Monday, April 23, 2012

Here, There, Everywhere

It is a common thing for a military family to say "goodbye" to friends and neighbors.  It is part of our culture, part of what makes the lifestyle heart wrenching.  We are on our toes all the time because someone is always going.  Moving across the country or even around the world.  Going going going.  It is the part of the fabric that makes the military lifestyle hard.  It is also part of what makes it great.

Last week when I visited one friend in California she said that after four years at her current location that she was ready to leave.  While she adored the area, the scenery, the climate, and her children's schools, her heart was at it's limit.  At this particular base, four years is an unusually long amount of time to stay put.  And because of that, she had watched friends come and go.  And come and go.  Come and go.  Houses that once housed her closest friends now housed strangers.  Literally not one person who had welcomed her to the area was living there anymore.

I wasn't shocked to hear her sadness over this issue.  John and I lived in Norfolk for about five years before we moved to Maryland in 2008.  In some ways I felt similarly then.  I had been there a long time and most of the people who had been my first Navy wife friends had moved on to other areas.  When we left Maryland our ranks were thinning.  Because of the nature of Test Pilot School, a whole bunch of us arrived at the exact same time.  But we didn't all leave at the same time.  When the last few families were packing up to make the trip elsewhere it started feeling very quiet and lonely. 

This normal sadness that my friend shared was a huge contrast to the feelings I had while planning my trip to California.  It made me think about the many pros and cons to this lifestyle and how they are constantly at battle in my mind.  Do I love it?  Do I hate it?  Does it depend on the day or the amount of wine I have consumed?

I often joke that California "steals" my friends.  So many of John and my closest friends live out there.  My best friend from high school and John's best friend from the Naval Academy live about 3 miles apart in San Diego.  Two of my best buddies from VAW 126 (John's first fleet squadron) live in San Diego too.  As does the friend I met while John was at TPS who watched Kate in her home during her first year while I worked full time.  John's brother moved to San Francisco a year ago.  Kate's godfather and someone who we have seen at least once per week since moving back to Norfolk is moving to California at the beginning of May.  Seriously, at this point, take me with you!

Naturally, our trip last week was as much about seeing people as it was about seeing places.  And there is honestly something really special about experiencing a new place with familiar people.  Going to Sea World with Julie and April was fun because they are the same people that I explored Norfolk with.  Hanging out with Leighanne and Betsy at a great airport cafe in Ventura was fun for me because they are the same people I went to bars in Norfolk with (before kids!) and attended 80s parties in Maryland with.  It is like vacationing with friends - but not having to deal with the logistics of vacationing with friends.  And if we actually did end up with orders out there, I already have an army of friends waiting for me.  There is something pretty cool about living down the street from someone on the Atlantic Ocean then moving and living down the street from them on the Pacific Ocean.  Something special and unusual that we might take for granted.

Don't get me wrong.  The idea of growing roots, having the same friends down the street for decades, and not saying goodbye to everyone is certainly appealing.  But it is definitely less adventurous.  There are few places around the globe where we don't know someone living that we could call to get a tour or a great restaurant recommendation from.  From Australia to Italy to Spain to Hawaii and Japan, I can honestly say we have Navy "family" there.  And while I often wish we could all live on the same block forever, would we really appreciate it?  Appreciate each other as much? 

For now I am enjoying having friends here, there, everywhere...


Jen said...

I agree that four years is a LONG time in one location. I would be a bit stir crazy. Jason's career field is typically 3-3.5 years in one place and that is long enough.

I love having friends all over. Even friends of friends make me feel glamourous (we have Navy friends of friends that live on the beach in Portugal, just waiting for an invite..ha).

I do think it makes you appreciate people more. It's also really sad when those good friends move and you don't make close friends again for awhile. The void is that much more noticeable.

Having friends all over make PCS-ing that much better, too! When we have driving cross country, it's been nice to stop in and see folks we normally would not have made a special trip to go and visit.

Lori said...

Of course, we just left done of our dearest friends in Pensacola and again, wish we never had to leave those we love. That said, you are right.... So much more appreciation for all friends... Wherever they are!!!! Xoxo

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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