Written by Bess – a current graduate wife
I’ve been thinking about expectations a lot lately and after reading Mandy’s post last week, here goes.
Before I was a Graduate Wife, I was a Military Spouse. I married someone who had to move wherever the military told him. I had to follow. My career, friends, family all took a backseat to his job. Our past couple of years looked something like this:
- Pensacola, Florida—It sounded so dreamy to get married and move to the beach! How wrong I was.
- Jacksonville, North Carolina—In the middle of nowhere. Everyone kept telling me that I should be glad they at least had a Wal-Mart. (words I never hope to hear again.)
- San Diego, California—Going from the east coast to the west coast was a huge culture shock, not to mention going from small town to big city. I had my first child here and thankfully made some wonderful friends.
- Norfolk, Virginia—I was furious to leave my beloved San Diego! Soon after we arrived I tried to make the best of it and started a playgroup and made some friends right away. We settled into a wonderful church and preschool family and had our second child here.
- Oxford, England—Here is where the graduate wife journey began. I have to say that overall, this move was the easiest, even though it was to a foreign country. I have fallen into a town full of amazing people and am so thankful.
As you can see, I’ve been there, done that! I’ve quit jobs I loved, left friends I loved, left houses I loved, and drove away crying from cities I loved. I guess in many ways this year hasn’t been too difficult because it feels like I have become highly trained in many of the skills needed to survive as a Graduate Wife. Some of the things I have learned along the way include:
- Embrace a city, but never get too comfortable there. It’s a hard balance to spread roots, but also be willing to pull them up when it’s time to move again if needed.
- When you arrive in a new place, you need to find friends immediately! Be proactive. They will not come knocking on your door.
- As much as your husband tells you that things will get easier at the next stage of life, they never really do. You might as well figure out a way to be happy in whatever stage of life you are in.
- Having kids far away from home is not easy, but it is possible. Your nuclear family unit becomes very close. Babysitters are a necessity.
- When you move away, it’s much harder on the friends you left behind than it is on you. They have the same life with a big you-sized hole in it. You have a whole new life with lots of new friends to keep you busy.
- It’s pretty darn cool having friends all over the world.
- University towns are full of people who are interesting, smart, and eager to make new friends as well. Take advantage of that!
- You can live with way fewer belongings than you thought necessary.
- Kids are resilient. Moving to new towns, being on a budget, and traveling make them adaptable, interesting, and cool!
- The world is really a small place. Everywhere I go, I meet people with whom I can completely relate.
So back to expectations… you would think by now, I would have learned to “expect the unexpected.” I still slip up. I still catch myself thinking about where we could be right now if we hadn’t made the choices that have taken us all over the world. Although it takes a while in my mind, I always come back to the conclusion that if we hadn’t started this journey, we would be really boring. We would probably have stayed close to home. We wouldn’t know much about all the different cultures we are grateful to know about now. We wouldn’t have friends in South Africa, India, and Australia. We might have close-minded ideas. We might not have such interesting kids. I might have the house of my dreams, the big car, the grandparents nearby, but I wouldn’t be as fabulous as I am now, living in student housing in a foreign country with no car.
So, my advice to you, my fellow graduate wife, is to go into your new situation with excitement and joy. You will make amazing friends (remember to be proactive). You will find people to relate to (even if it takes a while). You will learn that you can easily love people who aren’t anything like you. You will find that you actually don’t necessarily miss those expectations all that much (the big house, the big car, the country club.) You will (hopefully and eventually) learn to love your fabulous, frugal, fulfilling life of a graduate student. Even though you can’t control your life, even though you can’t predict the next month or even week, you can be grateful for the now and you can seize the opportunities around you.
In your graduate wife journey, how do you manage expectations?