This is open, candid advice from Military Wife and Singer-Songwriter, AJ Duke, whose single, Soldier’s Heart launched on November 9th, to celebrate Veterans Day, and to give support to all of her fellow Military Wives.
It was a perfect story. Years after high school, I went out with friends and ran into this gorgeous, rugged mountain man… a far cry from the small boy I knew in high school. He was funny, kind, and most of all, a gentleman. Despite previous thoughts that I’d never waste my time getting married, we quickly fell in love and I started to understand what all the gals talked about. Within three days, I told my mom that I thought he was “the one.”
Then he told me he had enlisted in the Army and was leaving in a month.
“Wait. What?” That wasn’t a part of my plan. What does this even mean?
Thus began the ultimate foreshadowing event for what the next years would bring. After all, everything in the military always goes to plan, right? I can’t even type that sentence without giggling.
I wasn’t planning to be a military wife. I didn’t really know much about it other than what I heard from distant relatives. Little did I know that I would dive head first into the most life altering, character building, emotionally trying lifestyle I will probably ever experience. I’ve learned so much along the way. However, here are three things I think every military wife should know to thrive in this lifestyle.
I am now a firm believer that the best way to get to know yourself is to spend time with people who are different than you. Coming from the far end of Northern California (what we endearingly refer to as the real NorCal), I never considered myself a “typical Californian.” That is, until I moved to South Korea and became friends with a group of wives from the Midwest and the South. The stark differences were downright comical. While I grew up in a ranching area and considered myself more “country,” these friends lovingly referred to me as a hippie. Maybe I’m way more “Californian” than I thought. But you know what? I’m proud of it.
That’s the joy of getting to know yourself…your true self. Not necessarily what others see you as. You see, the example above was just the start of an incredible journey of discovering everything that made up my unique self. Each of us has a unique identity. Every. Single. Person. There is not one other person on this planet who is exactly like you. So why not contemplate, discover and embrace all that you are while experiencing the melting pot of culture that is the military?
Which comes to my next encouragement…get to TRULY know others. Just as I said above, each person is unique in their own, individual way. So often, we place labels on each other, on ourselves. By doing so, we miss the chance to meet the incredible people around us. See the gold in each new friend you meet, especially when they are completely different than you. Understand that, no matter how different someone is from you, you have one thing in common…this lifestyle. One of the most important things I think we can take away from our military lifestyle is the feeling of unity. You know what I’m talking about. Similar to when our nation unifies during national disasters, military wives unite to get through the hardest times of this journey. We respect one another and put our differences aside to lift one another up. It becomes an opportunity to grow the most incredibly diverse group of friends who start to feel more like family. Stop looking at the differences and start looking for the unity.
Know Your Purpose…
Let’s face it, we’ve all seen or experienced what I call the “Depression Deployment.” You know the one…the pity party that lasts for months on end? I mean, how many times can one binge watch “Gilmore Girls?” I know…I’ve been there.
Ladies, I get it. Being a military wife is like an overwhelming full time job. Throw kids into the mix and I equate you to Wonder Woman. However, we must remember that to pour out, we must fill ourselves first. Discover who are you aside from a mother and a wife. So often, I’ve seen military wives completely break down once their husband leaves. They simply don’t know how to live without them. They enveloped their lives so much in what their husband does that they are at a loss when he is no longer there.
Dear ones, hear my heart. Being a mother and a wife are incredible, honorable things. But they are not the complete makeup of who you are as a person. Use the time your husband is away to take your own journey to discover that hidden piece and find your passion, your purpose. Maybe you are a writer, a teacher, a musician, a leader, a nurturer (yes, that’s real), a chef, or an artist. Take that time you’re not spending making dinner (because you and the kids are eating cereal…don’t judge, I know you’ve been there too) and start the journey. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
To connect with AJ Duke, and to download her new single, Soldiers Heart, visit AJDuke.com.
All images @ajdukemusic