Moving is stressful for almost everyone. It’s been documented all over the internet (and some books) that people in general don’t like the stress of packing everything in the house, simply to go to a different one. Moving is such a hardship that, if you were to do a Google search right now you could find out; it is generally considered among the top five most stressful events in life. As a man in the military, I can attest to how sad it is to pack everything in your house every few years, and leave the place you called home once again. This doesn’t just apply to military members though, everyone that is reading this blog has probably moved once or twice in their lifetime, and knows the hollow feeling of closing the doors to a now empty home. It is probably one of the saddest feelings imaginable, and it can be even harder, when it is the home that your children were born in. This feeling could be attributed to a number of things, but it is generally agreed upon that it is a part of our evolution as human beings.
It all began during the Neolithic Revolution, when humanity started shifting away from nomadic tribes, and into agrarian ones. We started settling in locations, and thus culture was born from this event. However, as we evolved to settle in locations for long periods of time our brains also became accustomed to this. You see the human brain is lazy. It loves routines because it makes things easier to perform, and thus it takes some of the workload away from it. Big changes like for example a move, require copious amounts of effort in order for the brain to adjust, process, and finally accept. The brain being lazy in order to survive does not appreciate the change, and thus humanity as a whole finds the event extremely unpleasant.
But, something that makes a move even more unpleasant is leaving your home, and family behind as you head off to perform an intermediate duty before you finish transferring. I’ve moved about five times in 7 years after leaving for the military. My first couple of moves were extremely simple as I was a single young man with no extra luggage aside from a small bag full of civilian clothing. This was a much easier time, I didn’t have anyone to worry about, and leaving the home was already my goal. I remember those days with much nostalgia, considering that my travels took me to Chicago, Mississippi (Meridian!!! trust me when I say: never ever go there by choice), and finally Hawaii. In those days all I had with me was a sea bag full of clothing, and a carry on which hosted my very important laptop (for work related purposes obviously and not porn in any way shape or form) (why do you ask?). I didn’t have the best home life, so moving was simply a way to escape from everything that was causing trouble for me. I was nineteen, and life did not seem to be getting better, despite trying my best in college. I wanted more, so one day I saw a Navy recruiter in my school, and inquired about joining (this is a story for another day though). Six months later I left home. I miss those days because moving didn’t cause me the stress it does now.
Three and a half years later, I was married, and lived in a small studio with my lovely wife. We only had the barest of essentials, so moving was definitely not hard at that point. But, there was a sadness in the fact that we were leaving Hawaii (an island) which was definitely our home environment (as we came from Puerto Rico). It was going to be our first time living in the continental U.S., and frankly it was terrifying. I’m still not used to the idea that I could drive for days in one direction and not hit any water (for the longest time I’ve ended my directions with the statement “if you hit the water you’ve gone too far). You add in the factors, that I was heading to a new base, a new house, and I barely had any furniture to fill in a single room in the house. It can become pretty overwhelming for a recently married young couple. It became especially troubling when we found out that not two months into our new place, my wife had become pregnant (this is why you make sure to send your televisions in the expedited shipment). We weren’t planning for it for certain (in fact we had been trying to conceive in Hawaii for some time already, so we gave up). But, obviously life has a weird way of working out, and by the time we had realized it we became parents. The house which had until that point only had very small amounts of furniture started looking more like a place fit for a child, and it became our home (as well as the place my son was born). I don’t need to explain how attached my wife, and I became to this place for that very same reason.
Forty-two months later and we are once again in the period of transferring. Our once full house looks like a shell of its former self and all of my furniture looks like this:
Until that point, I had not realized, how much distress this event would cause me. I was simply expecting it to happen at some point this month, but didn’t give it much thought otherwise. I guess subconsciously, my mind was simply trying to protect itself. It’s simply one of those events that you just accept as inevitable when the movers finally arrive at your home. This is when it finally hits you hard, the people you love, the places you know, the adventures you’ve had all come at you with a surge of sadness at the thought of abandoning them. But, nothing in life will prepare you for the blow that is hearing your son asking: “who took my toys?”. How do you explain to a toddler, that everything he has known is leaving for an unknown amount of time to a place that might be across the world? It’s not often you see a military member stationed in the same location for extended periods of time (though it is possible), and we simply accept it as a part of life.
It can be a very emotional period in the life of anyone, yet, somehow even though you know it is coming, there is not a lot you can do to brace for impact when it arrives. You simply head over to wherever the military instructed you to go. However, you don’t always have the luxury of bringing your little piece of home (family) with you. When you go to an intermediate activity before your next duty station the military gives an estimate of how long your stay will be in this location. If it is lower than a certain amount of days, then you can’t bring your family with you. I was in exactly this type of predicament, when I left my last duty station. My decision was to relocate my family to a different state where there was a relative of hers in order to ensure that they wouldn’t feel abandoned. Now we’re in the same time zone, but I still can’t see them over anything, but Skype and pictures (and it breaks my heart). I feel good about their safety, but it is still very sorrowful to hear your son say “no say goodbye father” as you’re getting on a taxi ride to the airport. I couldn’t help, but cry at this display because my son had always been so attached to his mother (that I was simply unimportant).
But, as with everything else in life (except cancer or aids) there is something good to be had from all of this. I will be moving overseas very soon, and it’s extremely exciting. I will enjoy being part of a whole new culture of which I’ve only dabbled on in the past. Moving can be hard, but there is always so much to explore when you leave the comforts of your home. I’m also glad that my son will get the opportunity to learn a new language, that neither the wife or I can speak. Half of the people I know will never get an opportunity to say that they traveled the world on the Governments’ wallet, and as mentioned before it is less than 1% who serve in the military in the U.S. I might have never gotten the opportunities that my job has afforded me if I had stayed in college (which I would still be finishing my doctorate) instead. I will never know if joining the military was the correct decision in my life, but it’s the road that was taken, and I can’t do much, but follow it wherever that may lead.