Good work doesn’t just happen to people—milspouse or not. People who have satisfying work struggle to get it.
I was reminded of this the other day when I caught this little thing about actress Greer Garson on AMC. Garson was a classic 1940s wartime beauty. She won an Academy Award for bringing Mrs. Miniver to life in 1942. She was nominated for six other Academy Awards.
When Greer Garson lost popularity in the 1950s, she couldn’t let herself give up. She is quoted as saying:
“If your ship refuses to come in, you are going to have to row out to it.”
That seemed like something Mrs. Miniver would say. It also seemed like the perfect military spouse quote to me. Because we spouses always have to row out to our ship of career dreams.
This is daunting. Discouraging. Depressing.
No one is going to haul our career ship in so that we can step aboard lightly. No one is going to motorboat us out there. There isn’t a jetski lined up at the dock waiting for us to climb about.
When it comes to work, we military spouses are pretty much on our own. There is a lot of talk about helping spouses, sure. There are programs.
But when you get right down to it, we spouses are on our own to figure out how to have meaningful work and military love at the same time.
At our Spouse Summit in Washington, DC, we gathered a group to help work some Career Makeovers for our volunteer military spouses.
Everyone could admit the structural problems spouses have when they start looking for careers. They could admit how far away that career ship was from the shore. Then they got right down to the ways they learned how to jump in the boat and start rowing.
They were willing to take temp jobs so they could jump over the barrier of not knowing anyone.
They switched from jobs as teachers to jobs as online college instructors because those jobs were more likely to move.
They had tips about how you arrange your resume so employers can see what you can do for them.
It was all row, row, row. It was all learning how to row. It was all keep rowing even though the ship seems to be getting further away.
That won’t be good enough for some people. Some career ships are so incompatible with military life that they never do come in. But for those of us who are willing to row, there is a way to get there. You have to stop waiting and get started. Because that is the only way.