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  • Chelsea Hayes

My Truth: Becoming a Military Spouse

The military life has its ups and downs. There are good days, even great days. Hard days and some days that are the absolute worst. Some days when you can't wait to get out of bed, and some days when you could stay in bed forever. If there is anything I have learned through these days it's that...


Nothing is truly the end of the world.


Today, I'm here to tell you about my journey of becoming a military spouse.


Our life before the military:


Before the military my now husband, then boyfriend Justin and I were both living in New Jersey. I had graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2018. I literally showcased my best impression of the #KimKCry on graduation day (as seen below). I was honestly just so damn proud of myself for accomplishing all that I did in college. I wasn't the smartest growing up, and having a Dad who is a civil engineer and an older sister who went to one of the best universities in the country. Let's just say, I was hard on myself.

But when I walked across that stage, I knew I would do whatever it takes to achieve my career goals.


But post-grad looked a bit different than I originally imagined. I was working in retail. As an Assistant Manager at Hollister Co. on my way to becoming a Store Manager. Was this where I thought I would be after graduation? Planning floor sets to roll out new merchandise and listening to moms complain that the shorts are too short for her 12-year-old daughter? Absolutely not. But that was where God intended me to be at the time.


Justin was working at a few different jobs. He worked as a contractor, then as a lawn maintenance guy, and as a packer at 3M. Justin's life looked a bit different than mine. He tried college, but he didn't have the right mindset. But all he wanted was to steady career path to create a great life for both of us.


Justin's best friend, Joel is in the Navy. He always told Justin that he knew if Justin joined the military it would give him the steady career path he was looking for. I guess I always knew he was right. But I also had zero understanding of the military. To be honest, when I thought about Justin joining the military I instantly imagined...


BOOM! LOTS OF GUNSHOTS, PEW! PEW! PEW!


Probably a bit extra but what can I say, I knew nothing at the time.


Eventually, I laid out the pros. If joining the military meant: getting Justin the stability he's been searching for, setting up a life for us to get married, and having a more steady income. It seemed to be the next best thing for our relationship. Selfishly I was still really scared. After many conversations, Justin told me to do some research.


On days we had off together, we would watch countless Youtube videos. Showcasing the highs and the lows of military life. Two of our favorite YouTubers were Brit+Con and Austin Alexander. What we liked about each of them is they didn't hold back. They were real and genuine about their experiences, which I needed in order to get the scenes of American Snipper out of my head.

After countless hours of videos and videos,

I started to become more and more intrigued and comfortable with the idea of us joining.



The Process of Joining:


Justin's process to join the Air Force was definitely filled with a lot of waiting. There were many points where we were almost positive he wouldn't be accepted. He almost joined the Navy, (sorry Joel). But God willing, he passed MEPS and scored well on his ASVAB and was offered a job in February 2019.


And before we knew it, Justin was set to ship off by the end of April. Things were starting to get real.

Once we knew Justin's ship date, we started to plan out getting married. I always wanted a big wedding, but with a small time frame, I knew that would have to be put on hold for now. Honestly, all I really wanted was to marry my best friend. Justin and I started planning what we like to call our "fake wedding." Fake in the sense that we want our big wedding to be our actual wedding.


We started ring shopping during the next few weeks. Originally, Justin was going to be the one to pick out the ring and all that jazz. Soon we realized that we didn't have time for that and honestly he didn't really know where to start. So we made it into a fun adventure for us. Originally I thought I wanted a large diamond with a bunch of diamonds around the band. But my husband being the great man that he is, did some research and introduced me to moissanite rings. For those of you who may not know what moissanite is, cause neither did I. Here's Google.


One condition I had was, the proposal had to be a surprise. I mean if we couldn't have our big wedding I at least wanted the surprise proposal. Fast forward to Sunday, March 17, 2019, Justin proposed to me at our "future spot." Our future spot is the reservoir just down the road from his house that we would go to. Anytime we were there we would just talk about how far we've come both as a couple and as individuals. It became a special place for us.


If y'all would like to read more about our proposal story check it out on How They Asked.


Once the proposal happened, in less than a month our wedding happened we had our mini-moon in Houston, TX and before I knew it he was off to boot camp.




Months and Months apart:


Justin and I have done distance almost our entire relationship. Since I went to college out-of-state, we only got to see each other every other month depending on our schedules. So I thought well, if we could make it through that how hard could a few months really be?

Truthfully, it was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced. Not being able to communicate with him for two months during Basic training (#BMT). The anticipation of waiting for his letters to arrive (S/O to #Sandboxx), and hoping he was receiving mine. It felt like we were in The Notebook, but thankfully no one died at the end.


One thing that got me through was landing my dream job. To backtrack, the week that Justin and I were headed on our mini-moon, I received a message from someone I knew that worked at MTV/VH1 in NYC. We connected through one of my professors when I was in college. He messaged me to inform me that a position was opening up on his team so if I could send him my resume he would pass it along to the team.


Here I am about to board our plane, and I receive this message! I polished my resume as best as I could and sent it as soon as we walked into our Airbnb. The week Justin shipped off to basic also became the week I would interview for my dream job. Justin was on my mind and I had already cried about 6 different times thinking about him since he left. But I couldn't let that stop me. I knew he would want me to focus. Just about 3 weeks later, I was offered the job!


As exciting this all was, all I wanted to do was to be able to celebrate with Justin. It killed me not being able to call him and tell him the second I found out. But I knew he was thinking about it even while he was going through training.


After starting my job, it made the weeks go by a little faster. We experienced a lot in the course of 7 months. From his BMT Graduation to him transiting to Tech School, we had our ups and downs as any couple would, but little did we know then what our next big obstacle would be.


Discovering our First Duty Station (FDS):


In the Air Force, your military member gets to submit a list of bases that you would like to go to. This is called a #DreamSheet. Based on their job they will be told what bases they could potentially be assigned to. Ultimately this list will have you put 10 CONUS (Continental United States) bases and 8 OCONUS (Overseas Continental United States) bases. The Air Force will send you where it is best for the mission's needs but will try to place you based on what is on your dream sheet.


From there during tech school, you'll receive your soft orders. Typically stating where you are being assigned, and typically they don't change but as most people know in the military -anything can happen. Once you receive your soft orders, you can typically start your research and get things moving. It is not until you get your hard orders that it's official.


For us, we truly believed we would get stationed in our home state of New Jersey. I mean how many people do you know that want to get stationed in NJ? Plus, getting New Jersey would allow me to keep my job at MTV.


Unfortunately, that was not in God's plan for us.

Justin and I were FaceTiming like we always did while he was in tech school. It was the beginning of August about a month and a half before he was set to graduate. Justin would check to see if he received his soft orders daily. I mean we were both eager to know. Suddenly when we were checking this night, he got quiet for a moment.


Of course, me being me I'm like"uh hello, you good?" and he takes a deep breath and laughs nervously, and says "we got Italy"


You're probably thinking, Girl you must have been so excited! I was until I thought about my job. I just kept thinking to myself, I just started this job. My dream job, and now I have to leave?


Some might say that is selfish, but I worked hard to get where I was so to me it was daunting. I just didn't know what to do. My dad told me off-the-bat that I should just stay for a year then join Justin later. To me, I couldn't do that to our relationship. I mean he just worked his butt off to get where he was AND we spent almost 7 months apart after just getting married.



In the end...


I choose to go with him. I knew the decision was tough, and some might still say I could have stayed but I am happy that I didn't. My job was understanding as soon as I told them, they even threw me a going-away party on my last day.


Finding a job here isn't easy and that is because on base there are not many jobs. By the law of the SOFA Agreement spouses of military members can only occupy jobs on base. Has this been tough? Yeah, but I know that in time I will find something. Plus, having this time to discover myself I was able to start this blog that you are reading now. And consume some good wine :).


As I said at the beginning of this post, "nothing is truly the end of the world" so as crazy as these past 7 months were. From getting married right away to being apart and moving overseas, I wouldn't have changed it for the world. I am a stronger individual for it, and I am learning how to be a sponge. To soak up what is around me and make the best out of it. Plus, we had our first fur baby here so I guess you can say he was worth it too.





Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more :)


xoxo,


Chelsea Abena

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