When we’re younger, most of us dream about the future. That doesn’t stop as we age. Many of us continue to dream about the future even as mature adults. We think about our spouse’s or our next career move, how our children will grow and develop, create that 10- or 15-year plan.
I turned 30 this year and realized I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.
But I am a grown-up.
As I watched many of my friends apply to graduate school, pursue degrees, and achieve big promotions at work, I realized that I have no idea what my next step is. Do I have one? If I miss it, do I fall off the face of the earth? What am I supposed to do?
I’ve been a writer since I graduated from college. My degree was in English with a focus in journalism (and some government and political studies thrown in the mix). I’ve done political writing. I’ve worked as a reporter. But what is my next move? While I could drop a large wad of cash on grad school, it likely wouldn’t pay off in the long run like it would for other folks in different careers.
This is a tough moment for a lot of military spouses. In a life where the next move is often literally a move to another state or across the world, it’s hard to keep our careers moving even when we know what we’re doing, even when we have that 10- or 15-year plan in motion, crossing off each goal on our list with a smile of achievement.
But our career is a tough thing to develop. We never know when we’ll leave our home or where we’ll go next. While our service member can create a 10- or 15-year plan, we have to wing it when we can. We can create goals, but must accept that our goals may have to wait until the military isn’t calling the shots.
I’ve often heard people say that you should give 100 percent in every aspect of your life, but the reality is, you can’t.
Each of us only has so much we can give. As military spouses, we often wear all the hats. We’re the ones running the errands, caring for the children, taking care of the chores, ensuring our kids are where they need to be, and sometimes dealing with the emergencies or curve balls thrown our way. All on our own.
It would be impossible to give 100 percent in every scenario. Each responsibility chips away at a percentage of us, so we only have so much of ourselves to offer. I’m learning that the hard way.
Last month, I began a new journey into novel writing. It’s the first time I’ve tried it. I’ve made some major headway, but I’m learning the truth of the 100 percent. I saw a great quote once that said, “I can do anything but not everything.”
Especially with a husband who spends a week or two out of each month in the field.
While writing takes up some of my time, I also have to take my kids to school. I’ve been doing a regular exercise regimen. I’m cooking and prepping meals. I have writing and editing duties with AWN. I’m fitting in travel opportunities (because Europe). I’m running errands to the grocery store, the post office. I’m fitting in my own self-care. I’m helping my children with homework, bath time, bedtime. Potty training. Each of those duties chips away a portion of my 100 percent.
Last week a friend commented that sometimes it would be nice to be like Buddy in the movie Elf. Someone asks if the character slept well and he responds, “Yes. I got a full thirty minutes.”
How much more I could do (and better) if I only needed thirty minutes of sleep! There truly aren’t enough hours in a day.
But I’ve gotten better. Sometimes it means writing when there is noise that crowds my thoughts, when three singing toys are playing at once because each child of mine wants their own (or, you know, they’re fighting), calling, “Just one more paragraph!” when they need me. It means editing while something is cooking in the oven, multi-tasking as best as I’m able.
It means putting down everything so I can spend a couple of solid hours with my kids, bonding and playing. It often means that toys litter the floor creating a dangerous place for bare feet, dishes stand in a topsy-turvy pile in or beside the sink, and laundry taunts me as it overflows from the clothes hampers. It means my “to be read” pile tempts me, but remains stagnant.
Milspouses know better than most that life truly is all about balance. We eventually find a groove, even with the upheavals, and keep rolling along. And that’s when our self-care is important.
We need to do things that make us happy. For some, a simple bubble bath in the quiet, alone, makes a difference. For others, like me, we may need more. Writing is what makes me happy.
I’m fortunate that my career path aligns with something that I love to do. I can find the balance (eventually) and discover the “me” that longs to be released.
It isn’t easy to juggle it all, but I’m finding more and more that it’s worth it. I’m discovering the “me” that is unrelated to others—I’m not simply someone’s wife or someone’s mother. I’m able to start going my own way to fulfill myself. And as we enter into the month of gratitude, I’m thankful I’ve taken the leap.
If there’s something you’ve been dreaming of doing, I say go for it. Make those dreams your reality. Age is only a number. You’re never too old to take classes or venture into story telling. Ask for help when you need it, take classes if necessary, and keep going, even when you aren’t sure of the balance.
You’ll find it. Trust yourself.