It was two-thirty in the morning when we arrived at the Watertown International Airport, located in upstate New York about thirty minutes from the Canadian border. We had just moved from our beloved three-year home in Daegu, South Korea. As I walked out of the barely-functioning 32-passenger aircraft and onto the hard floor of the runway, I noticed a small building the size of a house to my right. To my disbelief, the building was the entire airport. The “baggage claim” was nothing but a small room with a singular conveyor belt, similar in size to the ones located in the cashier of a local grocery store. As an employee began to aggressively throw bags and other luggage onto the conveyor belt, I couldn’t help but think, "Wow, I’m gonna hate it here."
As the months went on, my mixed feelings towards New York didn’t magically evaporate. Although the beautiful weather, the open space, and the idea of a “fresh start” all seemed initially welcoming to me, they were soon blocked by the rather unwelcoming culture, lifestyle, and school. Everyone there seemed to have their own group of friends, and while I met some great people, I never truly felt like I belonged. I often found myself desperately trying to be someone who I wasn’t in order to fit more naturally among my peers.
By the time we had been in New York for a full year, I began to resent the military lifestyle. This emotion caught me by surprise because throughout my whole life, I had been extremely grateful for the unique and chaotic military experience. I had always thought that it was something I would forever remember and love. However, as I looked outside my window and onto the five feet of sludgy snow, I felt trapped --- both literally and figuratively. Without realizing it, I started to envy those who weren’t in the military. I envied those who were able to be part of a community without the worry about not fitting in.
When I look back at this whole situation and my past self, I am filled with regret. I regret how I didn’t even give New York a chance. I regret how I decided to blame the military lifestyle for all my struggles. But most importantly, I regret how miserably I had spent my two years.
Because all of this would've been avoidable if I was willing to change my perspective. Rather than nitpicking every bad element of New York and letting it overwhelm me, I should’ve cherished the sunny days, the compliments, and the laughs. Instead of looking at the wall of snow as some sort of barrier, I should’ve seen it as an opportunity to go sledding or skiing. Instead of feeling like an outcast among my classmates, I should’ve thought of it as a unique chance to meet different types of people. Because that's what the military lifestyle is truly about. Being able to replace the negativity in your life with positivity - no matter how small - is key in making the best out of a situation. As military brats, we are given the opportunity and privilege to experience what others can only dream of. We get to travel the world, experience unique cultures, and build a truly distinctive narrative. Learning to find the enjoyment amidst difficult circumstances is a way to make this military journey even more special.