I felt like a pioneer. “We’re moving ourselves,” I’d tell people proudly, when they asked when our packers were showing up. “You’re crazy,” they’d respond admiringly. “I could never do that!”
I had decided a year before we were going to PCS that we were, in military parlance, going to “do a DITY” (why it’s “DITY” for Do-It-Yourself and not DIY, like everywhere else, I have no idea). I had convinced my husband he’d love it, and I’d spent the year leading up to our move following a meticulous monthly rotating schedule of purging that I’d developed, one closet at a time. The challenge of our lives was ahead of us — or so I thought.
Moving all of our things, picking up each item in our possession, wrapping it carefully, and loading it onto a truck with our own hands in a real-life game of Tetris. Yes, we were following in the tradition of rugged individuals who had built this country with nothing but grit and determination. I had also gone full abuelita, praying rosaries and novenas for our DITY to proceed in accordance with providence.
Then, my therapist laughed at me.
When I told her of the adventure I had planned for my family, she smiled and shook her head, chuckling.
“You realize,” she said, “this is like when rich people decide they’re going to do something for themselves that most regular people usually do for themselves?”
Apparently, I was giving off some real “George Bush at the checkout counter” vibes with my DITY fanaticism. For all that we complain about the stress of PCS season, the fact that military families get packers and movers for free is actually pretty unique. The reality is, most normals (i.e., civilians) are used to moving themselves. Of course, there are companies that will pay to move employees, but that’s often considered something of a perk.
I thought of this recently when I listened to an acquaintance from a civilian background say her arms hurt from her current move; she and her husband had been using dolly straps to move their washer and dryer up out of their basement. You know, like peasants.
Granted, military folks move more than the average psychologist (that’s what this acquaintance was), so it could be argued that the Department of Defense kind of owes us this one.
On the other hand, that doesn’t quite explain the awe and confounded amazement with which “DITY people” are treated in military circles — something for which, incidentally, the DITY people are compensated.
Recently, I received a bit of exciting professional news that meant more hours and was keeping me pretty busy. A friend texted to check in and said she hadn’t seen me in a while. I explained I had an amazing new gig that, on top of our DITY preparations, was keeping me pretty busy.
“I am so impressed,” she responded, “That you’re doing a DITY!”
Being a military spouse means having your professional achievements subordinated to the fact that you are loading and unloading your own moving truck.
Military life is hard and unglamorous and has lots of challenges. Nobody joins the military to become rich. But in this one area of life, we all of a sudden turn into society grande dames, saying things to each other over our three-martini lunches like, “It’s one banana. How much could it cost, ten dollars?”
As I write, we’ve finished day one of our DITY move. I have to say, as a lifelong Army brat and a dozen years as an Army spouse, I kind of prefer the autonomy and the more leisurely pace. I like that we’re not sitting around our house tapping our fingers on the counter waiting for the movers to show up, only for them to call us to say that they have another house to pack out first, and they’ll be over sometime in the late afternoon. An introvert by nature, I like that I don’t have to make small talk with the strangers who packed my underwear in a box with my kids’ baby photos.
Are we committed DITY people for the remainder of my husband’s career? If I’ve learned one thing from military life, it’s not to try to plan too far into the future. For now, I don’t regret my preparations over the past year, including the novenas and rosaries. Everything has come together and fallen into place through a combination of planning and serendipity. However, we also have another day of loading and we still have to deal with everything on the other end, so the final verdict will have to wait.
About Maggie Phillips
Maggie Phillips is an Army spouse and mom of three. She writes for Tablet magazine as part of a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation to increase religious literacy. Her work has appeared in The Leaven, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Army magazine, NextGen MilSpouse, Military Mom Collective, Military Spouse magazine online, and elsewhere. When she can get a babysitter, Maggie also does stand-up comedy, a subsidized hobby that usually just about pays for the babysitter. Follow her on Instagram at @maggies_words, on Twitter at @maggiemphillips, and at mrsmaggiephillips.com. Opinions her own.
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