• Matthew Oh

The Problem with Growing Up: Thoughts on Moving and Friendship




Moving is nothing new to military kids. Over the course of my life, I've moved a total of eight times throughout the mainland U.S., Hawaii, and Korea, and have had my share of unique experiences. One of the many downsides of constantly moving is forming new friendships. Most of us have been there: saying goodbye to old friends, trying to stay in touch, failing to stay in touch, and ultimately moving on to new friends. It's the sad truth of military life.


As I've grown older, I've noticed changes in my friendships. Not only did my friends begin to stay my friends as I got older and left, but they also knew me better as my relationship skills strengthened. Looking back on elementary school, I realize that I had many friends who were fun to play with at school, but that I never really formed a lifelong bond with. It was much too easy to forget them when I moved away because I had no way to keep in touch apart from our parents' Facebook (and let's face it, what elementary schooler is going to message their friend's mom on Facebook when they've already found new playmates?). As kids, we moved on easily because we were young and shallow.


My friendships started to take a turn in sixth grade, when my parents agreed to let me get an email account. That summer, when I moved from Kansas to Arizona, was the first time I actually kept in touch with some of my friends who had become more than just playmates. We had achieved together, made memories, and gotten each other through life's problems that were beginning to appear.


My friendships became even deeper in Arizona, as middle school provided more opportunity for bonding and personal expression. Leaving after eighth grade was probably the first time I've ever cried over losing friends.


The move to Pennsylvania that summer was rough at first, but I quickly adapted. For one thing, I joined the marching band, jazz band, indoor percussion ensemble, and Shakespeare troupe, which were all basically countless hours of forced bonding with like-minded people. I came out of that year with friends who knew my life story, had seen me at my best and my worst, and who loved me for who I was. In other words, I had found my lifelong friends.


Then we got the news that I would be moving to Korea that summer. I would be forced to leave the people that I had just met ten months before but, somehow, felt like I had known since birth.


Which leads me to the point of this article (sorry, that was a lot of backstory). Through my multiple emotional breakdowns and denial that I would have to leave my friends, the one phrase I heard too often was, "You're a military kid. You're used to this. It should be easier."


I should mention that many of these friends weren't military kids, as this was an off-post public high school with a relatively small military population. Even still, these words somehow stung. A lot. Because during this move, I realized that I wasn't used to moving. Sure, I always find ways to plug in and make new friends wherever I am, but I have never stopped missing old friends and longing for their company. While I've always developed a love for my current home and the people I'm with at the present, getting to that point hasn't gotten any easier.


In fact, I think that moving actually gets HARDER as we grow up. The friendships we had as kids didn't last because the relationships were flimsy and superficial. Over time, we learned how to form better, lasting relationships and therefore had closer friends. But stronger relationships only cause more pain when you're inevitably forced to leave the people you love.


So let's revise this painful phrase. No, moving doesn't get easier as we get older. It gets harder! At the same time, moving in our past has also given us new insights into how we handle moves now and in the future. It's equipped us to deal with these new challenges, and face the future with hope. We are armed with the experiences of our past to face the increasingly difficult task of relocation.

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