By Rebecca Alwine, Army Spouse
I keep repeating to myself, “It’s the year of the PCS.” It brings all sorts of emotions. But the one at the front is comprised of frustration and anxiety. Because in true military fashion, we don’t know where or when we’re moving.
I know y’all understand that. During any given year about 1/3 of you are experiencing similar pre-PCS emotions. Maybe you know when you’re moving but not where. That happened to us when we were leaving Germany. I mean SOFA said it was time to go but where were we going? We didn’t know until a few months out.
Or maybe you know where you’re going but not when? That one is different hard. You are ready to get there, making plans, looking for housing, but you can’t tell anyone when you’d need a house. You can research and research and make timelines and plans, but you’re still in that horrible holding pattern.
Yup, I’m doing both right now. It’s miserable. BUT, there are some good points to it. I’m learning to appreciate each time I get to attend a function. Each beautiful southern Arizona sunset, each long weekend we have as a family. While this duty station has been our home for over four years, this last job has been hard. But “hard” is relative, because the next one could mean a deployment. Or shift work, or really anything.
So, for those of you experiencing the PCS Limbo this spring with me, I have a few suggestions on how to pass the time without going completely insane.
It doesn’t really matter where you are going next if those boxes haven’t been unpacked since the last time, they probably don’t need to go with you. It’s time to decide if the things you’ve been packing up and moving really need to stay with you. Yes, you may need it later, but someone else is probably giving it away later.
We all know that no matter how much effort we put into the organization of our things, chances are the packers will mess it up. But, it will make you feel better to know that all of the bathing suits and beach towels are together and the Christmas decorations are labeled in their bins.
Maybe I’m unique, but I love looking at things in other places. If you can narrow down the places, you may be going (if you know where but not when) you can start looking at things you’ll want to do. Look at schools, neighborhoods, what the installation has to offer, how far away you’ll be from your bestie who is also PCSing this year. Those sorts of things will give you something to make a plan out of, even if the plan changes. PCSgrades will save you hours of time spent on Facebook perusing military help feeds. All the main information you need can be found on one website! On-Base Housing! Local Neighborhoods! Realtors! Even Moving Companies! And what is really unique are the reviews left by our fellow military and veteran families! Who better to talk about the issues important to us when we are looking at a possible new duty station? Its a great way to get answers to questions like, “Is it a military friendly neighborhood or school?” or “What is the commute like?” And if you really want to get a feel for the local area, PCSgrades features Area Guides and Out & About blogs on many locales where there are major military installations.
Make a list of the things you want to accomplish before you leave your current place. How many times did we put off that trip to the local museum? Make a list, play tourist, and enjoy the last few months at your current location. Bring along a new family, someone who wants to explore with you. Encourage family and friends to come visit to explore; you never know if you’ll be stationed here again. (Unless it’s Fort Huachuca and you’re MI, then you can count on it.)
Stop and enjoy life. Seriously. This could be the worst duty station ever, but it has still been an experience. I’m sure you made friends and found at least one restaurant you like. Continue to do those things, don’t check out yet. Yes, it will hurt to say goodbye to friends, but it’s going to hurt whether it’s as you pull out of town or if you do it prematurely. Trust me; you’ll want your friends around when it’s time to pack out. And, don’t dismiss the new friendships that may come along. It’s a small military, and you never know who will be your neighbor down the road.
Keep your chin up, mil-spouse. It may be the year of the PCS, but it may be a long process. The military is going to tell you when and where, and though it may not feel like it, you’ll have enough time. Everything will work out, despite the anxiety. So, relax and enjoy the last few months.
Author: Rebecca Alwine is a PCSgrades’ Blogger Affiliate and a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Over the past 10 years, she’s discovered she enjoys coffee, running, lifting weights, and most of the menial tasks of motherhood. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found hiding behind the sewing machine or with her nose in a book. Her writing experience includes military family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSGrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com or on Twitter (@rebecca_alwine) and Instagram (@rebecca_alwine).