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Rivers and Roads

My family lives in a different state.

For most individuals, this simple statement expresses sorrow for extended family members who live far away. For military kids, it means so much more.

Recently, there has been an online trend of posting about going to a friend’s house and the short distance it will take. After the person rubs their eyes and looks again, the friend’s location is hours away and it’s impossible to go over for a quick visit. These videos are set to the song “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and The Heart. This song is not new, as it was released in 2010. However, it is new to me and possibly to many of you. Amusingly, this trend has revealed lyrics that represent the general lifestyle of military teens while also displaying similarities to civilian lives.

A year from now, we'll all be gone

All our friends will move away

And they're goin' to better places

But our friends will be gone away

As a military teen, your service member often has no idea where their next orders will be, but they are told how long their current assignment will last. This knowledge leads to a sense of impending doom for us brats: you will have to leave where you are and leave behind the friends you made. It’s a somber feeling, one that discourages making friends and connections in a new place. There’s also a feeling that the friends you made are moving on to “better places” without you; having fun, going to dances, and making new friends. And it’s awful. No one wants to feel like the “disposable” friend, that you are merely an afterthought once you leave. These lyrics perfectly and simply express this sorrow, not only in a way that resonates with military kids but one that includes the friends that they left behind. Those friends often feel that there is a hole in their life - a military teen coming into their lives as a great person for a short time, then having to move away quickly. Even further, this feeling can be applied to a senior in high school who has no military connections, scared to leave the world they have known for so long and scared to leave all of their friends. The fear of being forgotten and the fear of moving on are universal, not just limited to us military brats. The question is universal: are my friends going to better places?

Nothin' is as it has been

And I miss your face like he**

And I guess it's just as well

But I miss your face like he**

The first few months of a new assignment are often the most difficult. New school, new people, new teams, new doctors; you know the drill. One of the most overpowering feelings during this time is the agony over your old friends. I know that I always felt it, unwilling to explore my new stations because I was so mad that I wasn’t with the people I had grown to love in the years prior. It feels like nothing is the same and your whole world is flipped on its axis. Nothing is as it has been. All your brain wants to do is anguish over the lost experiences and potential with your old friends. Technology has increased the ability to communicate with these people, but it's never the same as being face-to-face and honestly never will be. These lyrics sum it up, repeating the most constant thought in a military teen’s brain: I miss you and I miss the way that it had been.

Been talkin' 'bout the way things change

And my family lives in a different state

And here’s the big one. I’m sure that by now, you’ve heard family defined as the people who you hold dearest regardless of blood relation more times than you can count. It’s cliche, but it’s true. If you could sum up military teens and their experience with friends, it’s the feeling that their family lives in a different state. Not only their extended relations but all the people that they have bonded with in all of their duty stations. But don’t let my interpretation of these lyrics hide the meaning that they can hold. Civilians also struggle with extended family and friends living hundreds of miles away. Missing those you love is not an experience exclusive to military kids. Even deeper, “state” can be seen as a place of mind, not just a physical location. Every person can relate to the frustration of family thinking in a different way than they do themselves, leading to arguments and separation. Overall, these two lyrics are extremely powerful, unifying every type of person, military-affiliated or not.

If you don't know what to make of this

Then we will not relate

So if you don't know what to make of this

Then we will not relate

If someone does not respect our experiences as military teens, it can be very difficult for us to connect with them. We do not need to be put on a pedestal, but the lives that we live should be appreciated and treated as normal, in recognition of the difficulties we go through. But this respect goes both ways. A military teen should also recognize the struggles and differences of civilian life. As I just mentioned, every person can miss their family. If any person is unable to treat others with reverence for these feelings, then we will not relate.

Rivers and roads

Rivers and roads

Rivers 'til I reach you

I know that personally, at certain points in my life, I would have done anything to see my friends again. I remember begging my parents to let me stay at one of our stations while they moved away so that I could keep the same people around me. My plan did not happen and I am thankful for it, but I am sure most military teens can sympathize. Military brats work so hard to keep contact with the friends they lose, sacrificing their time and sometimes sanity (I am incapable of using Zoom) to keep their relationships. We would cross endless rivers and roads to see our true family again.

Likely without knowing it, The Head and the Heart created the perfect song to describe the struggles of military child life while simultaneously creating a song that everyone can relate to. This connecting piece of art helps military teens to establish their simplest bonds with new people and the same for those new people with military teens. I never expected a social media trend to bring about something that exposes a common thread in society: missing those you love. So, if you are really running out of conversation starters, or perhaps you want to deepen your relationships, simply start with this:

My family lives in a different state.


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