If there’s one thing military spouses are familiar with, it’s how valuable our support networks are. I’ve learned this firsthand over the years and it’s served me well. In fact, it’s helped me grow both personally and professionally!
When I was a 22-year-old college senior, my then boyfriend, now husband, decided to take a step into the great unknown (to me) of the Marine Corps Officer Candidacy School. Little did I know that the USMC experience would guide me in fully understanding the profound power of community.
Here are the five aspects of friendship that you can develop to find your community as a military spouse:
Reconnect with yourself
Moving to a new base with my husband as my one and only friend, I knew I needed to reconnect with myself to learn what I was into. College and grad school were over. We had just gotten married and left another duty station with a great group of friends, a gorgeous city, and my old job. What did I need for myself in this next chapter?
Look for opportunities to network
I sat down and looked at what organizations, clubs, groups, and places might suit me. Fortunately, I have a strong bond with my family and friends, but there was no one close by that I could count on other than my husband. I thought about the types of people I’d like to spend time with, whom I could lean on, and what my life in this new area would be like. I reached out to my local college alumni chapter, my sorority alumni chapter, and a women’s scholarship chapter. I also discovered some hugely impactful military support organizations like InDependent both virtually and in person.
Come out of your shell
Next came the step of attending the meetings of these organizations. I knew I’d be attending every one of them solo without a wingwoman, and the first one made me a little nervous. In the past I always had a buddy to accompany me, but not this time. I remember getting ready at home with my sweet husband pumping me up. While I drove to the sorority alumni event I gave myself a little pep talk, but as I walked to the door I was so worried what they would think of me. I took a deep breath, put on a positive face, and rang the doorbell. You know what? I was greeted with a welcoming smile and a hug, and immediately hit it off with a fellow military spouse who’s been a dear friend ever since!
Not every new encounter has started and ended as well as that first one, but I don’t take it personally. I’m not going to hit it off with everyone and that’s ok. It would be boring if everyone had the same interests and always got along. We can learn from each other by being different. Still, I always give myself some love when I go somewhere alone. I think about my positive qualities, what I have to offer, and feel empowered by my bravery to step into a new environment. It takes a lot to be a military spouse and put yourself out there, so celebrate yourself!
Build your community
Over the years and the moves, I have created a community that I cherish. I have my family, friends, loved ones, military spouse crew, professional colleagues, and local friends I’ve picked up along the way. Different people serve different roles in my life, and together I feel incredibly supported. If I have a question, there’s a good chance someone I know will have the answer or can direct me to an excellent resource.
Today we are living the civilian life in San Francisco. Thanks to my years as a military spouse when I was put in unique situations I doubt I would have experienced without the USMC, my community building skills have led me to so many new places and opportunities. I’m always learning, growing, and evolving. Shy 14-year-old Claire would be pretty darn proud to see where modern-day Claire is now, living her best authentic life with people to build her up.
Claire Yanta-O’Mahoney is a certified fitness trainer and nutritionist providing online wellness solutions to clients worldwide. Based in San Francisco, she’s a veteran spouse whose husband served eight years in the Marine Corps. When she’s not helping her clients reach their goals, she’s traveling, cooking, reading, or spending time with loved ones.
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