In seven years I’ve had ten addresses in seven states. I’m not a fugitive, I’m an Air Force veteran married to an Active Duty Air Force officer. I left my home in New Hyde Park, NY in June 2005 to attend college in Colorado Springs, CO. After graduation in 2009 I moved to Hawaii, living with a couple of roommates until October when I left for training. I lived out of a suitcase while in training in Alabama and Mississippi for six months.Then it was back to Hawaii in spring 2010, living in my own apartment, and to Goldsboro, NC in April 2011. I lived in my rental home for a year before moving into the house my husband bought for us in June 2012. In February 2013 the Air Force sent me, not my husband, to Biloxi, MS. I honorably separated from the Air Force in November 2014, moving back to Princeton, NC to live with my husband. In June 2015, we moved across the country to Anacortes, WA, when my husband was transferred to an Air Force unit at a Navy base on Whidbey Island, WA.
Suffice to say I’ve had many blank moments at gas stations when prompted to enter my zip code, the numbers blending together on the most tiring of days. Yet, over all this time, with all these moves, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world. I’d like to share a few of the lessons.
Saying hello on the street is polite, but I still don’t do it
I was born and raised in New York. I’m registered as a New Yorker, have a New York driver’s license, argued with many people about why it’s the greatest state in the union, and still call it home. When a ship sails around the world, its home port remains the same. New York is my home port.
Growing up, I felt like there were always people around, and even today I feel safer surrounded by clusters of strangers. I feel if I was in trouble someone would surely come to my aid, or that creepy guy in the corner is less likely to attack me with so many witnesses. I know it’s not rational, but it’s what I’ve grown to feel.
My mother taught me manners: please and thank you, holding the door open, giving up my bus or train seat for someone who needs the seat more than I. But I never received the lesson to say hello to people on the street. On a crowded city block, it just doesn’t seem right to smile and nod at every person you pass. If I said hello to strangers in New York, they would likely think I was not in my right mind, “Do I know you? Why are you talking to me?”
Apparently the midwest and the south don’t share this mentality. People wave and say hello on the streets. It confused me when someone waved hello from their truck, Do I know this person? I’m still not comfortable when I walk down the street in my small town, and fellow pedestrians say hello. I’ve graduated to slight smiles at strangers; it’s easy and it actually feels good.
I’ve also learned to be more patient. Life tends to be slower paced in many of the smaller towns I’ve lived in. It’s common for someone to chat with the cashier for a few minutes while a long lines grows behind her, or for the cashier to ask me what feels like far too many questions when it’s my turn to pay. I can’t get mad, that would be rude.
In different regions of the country there are different sets of manners and attitudes, but regardless of where you live, humanity is humanity. Kindness goes a long way, respect is indispensable, family is important, and everyone just wants a sense of belonging.
Making time for travel and new activities is paramount.
I’m on the adventurous side. I’m lucky to have married an equally, if not more, adventurous man. We love to explore nearby cities, plan yearly vacations aboard, and take part in new experiences. With so much moving, I know I have x-time to become truly familiar with an area, so I plan accordingly.
I have many friends who do the same, but I’ve also met many people who don’t. At all. To a point where I want to shake them! It seems important to make the effort to go out and explore. If your destination is within three hours of driving, you can make it a long day trip. Seeing new places and trying new activities gives us different perspectives, it makes us more accepting of differences and more appreciative of what we have.
With that said; to each his own. If you work all week and just want to hang out in the backyard on the weekends, fabulous. However, I find myself perplexed when speaking to individuals who wish they could visit nearby places. A year ago, I went on my first real camping trip (I’ve turned nature girl since moving to Washington) in the Olympic National Park, about a 3-4 hour drive away. It was a weekend trip for me and my husband, but I have friends who have taken day hikes in the park and returned home at night. I mentioned the experience to a middle-aged woman who lived in my town, “Oh that’s great, I’ve always wanted to visit.” I replied, “Wait, aren’t you from here? You never went there?” She shook her head. She’s not the first person in the past seven years who has given me this response.
I’ve become accustomed to leaving a place every few years, so I’m aware that I am extra-passionate about using free weekends as travel and exploration opportunities, probably more than people who never see an end date for their stay. In a way though, we all have an end date. If we keep putting off things we’d like to do and places we’d like to visit, we’ll eventually find ourselves looking back on a lifetime of missed opportunities.
Staying in touch is the hardest, but most rewarding part.
My relationships are few, but strong. Among my best friends are three I met when I was eight years old. Even after all these years when we get together, it’s like we were never apart. I treasure that. When you move frequently, it’s easy to gather acquaintances and social media friends, but it’s hard to develop strong bonds. That’s why I love traveling to share in special events, like weddings, where old friends get together to celebrate, reminisce, and make new memories.
It’s difficult to be apart from loved ones I value so much. I can’t be there when my best friend has a bad day. I wasn’t home when my dad died, leaving my mom to mourn for two days alone until I could get a flight home from Hawaii, and my brother from South Korea. I was stationed apart from my husband for more than a year and I hated not being able to cook him dinner after he had a long, difficult day. I’m meeting my best college friend’s one year old baby for the first time this month.
There are ways to close the distance. Every Sunday my mom in New York, my brother in Germany, and I have a standing video chat appointment. My close childhood friends and I regularly plan trips to get together, and when we all manage to be home (New York) at the same time, we will, at the very least, coordinate schedules to meet up for a drink. I check in with my loved ones to share inside jokes, and mark their important events on my calendar, so I can feel close even though I’m not physically there. However, it pains me to not be with them on the ordinary days. It’s the ordinary days that really make up a life.
I’m happy and thankful to have lived in numerous places. My husband still is contracted with the Air Force for a few more years, and we’re toying with the idea of him staying on until he can retire at 20 years. We have a baby on the way, that gives us something to think about for the future, in terms of staying in one place while he or she attends school. I’d love for our child to be best friends with his or her eight-year-old friends, when he or she is thirty, but I also want him or her to see and experience the world. It’s a tricky, but exciting balancing act.