Growing up an “Army brat,” I always said that I would never marry into the military simply due to the fact that I would have little control over many things; we would be at the beck and call of the US Army. Little did I know, marrying into the military was exactly what God had planned for me. While, I don’t regret this for one second, there were many challenges that I experienced in the transition from brat to wife – the most difficult being finding my identity outside of being SSG Mota’s wife.
I know our identities are made up of so much more than our social status, our family lineage, our interests, our accomplishments, and many other things. But I also know that for many military spouses, once the military says it’s time to move, these things – all of which once gave you comfort – get ripped out from under you. All at once. And its tough. It’s now time to remake your life some place new.
Not only did having to uproot my life take away what I thought were massive chunks of my identity – friends, family, career, familiarity – now I’m a military spouse and everything in everything I do, my husband has to be present. I can’t pump gas if my name isn’t on the paperwork. I can’t go to housing or WIC or anywhere else without having to first give my husband’s info and pertinent paperwork. As a matter of fact, I sometimes forget my own social security number because I now have to use his so much more! Again, everywhere I go, I’m no longer Jessenia Mota, but SSG Mota’s wife.
All of those proved especially difficult for me. However, I can finally say that I’ve developed some strategies to help me find myself again in what is this perpetual season in my life; the season of military wifehood – a role that it exceedingly important to our soldiers and our country. The support and significance that we can provide is second to none.
So.. How do we find our identities as military spouses outside of our spouse’s position or rank? I’ll share a few tips on what worked for me.
Take out your journal.
To go forward, sometimes we need t go back. Separate some much needed time between you and your journal. Whether it be in a notes app or a classic notebook, write down a list of things that interested, motivated, or gave you life before you married into the military. For me, it was psychology studies, writing, business, health and beauty, organization, reading among many other things. Just let it flow. Allow time to reintroduce yourself to your original, most basic self. As Marie Kondo would say, list the things that bring you joy. You could even go as far as to list things that don’t bring you joy. Both are telling of your identity and can spark in you a desire to explore yourself so much more.
Invest in yourself.
Reading, exercise, eating well, Jesus Time, and organization were huge aspects of my life pre-military. Its obvious, then, why I felt so awkward and unlike myself when I let all of things go. It wasn’t until I listed the things that brought me joy that I realized that I was no longer doing them. So, I decided to list them, improve on them, and take action.
Be intentional about investing in yourself once again. While you can’t escape that you’re now affiliated with the military, you can change your perspective to develop your role as a supportive spouse, parent, and individual. Seek to expand your mind, take walks, create grocery lists of quick and healthy meals, take time every day to exercise and spend time in the word, read books that’ll make you a better individual. Identifyvyour strengths and work at strengthening them even more. Whatever self-/ character development means to you, take action to execute it.
Review your goals and dreams.
This was a huge one for me. Along with a list of things that I did and didn’t like, I took another page and listed out all the goals and dreams I once had. These can be career goals, bucket lists, business plans. Make it a quality list of things which can absolutely still happen. Even go as far as to plan them.
Over the years, I tried many different methods of planning my life but it want until I read The 12 Week Year that I found something that works for me. Instead of planning out every your of every day of every week – yes, this used to be me! – I now pick three goals I want to accomplish in a span of 12 weeks. For each goal, I make a detailed bulleted list of actionable and measurable steps that are meant to get me to reach those specific goals. You feel such asense of acconplishment, so proud of yourself when you reach the end of those 12 weeks and you’ve accomplished even one the goals! Because remember, you’ve got to give yourself grace to accept that it will never happen exactly as you want it for every single goal or dream. The beautiful thing about this plan is that you can review it at the beginning of ever week and adjust. If it still doesn’t happen for you, there’s another 12 weeks coming up and you get to try again.
Don’t rush the process.
Life happens and every season brings its new challenges, its new attack at our identity – especially as a military spouse. Give yourself love and space to truly experience the seasons of rediscovering your identity and potential in those seasons. Give yourself as much time as you need.
Achievements, development, family ties, and rediscovery are all so important to our mental health but we have to remember that even without all of things we already have infinite worth; our identity – our true identity isn’t tied to any of those things. It’s in your true worth and value that you’ll find your identity.