During my very first semester of college, I had to say goodbye to my boyfriend when he shipped off to Air Force basic training. The future was uncertain, and the first months completely without him were rough. But I made it through to the end and got to see him graduate basic training.
Now, almost three years have passed since I started college and he joined the military. For anyone whose heart is leaving for the military but whose head wants to get a degree, I understand the daily struggle between the two, and I am here to share what I learned from my experience.
He Just Left for Basic Training – Now What?!
You’re sitting alone in your dorm room worrying and wondering. This early in the year you might not have any close friends to talk to yet, so you sit alone, feeling downright helpless because the one person you want to talk to most in the world is gone.
I have been where you are, crying my eyes out on my bed, afraid of the future. I know you may feel alone, but you aren’t.
If you want to connect with other people who are experiencing the same feelings or are willing to sympathize with you, there are many different sources you can use.
What You Can Do While He’s in Basic Training:
— During basic training, I was only able to receive one letter a week. It sucked that I never knew what he was doing during the day, how he was feeling or if he was okay. To cope, I watched Air Force training channels on YouTube. By going over the entire Air Force Basic Military Training (BMT) experience week by week in a series of nine vlogs, I had a better grasp on what my significant other might’ve been up to. Casia Rose’s YouTube channel is a great resource too for information regarding Air Force graduation.
— The AF WingMom’s support group also has a Facebook page that can connect you to other people who have a loved one in your significant other’s BMT Flight. It’s just nice being connected to a group of people who are going through the same things you are.
— If you are considering getting married to your significant other, remember YOU can talk to their recruiter. Recruiters are there for the future military members and their families. YOU are family to your service member. YOU have a space in their life even if you aren’t engaged or married.
— Trust your support system. This is the time to call your mom or another loved one. You can also reach out and talk to other people about what you’re going through. At my college, I was able to find a girl who had a boyfriend going through Marine Corps boot camp just by asking her about her Marine Corps key chain. If you own any military gear, now is the time to wear it. Start a conversation with people you see wearing or sporting some type of military gear. There are a lot of people going through the same things you are, but you’d never know unless you ask.
— Enjoy and explore during this time while your significant other is in basic training. Sometimes I didn’t think going out and having new experiences was worth it because I wasn’t experiencing them with my significant other. This was only stunting my growth. So, get out and explore! If your roommate or new acquaintance asks you to join them in an activity, join them. Talk to new people, try something new; if nothing else, your adventure might make an interesting letter you can send to your significant other.
He’s Graduating from Basic Training – How Has He Changed?
Any graduation is a special time, but military graduations feel like the most special of all. You haven’t spoken to or seen your significant other in weeks, and you’re probably nervous because you figure the strict military routine has changed them, right? You might wonder if they’ve changed so much that they’re unrecognizable. You might worry that you’ve changed so much that you’re unrecognizable.
I’m telling you, there is no need to be worried about any of that.
Meeting my significant other again after a very transformative seven weeks was exhilarating. We were both a little shy at first; I was looking for ways BMT changed him. But honestly, few things changed about him. I noticed that he took way too long checking to see if he could cross a street, he gained some much-needed weight and he was far more confident than before he left. Still, he was the same person I had watched board a bus in September. All the good parts of him were still there.
Reality Check – What Sacrifices are You Willing to Make?
After graduation, the dream is to get married, have a house together and start your respective careers, right? But you may start to realize that this is just a dream and not reality. Service members have guaranteed jobs, but you may not. You might be feeling anxious, or even angry about this. Why do you need to give up on your own career hopes to follow them around the country?
I plan to get married sometime after I graduate. Although I will have a degree, I won’t have job security. For individuals who are married to a military member, there are a lot of sacrifices you’re asked to make. I won’t get to choose where I get to live, I’ll be far from my family and my own career may be put on hold for his. I am still figuring some things out, but I know I am not alone in my struggles.
During my journey, I’ve talked to other women who have been married to military men. One woman told me she hated putting her address on job applications because they’d see the military location and know she might not be around for the long term. To her, it felt like a form of discrimination. While I was working last summer, I met a different woman who dropped out of school to marry her airman. Although there’s a university nearby, she hasn’t tried to go back to school for a degree because she’s focused on her marriage and her work.
Still, although I don’t have guaranteed job security, I know I am better off pursuing my degree and getting married later. I’m looking for jobs that I can work at remotely to help me develop without giving up my career for love.
If you’re interested in continuing your degree and building your career, you are allowed to wait to get married. Your life doesn’t need to be put on hold for theirs. They signed a military contract, you did not.
Keep in mind too that military life may just not be for you. There is a girl I went to high school with who was dating a boy who went into the Marine Corps. She started to plan her life around his but later realized that being a Marine Corps wife wasn’t for her. And you know what? She’s still in school, has a new boyfriend and seems to be happy. If you decide that being a military spouse isn’t for you, your world won’t end if you break up.
So, Now What?
Life isn’t a fairy tale, but sometimes you can get pretty close. In a couple of months, I will graduate college with my bachelor’s degree. In a couple of months I’m moving to his station. In a couple of months, all I’ve worked for in the past three years will come to completion.
And after those couple of months, I’m going to keep on working.
I’ve accepted that there are compromises I’m going to have to make to ensure my relationship will work, but there are compromises my significant other will have to make too. Together, we’ve made it through the difficulty of long distance. Our relationship is much stronger because of it.
Overall, although it has been hard, I’m glad I took these three years for myself and my education. There are times when I’ve felt alone and lost, but the happiness I’ll feel when I have my diploma in my hands will be worth it.