone to pay you for it,” he told me often. His belief was that if you worked on something you loved and seemingly were good at, you would never actually work a day in your life.

My dad would reiterate this advice as I pondered a number of career options for myself. The advice was simple, though it seemed easier said than done. Growing up, my career path changed as it typically does for students. In college, I started as an engineering major, then dabbled in political science and landed on international business. I enjoyed studying this discipline within the business school, though I honestly didn’t know what it meant to have a career in international business.

After college, I worked for a nonprofit in community relations. I built the department from the ground up giving me a love for the “start-up” mentality. In this job, I worked closely with military families, which hits close to home as an Army brat and active-duty military spouse. The position was great because it provided the necessary flexibility a military spouse needs in order to have a remote career while also supporting their service member. I had found someone to pay me for work, though I didn’t love what I was doing.

In this role, there were several frustrations eventually coming to a head where it was time for me to walk away. After a few years with this organization, I found myself with a brand-new baby, a deployed husband and in the midst of a global pandemic, all while balancing a full-time job. I had one too many items on my plate. After many discussions with my husband about finances and what I would do next, if anything, I decided to walk away from my position. I quickly missed the sense of purpose I felt from having my own job. I had a few “side gigs” I dipped my toes in while I was working, one of which is writing for Military OneSource. I have been writing for Blog Brigade for a few years now. Writing has always been my escape and the work I look forward to the most. I love bringing stories to life and hearing someone’s voice even through a blog post. It was through my “casual side gig” of writing for Military OneSource I found my passion for writing and the desire to make it my career.

I started working a few hours a month for small businesses, mostly family friends, on their marketing efforts. I worked with clients to take their product or vision and turn it into a captivating campaign attracting clients. From there, I found my niche market – small businesses focused on the military family community needing copy editing and marketing support. I found that many small businesses are not able to focus on marketing the way they wish they could and look for someone to take it off their plate. This, coupled with knowing the military family community well, became the perfect recipe to start my own business.

Leaving the comfort of a full-time salary to start my own endeavor was not an easy decision or one that was made lightly. Making bold decisions, especially ones related to my career, does not come naturally for me. I was, and am, still determined to find something I love and find someone to pay me for it.

I am now fully in charge of my consulting business. I work the hours most conducive to my schedule while knowing I won’t have to find employment elsewhere when we inevitably PCS in the future. A career path is not always rainbows and sunshine, especially with the additional adversity military spouses face when it comes to their employment opportunities.

I would encourage anyone thinking about what their next move (career, not military) might be, to find what you love and find someone to pay you for it – anything that doesn’t fit in that box can continue to be worked on until it does.

There are a number of resources in place to support a military spouse thinking about starting their own business, including education and employment resources on Military OneSource. If you think writing might be a passion of yours, try it out by submitting a piece for Blog Brigade!

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