As I write this, I am officially a high school graduate. It’s more than a little surreal that this is it, that I’ve reached the end of my K-12 education and will be starting college in the fall. Looking back at myself in kindergarten, sixth grade, even freshman year, I don’t think I would have – or could have – predicted where I am right now. It’s not that I would have been surprised, but the past few years were just one possibility out of many, many others, especially when starting from further back. Military families are so used to ambiguity and have learned to navigate it gracefully. Sometimes, however, I feel stuck in that mindset of multiple possibilities and no concrete future.
Drifting from plan to plan, from potential future to potential future, has served me well as a military teenager. When my new school didn’t have a competitive math team, I switched to trivia. Even COVID, a major upheaval not related to the military, felt familiar; I'm used to the rug being pulled out from under my feet. I know that I can be resilient through major changes, and that is generally a good thing. Sometimes, however, it makes me feel like a fraud. I have a genuine passion for the extracurriculars I’m involved in and what I plan to study in college, but not years of experience or desire stretching back to childhood.
The first photo of me on my college’s campus is from 2018. Five years ago, I wasn’t seriously considering college. If I had, the college I am (very excitedly) attending in the fall probably wouldn’t have made my list, since my field of study has changed in the past few years. Yet at the same time, if I could go back in time and tell 13-year-old Faith what’s in store, I don’t think I would be surprised. If there is one thing the military has taught me, it’s that a lot can change very quickly. Predicting five years ahead? Impossible – that would involve at least one or two moves, if not three. There would be too many options, and most of those would be good.
Driving home from a college visit with my dad, we discussed what the next four years would be like for me, living and learning in the city. But I’m not the only one making a big transition this summer, with my dad retiring within a few days of my graduation. His experience as a young officer was similar to mine, moving from assignment to assignment and doing what seemed interesting at the time, eventually stumbling into work he loves, in a place that my family is very happy to call our (adopted) home.
I have adapted to living in that special military limbo of not knowing where the next two years would be spent, let alone where I would be five years into the future. It has allowed me to bounce back quickly when life changes quickly, either individually or with literally everybody; and it taught me to keep an open mind to new opportunities and interests. Yet, the frequent change can also make planning for just one specific future difficult, something I’m wrestling with as I prepare for college.
In a way, it’s fitting that ambiguity can have positive or negative impacts, depending on how you look at it. Some days, it feels like my childhood has led to more negatives than positives, or vice versa. The best way I've found to think about it is that it really, truly changes depending on the person and circumstances. It's not the most satisfying answer, but it's one I can live with now and in the future.