Every time I see a story like this one about another service member getting pushed out and another family getting the pink slip, my stomach turns. Partially out of fear (because I know that sinking feeling all too well), but mostly out of solidarity, because eleven months ago, that was us.
Like people remember where they were when there was some major, newsworthy event, I can relive our pink slip moment in a heartbeat: it was an unusually hot fall day, my husband, newly home from Afghanistan, had just been promoted, I was nursing our nap-hating newborn while the AC struggled to bring the house to a cool 80 and wondering when this small tyrant would finally let me shower, and hubs called to say it was time to find a new career.
That’s how he put it. It wasn’t about a new job. It was time to find a new career.
I’m pretty sure I started just talking, trying to sound encouraging and “new start”-ish, but all around me I felt the bottom fall out. We had less than three months. We’d be filling out paperwork for our move (to where???) in less than two. We had seven weeks – no! six! – to figure out our whole lives.
Or rather, our whole lives, part two. That’s how he put it.
So we did. And it turned out okay. Let me say it again:
Things turned out okay.
It wasn’t that it wasn’t dicey – it was. Three days before we were about to list my mother’s house on our moving sheets, hubs got a new job. We moved to a cool city. He’s in the Reserves now and making a difference in our community, and he loves it. We’ve got a good life. In truth, it’s actually kind of a better life, although I feel weird saying that. But it really did turn out okay.
That’s mostly because of this one, simple truth, though:
When people tell you who they are, listen.
My dad says this CONSTANTLY. He said it about the mean girls in middle school, the guys I’d date later on, competitive coworkers and in just about every other context you can think of: “Kid,” he’ll still say, “When people tell you who they are, you’ve got to listen.”
I’m going to tell you the same thing. We’ve all been here for awhile, right? Those of us with families facing the axe, we’re not new to this. And as long as we’ve been here, hasn’t the military been telling us exactly who they are?
They take our partners for weeks and months at a time for training that in most logical ways wouldn’t necessitate crossing the country or leaving us behind right before a deployment. We cancel birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons. We reschedule weddings.
We think of ways to cast “daddy is in the field for a week” in a good light, even when we can’t think of any good reasons ourselves. (I’m always floored by weeks in the field right before deployment. Really? We don’t get him for the week before you leave for pre-deployment training, and then you’re gone for a month, and then I get you for *maybe* ten days before you’re gone for real? Really?)
But that’s the way it goes. That’s the military telling us who they are. And we all just kind of steel ourselves and get through it – because it’s not so bad when we’re not in it by ourselves. It’s not so bad when we’ve got each other. And we do. We lean on each other and support each other and get through all of it – with each other.
And that’s where the big secret to the pink slip is: The military being who they always told me they were – pink slip with NO BLIPS on a record and high marks instead? – okay. Crappy, but fine, I can’t say I’m totally shocked. But it’s feeling so alone in it that got me.
That’s where you come in. Because it’s not something we’re going through alone. There are a lot of us going through it together. We all know that pit-of-your-stomach feeling at this point, and many of us have gotten pink slips that days before were completely unimaginable.
Listen to the military when they tell you who they are.
And maybe more importantly, listen to me when I tell you who I am: I’m a military spouse, I’m part of your community, and I’m here for you.
The DOD may have issued your family that pink slip, but I sure as heck haven’t. And your fellow spouses? They haven’t, either. I know it, because they helped me through it. And we’re all here for you now. We’ve always told you who we are. We’re your friends, your family, and your community. We’ve got your six, your coffee, your glass of wine, and your kids for a few hours while you send out some resumes. We’re here for you. We’re always here for you. We’ve been telling you who we are for years and none of it changes now.