Some military families love to PCS. The sense of adventure that comes with moving to another duty station every few years is exciting to them. Even when they receive orders to a location not on the top of their wish list, they find a way to embrace the suck and learn to love their new home until military orders move them once again.
Being positive about the process is an important coping skill, but what happens if you find yourself really unhappy? What if you just can’t shake truly hating your duty station?
My husband’s final duty station was at an Army base in Arizona. As a Florida native, and as someone who loves the south and being close to the beach, I tried to embrace the new high desert landscape. I firmly believed it was best to make the most of where we were. But in reality, I loathed being stationed there. It was extremely dry, the temps were super hot in the summer (dry heat or not, 110 is miserable) and we got snow in the winter.
I missed all of the tall trees, greenery, and water I was accustomed to. We were also 2-3 days drive from our family. That had always been a difficult aspect of military life for me, but we had been blessed with orders within a days drive in the past, which made it bearable.
I was miserable.
And I felt like a spoiled brat. My husband was home and out of the fleet. Friends at other duty stations were saying goodbye to their spouses for yet another deployment, and mine was home every night. How dare I be so miserable because the beach was not close by.
And then I realized that me feeling guilty and forcing myself to pretend it wasn’t so bad, was making it worse. There is nothing wrong with having a preference when it comes to where you live. I wasn’t being a spoiled brat because I desperately missed the area I called “home,” but I did need to survive it without being completely miserable or making those around me the same.
So I accepted that I was never going to love the place.
Instead, I focused on the people. It doesn’t matter where you go, there will always be good people. We joined a Cross Fit gym, I sang with a local community choir and we made an effort to get to know our neighbors.
I focused on the opportunities. We traveled to southern California, the Grand Canyon, and other places we would probably not have the opportunity to visit after retirement. We visited interesting local spots like Bisbee and Tombstone frequently.
I focused on the future. With retirement just a few years away, we started to pay off debt in anticipation of buying our first home. We started to dream about what our lives would look like when we were able to plant permanent roots in an area we both loved.
And we survived. Acknowledging that Arizona was not my favorite has made me appreciate our forever home location even more. In the summer when we have 100% humidity, I am reminded how miserable that dry heat was for me. In the winter when it drops to 20 for a few days, I am reminded how I hated all that snow. And when I am at the beach, I appreciate it’s beauty in a way I didn’t before.
It could be worse: The worst duty assignments for every branch of the military
Hating your duty station? Embrace it. Focus on the people, opportunities, and the future.
It’s okay. I promise.