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The MilFam Diaries: Chronicles of a New MilSpouse Pt. 10

Continued from last week…

I landed in Spain on Nov. 10, 2013, and for the first few days, I felt as if I was on vacation. We got settled in our house on base, did some shopping, planned European adventures, and explored Rota. Then reality began to set in.

Don’t get me wrong: I was ecstatic that Aleksei and I were together and that our long-distance relationship was a thing of the past. As for the other parts … well, there I had concerns:

  • Working remotely? As I’ve said before, I’m a people person, and I like being in the office. A conference call just isn’t the same.
  • Time management? Given the six-hour time difference between my home and my job, my work hours are from noon to 10 p.m., with time off for dinner. As you might imagine, this makes it hard to participate in social activities — and nearly impossible to balance work time and personal time.
  • New friends? With my schedule, it’s not that easy to meet people — plus, I missed my friends in the States.
  • Small-town life overseas? In the offseason (when I arrived), there’s not a lot of activity in Rota.
  • No car? We have one car, and Aleksei needs it for work. (We could have bought a second car locally, but since we would be in Rota for only 10 months after I arrived, it wasn’t worth the expense.) As a result, I’ve frequently found myself home, alone, without wheels, unable to get to where I want to go. Military life? I quickly realized that I didn’t have the slightest clue how to be a military spouse.

Several spouses made an effort to welcome me by asking me to join them for lunches, coffees, shopping trips, and other events, and their invitations meant the world to me. I did the best I could to balance working and getting to know my fellow Navy spouses, and I participated as much as my schedule permitted. During these outings I noticed that some of these spouses really seemed to have it together. They appeared to be selfless, superpowered superhumans who thrived in the military world. I watched them from a distance and wondered: How do they make it look so easy? Are they really doing as well as they appear? If they are, what’s their secret?

I thought I was prepared. I thought I would thrive. Instead, I felt lonely, naive, and lost. And I wasn’t the only one. I encountered a few other spouses who seemed to be going through a similar journey adjusting to military life in Spain — or, like me, adjusting to military life, period.

During my first two months overseas, I received calls or emails from many of the MFAN advisors, asking how I was. Each time I gave the “life is great, Spain is beautiful” line, they replied, “OK, now tell me how you really are.” When I got those emails or heard those words, I felt a sense of relief: They knew it wouldn’t be easy, they knew I would struggle, and maybe they struggled (or still struggle) too. I vented, they validated, and I felt better.

I wish that I could say that I’ve adjusted completely and I’m loving every day in Spain, but that’s not how it is. I have good days and bad days. I’ve made changes to my life and my outlook that have helped, but I’ve got a ways to go.

I am learning how to truly rely on Aleksei: While I hate how the term “dependent” is used in military jargon, I do depend on him — as my friend, my confidant, and my support system.

I’ve developed hobbies: I started horseback riding, something that I hadn’t done in 15 years. It gets me out of the house and is something that I can do for me (and only me).

I’ve learned to look on the bright side: We’ve had opportunities to travel, to enjoy Spain, and to meet some great people.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a new military spouse, it’s this: This won’t be my last time being the new kid on the block — but now I’ve acquired some tools to make the next time a little easier.

To be continued next week …

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