By Anna Larson
SpouseLink Ambassador &
I was nine years old when I won the prestigious “Top Reader Award” in my fourth grade elementary school class. My teacher, Mr. Wood, is an educator that you remember for the rest of your life, the kind that you write articles about because they go above and beyond. Mr. Wood inspired me to push myself to excel academically and made the prospect of learning new things exciting.
Now, I will admit that it didn’t hurt that the first prize for Top Reader was a Saturday trip with him to the high desert of Eastern Oregon to catch lizards, mice, and crickets for the live snakes that he kept in our classroom. That type of adventure is rare for a student to experience then and unheard of now. It was a prize that was wildly exciting to my 9-year-old self, and so I read voraciously to make sure I won that prize.
There were two things I gained from that experience. First, my love of reading was ignited and has never waned. Second, it inspired me to be a lifelong learner.
Whether We Want Experiences or Not
Being a lifelong learner means you are someone who voluntarily and even enthusiastically seeks opportunities for learning and growth beyond what may be part of your formal education.
I have found that most military spouses can identify with being forced to accept lifelong learning. The lifestyle of a military spouse is a series of constant change and new experiences. Your first duty station you find things are done a certain way. You work hard to make sure you’re part of the team and give every effort to comply. Then you PCS and your second duty station requires you to unlearn the past three years and start over with something completely new. We plan and plan… and, never mind, everything has changed.
This type of forced learning is not always received with open arms. Are you embracing the opportunities that come with military life?
The Wisdom of Military Spouses
Whether we spouses want new adventures or not, they are foisted upon us wrapped up in a package with a bow on top and given to us by the Department of Defense. A potentially unwanted gift we cannot refuse. It’s up to us, as spouses, to accept each new experience and find the opportunities within it.
I reached out to a few of my favorite military spouses and asked them about their lifelong learning experiences and found wisdom in what they shared.
Planning for the Future
Amber Broda, the spouse of an Army Sergeant First Class, smiled when I asked about her learning experiences. “Prepare for anything, but don’t expect what you plan for will actually happen,” she says.
Amber is referring to the many last-minute changes that military life brings. In just the past few years she’s experienced two sets of last-minute orders to Fort Bragg (now Fort Liberty) — both redacted after their family had already planned a full PCS move. Then, a promise, made by her servicemember, to spend the last years leading up to retirement in Texas suddenly changed when they received notice that they would be moving to Germany, their 12 choice of PCS locations.
“It’s never-ending,” says Amber, “but, be a spouse that is open to change and new adventures. And when you are feeling snarky about it, call up those milspouse friends and commiserate on the suck!”
“I have been associated with the military my whole life; first as a dependent, then a servicemember, and now a spouse,” says Angela Kennedy, “I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I can do. The military spouse life has taught me to be malleable.” Angela, the spouse of an Air Force Master Sergeant, is talking about that phone call bringing a new assignment that has forced her to change career paths more than once.
As a nurse, she’s been frustrated with having to start from scratch with every PCS move, but she has also embraced what comes with each change, “Being flexible with what life throws at us has made this more of an adventure than an upheaval. Rolling with the punches and looking forward to the unknown makes this style of living more sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting.”
Stacy Herr, the spouse of an Army First Sergeant for 19 years, doesn’t see her servicemember ready to retire anytime soon. “The most valuable lesson I learned, and am still learning, is to “let go and let God.” Or in other words, you can’t control anything and if you try, you will lose your sanity.”
Stacy and I talked about the PCS moves that get changed multiple times, the tearful goodbyes you say the night before a deployment — only to wake up and find it’s been pushed back another week — and the long TDY’s or last-minute hours that our servicemembers work causing missed birthdays, missed date nights, and missed promises. Stacy’s advice to go with the flow is one of the best, yet hardest lessons to learn and one of the most valuable in embracing learning opportunities.
Embracing the Best of Military Life
For me, military spouse life long learning has translated into a curiosity about each new place we’ve lived. I do my best to get out into nature and explore the local wonders of the world. I push my family to attend local events and festivals to get a feel for the community. I’ve discovered that every location is beautiful in its own way and filled with amazing people even though it was “the last place in the world I wanted to live.”
When that next upheaval comes to your military family, I encourage you to stop for a moment and seek out the learning opportunity that this new adventure will bring.
And if you need a military spouse friend to commiserate with, I’m just an email away!
About Anna Larson
Anna is a copywriter and digital marketing strategist, and owner of NomadAbout, a digital marketing strategies company that helps entrepreneurs and other business owners showcase their organizations through social media, websites, and marketing campaigns what they are passionate about and how they do it better than anyone else. She is active in the military community, co-hosting a weekly business-oriented livestream and co-leading the Fort Cavazos (formerly Fort Hood) Cha Chapter of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs.
Europe, Africa, and the United States, her family made the leap into military retirement. Anna is also a SpouseLink Ambassador with two kids and two dogs. She’s a long-time homeschool mom that loves dance parties, popcorn, camping, and snorkeling in the ocean. In her spare time, you’ll find her traveling the world with her family, relaxing around a fire pit, or on a long walk with her pups.