When the PCS Dust Settles: How Do You Start Over Again?
If you've been through a military move, or PCS (Permanent Change of Station), you've been there. If you've recently moved, you're right in the middle of it.
The flurry, stress, and excitement of sorting and getting ready for the move, the goodbyes, packing up your entire house, traveling to a new duty station, and helping kids cope through the changes is now mostly behind you. Everyone is settled in--for me, that means my hubs has checked into his new job at his new duty station, the kids are plugged into sports and school and maybe running the new neighborhood with friends.
This is usually the point that is the hardest for me after a move--that point when everything settles down. I don't belong anywhere, don't really know anyone yet beyond a casual hello to a neighbor as I walk to my car, just don't quite fit yet.
I've talked before about what I do to feel settled right after a move: find a dentist, church, and beauty salon. These are metaphors for the important things in life: healthcare, community, and self care. But what if you've found all the things, and nothing's clicking?
What if you find yourself feeling nothing but lost when the PCS dust settles?
Friend, I've been there. I've lived in locations where I swore up and down I'd never settle in, never find a real friend, never ever EVER like it there. And I'll be honest here. There's only been one duty station out of 13 where I wasn't completely sad to leave when the time came (I think those are pretty good stats!). Only one where I never did feel quite at home, though I tried my hardest. And while our latest move was our final move with the military, there are still the same feelings.
How will I fit in? Will I ever know my way around? Will I find a good friend here or just get by?
Give yourself time.
Life doesn't always happen on my timetable. Sometimes I don't find my new best friend until mere months before moving on again! I've found it's best to give myself time to adjust and get to know the new area, even though I may be chomping at the bit to get out of the house and meet people. There's also a component of grieving and working through what was, and that takes time.
But get out there.
Whether you work outside the home or not, you need connections, and you may not find them through work or the people who live in your neighborhood. Find your tribe by joining a book club, a running group, a moms' day or night out, whatever! Start with some of your interests and see what's available in your area. You may be surprised who you'll meet at choir practice or the local MOPS group!
Leave your comfort zone.
That said, you may be in a location that offers none of the activities you've normally done in the past. Be willing to try something different! Have you always avoided spouses' groups because of "the drama"? Give it a chance. Did you see a notice on the local Facebook group for a hiking club, something you would normally pass on by? Give it a try!
Don't overlook how important civilian friends can be.
When we were stationed in Hawaii, our best friends as a family were all civilians. It gave us a wonderful break from the fishbowl feeling that can be part of living on base. We are still in touch, still see them when we go back, and I am thankful for the friendship and love our ohana showed to us. These are forever friends! Perhaps you'll connect with locals through church or other parents through your kids' sports teams.
While I may want my new life settled like yesterday, thanks very much, it takes time to settle in. Military families don't always have much time to forge new lives as they may be in a place a matter of two years or less. Still, have patience, don't force it, be open to new experiences, and I hope you'll find yourself in a few months feeling very at home.
Remember this time is a blessing.
While you may feel like your life is on pause right now, it's a good time to take stock of what you'd really like to be involved in, maybe make a career change, or simply embrace this clean slate you've been handed. I write about "living in the pause" in my book:
"It's a mixed blessing, this abrupt grinding to a halt of the too-busy life we raced through a few weeks ago. We're forced to stop and reassess everything, whether we like it or not. And what we choose to include in our lives is now a choice, no longer a default...
Look at this as a second (or third, or ninth...) chance. Recognize this time as an opportunity to start fresh, to even reinvent yourself. That job you'd learned to dread and the boss who made your life miserable? Gone! The difficult neighbor? Not your problem anymore! This is the perfect time to make changes and seriously consider opportunities you've always wanted to pursue."
If you're recently moved, I'd love to hear from you! What's YOUR best "settling in" tip that might help someone else?
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