I’ve always been the “young one.” My birthday is in November, so most of my same-grade friends growing up were older than me. I was 17 when I graduated high school. I was probably the last of my good friends to be of legal drinking age—I didn’t turn 21 until well into my senior year of college. I’ve had three jobs post-graduation, and every single time, I was the youngest one in the office besides the interns. If anything, I always felt like I had something of a “jump” on things because I was always younger than my contemporaries.
Until I became an Army wife.
Now, I glance through the #armywife tag on Tumblr, and I see blog descriptions like “Jane, 21, Army wife and mother” or “Liz, 18, about to marry my soldier fiancé!” and it blows. my. mind.
I’m 25 years old and there is no way that I will be having kids until 2017 at the absolute earliest—that’s when Andrew finishes his residencies. And there’s a good chance that even then I won’t be ready. I mean, dude, I can barely take care of myself and Andrew and a dog, I don’t think you want to put responsibility for a tiny, helpless human being on my shoulders just yet.
And don’t even get me started on the incredible faith and fortitude that these women—girls, really—who marry their soldiers at 18 must have. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be so young and have such an important decision to make. I didn’t even meet Andrew until I was 19. We had the luxury of being together for five and a half years before getting married. We spent almost three of those years living together. I have the utmost respect for the men and women who manage to make their relationships work when, more often than not, they’re not even on the same continent.
That brings me to another point: I am quickly finding out just how lucky Andrew and I are when it comes to military relationships. We met in college; he didn’t join the military until his senior year, when he applied to dental school and received the HPSP scholarship from the Army. His first year in dental school is probably the most time we’ve ever spent apart (I was still in college in Boston that year)—and we still managed to see each other an average of once a month, until I moved in with him in Baltimore once I graduated. We were able to take our time learning to live together; we had an out if we decided we couldn’t stand each other. We didn’t have to rush into a marriage just so I would be notified if he was blown up overseas(!!).
Finally—and this is the real kicker—because Andrew is a dentist, there’s a very low chance he’ll be deployed. Deployments for dentists are actually pretty hard to come by; there are only a few slots and they go like hotcakes to senior officers because at a certain point, a deployment is the only thing that’s going to get you any sort of career advancement. I can’t imagine he’ll earn a deployment for at least a decade, if ever. This makes me basically the luckiest Army wife on Earth, and I wonder to myself sometimes what other military spouses must think of me when I talk about how tough it was for me to not see him for six weeks while he was at BOLC in San Antonio. How can I count myself among these innumerable, incredibly strong men and women when I haven’t experienced anything close to the heartache they go through on a regular basis?
It’s obvious that I still have quite a lot to learn about being a military spouse. I’m hoping that, with time, I’ll feel more “caught up” to the general military spouse population in both military experience and number of (non-furry) children.
I just have to say again how incredibly impressed I am with military spouses in general, who manage a household while their soldiers are gone for months or years at a time; who have gone through multiple deployments with only a few months in between; who have been married for years but have really only ever lived together for a few months. I’m honored to be part of such a great, supportive community and I hope I can live up to those who came before me.by