I’m being forced to move to Arizona. There, I said it.
As I mentioned in this post, my husband is in the U.S. Air Force…and I haven’t always been super excited about it.
When we got married almost two years ago, I moved from the Midwest to the South to join him (he had already been living down here for a year before we got married). At that time, he had less than 3 years left of his active duty commitment. We had agreed before we got engaged that he did not want to stay active duty long-term, because we didn’t want to be moving our kids around every couple of years (although he does plan to stay in the reserve or guard).
I wasn’t very excited to move to the South. I love where I grew up. There was a period during college when I thought I wanted to move to the northeast, somewhere in New England, or along the east coast around Delaware. Then I did a summer semester abroad in Spain and realized just how much I loved my home state (not that I didn’t love Spain, because I did, I just realized I didn’t want to be living so far away from my family, especially since my grandfather passed away while I was over there).
Everything I knew about the South at that point came from one family vacation to Myrtle Beach, a few short trips to different areas of Florida (mostly Orlando), and movies. I was expecting palm trees everywhere, Confederate-loving rednecks, unbearable heat, and accents galore. So the first time I came to visit my husband down here, I was surprised at all the pine trees (no palms in sight). And while it was August, I didn’t feel all that hot. And considering we live in a city full of military families and college kids, I quickly realized that most of the people I came into contact with had little to no accent (I wasn’t too far off about the rednecks, but that’s another story for another time).
I flew down 4-5 more times before the wedding and each trip made me less anxious about moving. I began to find things that reminded me of where I had grown up, and I quickly came to realize that most of my prior stereotypes were wrong. I started to understand that you can’t make sweeping brush strokes across an entire subset of the country, and that you can find similar personalities and life experiences just about everywhere you go.
You would think this would have made my current move easier to stomach.
My husband was put on the vulnerable-to-move list in January. We were actually really excited about this. Although we’ve come to love living in the South (and there are many aspects that we’re going to miss), we were both kind of over our current jobs and ready for something new. Plus, his contract was due to end in June 2015, so we knew that anywhere we moved, we would only be there for a year or so. We could look at it as just a fun adventure and really soak up the new culture. Hell, I can live anywhere for a year.
I was hoping he would get assigned to Langley AFB, which would’ve been closer to our families and somewhat close to D.C. Plus, we already knew people who were stationed there. Or even one of the small bases in Illinois. Or Wright-Patterson in Ohio. There were so many great choices that were CLOSER to where we grew up. He came home with a list of bases that had openings, and we were asked to highlight all the ones we would be interested in. This was so that our choices could be taken into consideration before an assignment was made. Almost as if the Air Force actually cared where we wanted to go…
Around March 15th, my husband called me at work. He rarely does this, so I was already expecting some kind of news. He said, “what do you think of Arizona?” And I replied, “does it matter what I think?” I knew from his question that we had been reassigned (note: of all the places I had highlighted, Arizona was more than a thousand miles from the closest base on my list), and while I wasn’t at all interested in living on the west coast (and being in a different time zone! Ugh!), I figured, “hey, it’s only a year.” In fact, we weren’t even scheduled to move until the end of September, so it would actually be closer to 9 months. Great, we’ll have our little adventure, and be back in our home state within the year.
It wasn’t until I got home that I got the WHOLE truth from my husband. Yes, we were being reassigned to Arizona, but he was also having his contract extended another 15 months. The job he had been assigned required a two-year commitment. So instead of being out June 2015, this effectively moved our separation date to September 2016.
I immediately broke into tears. I already wasn’t thrilled about Arizona and I felt like that only thing keeping me together was the knowledge that we wouldn’t be there for very long. And while I realize that the difference between 9 months and 24 months isn’t HUGE and that a lot of military families endure much worse assignments than Arizona, in that moment, the extra 15 months seemed like a lifetime.
It was going to be almost impossible for us to visit family as often as we had living in the South, where a drive could be made in just 9 hours and a direct flight could be bought for under $300. We were now moving ACROSS THE COUNTRY. We were moving across two time zones (and since Arizona doesn’t recognize daylight savings, sometimes three time zones), across nearly 2,000 miles into a completely different atmosphere. If the South was foreign to me, then Arizona was the moon.
Plus, we’re planning to start a family soon! So now I’m going to be pregnant and all alone out in middle-of-nowhere Arizona?! Where my closest relative, outside my husband, will be more than 24 hours away? I mean, I like living in the South NOW, but my first couple of months were brutal as I tried to find a job and meet new people. I spent most days alone in the apartment while my husband was at work. It was the loneliest I had ever felt, even including Spain, because at least in Spain, I was surrounded by 30 others students who were in the same situation as myself. And now I’m going to navigate that with a pregnant belly in tow?
The next month or so was difficult for me. Two weeks after we got the news about Arizona, my grandmother passed away. Two weeks after that, April 15th and the end of busy season hit, culminating in seven-day work weeks and boatloads of stress.
But it has gotten easier. My husband and I are flying out to Arizona next week to look for places to live and to familiarize ourselves with our soon-to-be home. And while I didn’t handle the news all that well initially, it is becoming easier to accept. When we got married, I told myself that this was my time with my husband. My family had me for 24 years, now it’s my husband’s turn. And even though we’ve almost been married for two years, I still sometimes find myself prioritizing the bond with my parents and siblings and cousins over the bond with my husband. One thing I’ve learned from marriage (one of many things) is that you really need to let your past go. I get so caught up in worrying about my high school friends that I’m growing distant with or my cousin’s new baby that I haven’t even met yet, that I forget about my relationship in the here and now with my husband. I remember what it was like living close to my family and apart from him, and it was miserable. So while I don’t necessarily like that I HAVE to choose one or the other, I know that, since I do, my husband is going to take precedence. Every. Single. Time.
And ya know what? I’ve NEVER EVEN BEEN to the west coast. I have these ideas built up in my head of cactuses (according to Oxford dictionary, that’s an appropriate pluralization, and I think it sounds better than cacti, so I’m using it…even if WordPress is giving me a red squiggly) and brown dirt as far as the eye can see; of temperatures so hot you can cook an egg on the sidewalk; of Mexican restaurants on every corner (although I might actually be looking forward to that). It’s the same kinds of stereotypes I had about the South before I lived here. And while I’m still nervous about this move, I’m starting to get more excited about it. I’m past the self-victimization stage where woe was me and my life was so much worse than everyone else’s because I had to move to Arizona. I’m past the fear of continuing to distance myself from my childhood friends. And now I’m just starting to fantasize about finally using my Spanish minor, seeing the Grand Canyon and California, hiking beautiful mountains with stunning sunsets, and even playing the slots in Las Vegas. There’s so much to the west that I haven’t experienced. I said I wanted adventure, so here it is!
Plus, I mean, I can live anywhere for 2 years…right?