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If I only knew then what I know now...
Notes from an almost military spouse
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When was the last time you said, “If only I knew then what I know now?”  
I was thinking about this the other day after a conversation with a colleague. She was writing an article about what advice people would give to their younger selves. The answers she got from her informal poll ranged from humorous — a guy who wouldn’t have skipped school so often — to regretful — a woman who wished she hadn’t married at such a young age.
As much as I try to avoid dwelling on the past, sometimes it’s impossible not to wish that you had done things differently. Ever since the Army became part of my everyday life last year, there have been plenty of times that I said or did something I would have loved to change — if only I’d had the knowledge and experience I have now. So, if I could go back in time to about a year and a half ago, before I ever learned an alphabet of acronyms and used phrases like “he was wearing an unauthorized PT uniform” in everyday life, what would I tell my past self?
For starters, I’d tell myself not to worry so much. When I first got engaged, I’d had pretty much no contact with military life, so my future seemed like a huge question mark. I worried constantly. Where would we end up? How would I adjust to moving every couple years, and to living far from the big-city life I was used to? What if no one explained anything to me? What if I didn’t fit in?
After a while, I realized that most of my uncertainties about my future life in the Army would work themselves out over time as I learned more about it. And really, things weren’t as bad as I thought they would be. I’ve met quite a few understanding, kind people who are in the same boat as I am, who have been willing to spend long hours on the phone or over coffee listening to my concerns about Army life. And as for the “what if” questions, they only lead to more worries and are never productive.
I’d also tell myself to relax more. When I first arrived at Hunter Army Airfield, and then at Fort Benning, I tried to jump in with both feet and learn everything there was to know about both places. I wanted to get started immediately with meeting people, making friends and exploring my new homes. But, what I didn’t realize is that those things often take time — weeks or even months sometimes. I could have saved myself a lot of stress if I had slowed down and let things progress more naturally, rather than trying to dive in all at once.
And finally, I’d tell myself to laugh more often. I’d tell myself to smile and enjoy the ride, and the whole process of learning about my new lifestyle. In fact, I’m still learning more about what it means to be a part of our military every day. But, I’ll make a point in the future to stop and have a good laugh if I goof up an acronym or ask a silly question.
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