My dad retired from the U.S. Army this past September.
It still sounds weird, even after almost three months.
Initially, I remember being really scared of what it meant for me-- it upset a lot of norms and things that I took for granted. It forced me to ask questions about myself and my future, and that made me really uncomfortable.
Heck, I'm still uncomfortable, but it's better now that I've thought things through.
First of all, there are a lot of benefits to your military parent finally retiring.
They are (probably) much less stressed out.
They come home at a reasonable hour!
They can spend time doing what they love.
They spend more time with you.
They spend more time with their spouse (my mom is very happy about that part).
They can finally drive their kids to school in the morning!
They can (attempt to) make dinner!
Your family doesn't have to move around anymore-- though I've debated whether this is a "good" thing.
So yes, lots of reasons to be happy that your military parent has retired. But it can be very confusing!
When my dad retired, I had a lot of questions after the initial rush of emotions. For instance:
"What in the world am I supposed to do now?"
I still don't know. I've lived the army lifestyle for so long that for a while I wasn't sure I could figure out how to be normal. How do I not bring up every five seconds that I'm an Army Brat, or that I move every two years? But more seriously, I didn't know how to deal with the uncertainty.
I guess I should be used to uncertainty, right? Military kids are exposed to it from young ages-- we're all really good at rolling with the punches and dealing with things minute-by-minute. The moving, packing and unpacking, saying too many goodbyes, and meeting new people only to leave again are actually the one thing that doesn't change. I could always count on my military lifestyle to mix things up, and the fact that I never knew what was going to happen next was comforting. And now it's over.
No matter how much I complained about it, I loved how I lived and the necessary skills I developed. But that chapter of my life is over, and somewhere between September and the present day, I accepted that I'm not going to live the rest of my life that way. So to answer my own question, I don't know what's next for me and that's okay.
Which brings me to my second question.
"What do I even call myself now?"
Am I still an Army Brat? Do I still get to say that?
I'm serious. This was a big issue for me.
Yes! Of course I can still call myself an Army Brat. I may have stopped moving around, and my dad may have a fancy, new addition to his rank, but that doesn't change or erase the way I was brought up. I don't need to forget about it or pretend it didn't happen. I was raised an Army Brat and, really, let's face it - there's no getting rid of that part of me, even if I wanted to. (Go Army, Beat Navy.)
"What if I miss some aspects of military life?"
That's fine. Perfectly normal.
"What if I don't?"
Also fine. Perfectly normal.
Our lifestyle is so, so unique. I don't know any military kids who haven't struggled with it or wished that it was different at least once. It's hard and stressful, and sometimes it feels like entirely too much. But then you move somewhere and you meet someone who just feels destined to be your best friend, or the best coach you've ever had, or your favorite teacher. Maybe the school in your area is a perfect fit for you or maybe it's not and all of a sudden you have ideas about what your college search might look like. You might move to Germany and discover that schnitzel is your favorite food. There are almost endless possibilities.
So yes. The way we live is hard, but it's also full of opportunities if we decide to make the most of it. Now that I no longer live the military life, I can look back on those memories and experiences without regret, and I can move on.