Military Life WILL Change You

Mar 28, 2024
Written by: Erin Beene
Back in 2010 and less than a year into the Air Force lifestyle, my fears hit a little differently.

People change as they grow older. It’s a natural way of life. Perspectives broaden, priorities alter and experiences make each of us evolve as the years go by. Everyone is different at age 20 than at age 40. This happens. But, it happens differently – and drastically – for many mil spouses. Me included.

I’m not the same bright-eyed, adventure seeking 23 year-old I was when I first became a mil spouse. Nearly 15 years into this journey and I have changed drastically. Not just the physical changes that happen to all middle-aged women (hello unwanted weight and forehead lines) but something much deeper is becoming very apparent.

I look back to my life prior to being a mil spouse: I was young, excited and eager about what would come next, but secretly, I was intimidated by the military lifestyle that faced me. It all seemed so official and looming- this military world- at the time. Besides growing up in San Antonio, Texas – “Military City USA” – I had no knowledge of any inner workings of the military until I met my husband at age 20. Suddenly, I fell in love and was elated to begin the new unknown and exciting life of the military. Life was all in front of me and I was ready for it.

However, I am not that same young lady anymore.

Now, my life has changed. I have changed. I have unabashedly lived ( not just stayed for a while) in six completely different places (two overseas). Each of these places claimed different cultures, ways of life, weather and types of people. I have lived thousands of miles away from my family. I have had to plant roots, then uproot them. I have had to make new friends and shift my lifestyle with every move. With every new location, I become different. I am not that same young woman who braved her Southerner fear of cold and drove through an ice storm in Montana three days before Christmas. She was afraid of many different things than I am now.

One cannot uproot their lives so many times and not change themselves deeply. We are different and we are different in this way from our non-military friends and family whether we like it or not.

Change isn’t bad but it can sometimes be hard for old friends and family to keep up. They likely haven’t had to change as much. They will probably have more traces of their younger self left than you and I might. As mil spouses we are expected to always be adapting, making things work, have no plans and make the best of it, and we do. But, as I get older, I find that people “back home” can find this harder to understand because they simply don’t have to live in 2-year segments. They can make long-term home investments. They can have yearly family traditions. They can, quite frankly, plan for the future.

Future planning was less daunting when I was in my 20s. Now, in my late 30s it’s creeping up on me. Kids’ college funds, retirement accounts and trying to make life long goals without any context to what the next 5-7 years will even look like feels impossibly frustrating and scary. The cold weather doesn’t scare me anymore thanks to Malmstrom and Minot, but other things, deeper things, do.

So, it’s a tradeoff. Had I stayed in Texas my whole life I never would have never gotten over my fear of driving in the snow or traveling alone with my kids all over the world on all types of public transit. I would have bought a house, started and stayed in a career field and I would likely have done many of the things I now sometimes dream of.

So, I have changed. And yes, I have missed out on traditions and extended family time and making well-informed, long term housing/vehicle decisions. But when I write it all out like this, I realized something. While I have changed a lot, I really actually think I have changed for the better….

Military life changes us, and it’s hard. Super freaking hard. But when you sit down and think about it, the changes have probably made you stronger, wiser and more adaptable. Let’s be honest, mil life probably hasn’t made you richer, but richer in experiences, challenges and obstacles is actually much more valuable in a lifetime.

I’m glad I have changed.

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