Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY CULTURE
Becky Hilliker

After 20 years of PCS, milspouse navigates 'staying put'

I've developed an itch.

No, not like that time in college.

The itch to pull up stakes, un-circle the wagons and head West…or East…or…ok you get it.

It's time to move again. PCS.

It's a familiar feeling to most military spouses. Birds have an innate sense when it's time to migrate, and I think military families develop something like that. Every few years it's time to fly.

It starts as a faint tingling on the back of your neck. Then you see dust bunnies frolicking on top of the refrigerator and decide to ignore them because you're moving soon, so who cares? Those little freaks start to get it on everywhere — under the bed, the couch, that weird piece that was your grandfather's that you feel compelled to keep, but have no real place for.


You say to yourself "Go on, spawn away, little humping dust bunnies. Soon a moving van will magically appear and nice men wearing low-slung pants will lift off your illicit hideaways and expose your obscene way of life…along with their butt-cracks."

You download the assignment lists from the BUPERS website and fantasize about the possibilities. You prowl through Zillow, drooling over granite countertops and in-ground pools, and measure the distance to the nearest Target (i.e. bar). When your spouse walks in, you slap the laptop shut like a teenager caught in the act, knowing you'll be chastised for getting your hopes up too early about one duty station or another.

You start challenging yourself to cook with nothing, but the ingredients in the pantry (coconut milk and chickpea casserole is surprisingly tasty — said no one ever). You stop going to the stock-up sales at the commissary. You secretly purge bags of old clothes and toys from your kids' rooms while they're at school and then fake concern over the missing items.

"What?? You can't find that t-shirt with the torn sleeve and the kool-aid stain that you outgrew two summers ago? Oh no!! Wherever could it be?!" Parenthood Fakery should be an Oscar category…

It's that time again for our family. We've been in China Lake, CA for nearly three years and are scheduled to PCS this summer. Our days wandering in the desert are supposed to be over. I came, I bloomed where I was planted, and now it's time to go find a new adventure.

Actually, I shriveled up like a California raisin and could plant corn in the furrows that have developed on my forehead.

Regardless — it's time to go.

Except it's not.

We've been extended.

For an indeterminate amount of time.

What the hell am I supposed to do now?

I find myself more upset about this than I should be. It's not that I don't like China Lake. We've had a good tour here and I'll have fond memories and lasting friendships.

(Photo by Arnel Hasanovic)

It's that I feel like something is wrong. The routine is off.

Have I become addicted to moving? After nearly 20 years married to the Navy, it's become part of my DNA.

Neither my husband nor I had ever moved until we left home for college. And once we started regularly relocating, I started to crave the fresh feeling that comes with it. The removal of baggage, so to speak. The cleaning out of cobwebs — mostly from beneath my furniture, but also from the corners of my mind. A wanderlust that says "this place was fine, but what's around the next corner?"

One would think that I would have resisted such a nomadic life, having never experienced it as a child. But then again, perhaps if I had gotten to escape my surroundings as a kid I wouldn't have pretended to be a popular cheerleader named Anastasia on my 8th grade trip to Washington DC. Even then I was desperate for reinvention…

And moving every few years gives me that fresh start. I find it very freeing. If I'm not satisfied with my surroundings, I know it's only temporary. I don't have the heavy burden of forever (well, I suppose in theory, marriage is forever, but a few more years of stumbling over boots left in the floor will probably take care of that…)

Now I find myself sitting here with the realization that not only am I not moving…but I don't know when I will. And now I have to reinvent myself right where I am.

But forget about me having to stop obsessing over the future and concentrate on the present. There's something way more concerning about staying put.

The only fate that is FAR WORSE than having to move.

Now I have to clean my damn house.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.