Friends are important aren’t they? We all need friends in our life and they enrich our day to day. We generally have different friends for lots of reasons and meet them in various ways through our life – be that school, work or the military community.
Military life has brought so many people into my life. When I was serving, the friends I made have become friends for life….they know too much! In all seriousness you share so much; you live together, deploy together, go through so many experiences together you are either going to come out lifelong friends or enemies! Luckily for me lots of those of those people are still in my life.
I joined the military 21 years ago so that’s 21 years of not living near my family and school friends and that’s 21 years of lots of people and lots of varying experiences. I have learnt so much about the art of friendship.
Going way back to when I was pregnant in 2002/3 I lived in Germany and was still serving but everyone was in Iraq and I was on rear party so I had no husband and no friends, lived in a foreign country and was pregnant. It was really tough and really lonely but there were a couple of ladies (my CO and OC’s wives) who literally gave me all the kindness and all the friendship in bucket loads that I needed. They took me to antenatal classes, took me to hospital countless times as I had HG, they sat with me when I was scared and they checked in on me.
I’m eternally grateful for those women and I wish I knew them now to say thank you.
When I left the military it changed for me. I had been a soldier and my friends were other soldiers who I was with at work all day every day. Suddenly I was no longer a soldier, I was the wife of a soldier. This made friendships hard for me initially, but as time went on I got a bit better at it, settled into my new place in the military community and met neighbours, wives of my husbands’ colleagues, friends of friends. I often speak to others who have experienced similar, they leave the military and find fitting into the community ‘on the other side’ difficult, making friends becomes a tricker task then they thought it would be.
Across the many postings and houses we have had I have experienced varying degrees of success in the friendship department, it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
Through all of it though I have had the joy of meeting some absolute gems along the way.
One posting was particularly lonely for me and it was a period where my husband was away for pretty much three years constantly and my next door neighbour became my lifeline. We became so close (and still are). We shared so much; our lives were better for having each other in it and we really, really supported each other. I miss her being next door.
Where we are currently I have also met some special souls, people who have really become friends in my life and who I’m grateful for.
It seems a constant friendship rollercoaster of being apprehensive about moving and wondering whether I will meet people, to then wading through the people to find the ones you click with and can build a friendship with, to then you or them getting news they are moving and you are sad and have allllllll the tears as you choose your leaving gift and say goodbye to them knowing your friendship will change as you no longer live geographically close and may never again. It’s an exhausting cycle!!!
Ultimately, this is sometimes an intense community we live in and I find we become a bit accustomed to friendships being short lived and moments in time rather than really investing in someone for long term gain. I’m not good with that. If I am going to invest I want to stay in touch.
Over the years I have obviously met the people who aren’t that nice. I’ve had people talk about me to others behind my back, I have experienced neighbours who cross the line and I have come across people I wish I hadn’t. Of course I have been hurt when I have trusted people and I shouldn’t and I’ve learnt lots along the way.
I don’t like going to the supermarket with a patch friend, I don’t need to see people every day, I don’t want to have constant plans with the same people all the time, I like my own company, I’m ok with not being invited to everything, I’m nearly 39 – 23 year old’s don’t want to hang out with me, I don’t need to be part of the cliché.
I don’t spend my time on people who don’t have the same values as me and I don’t give lots of chances any more but I am ALWAYS open to friendship, I always want my life to be enriched by others and there is nothing more special then meeting someone in the military community who becomes a part of your life when you least expected it.
I never want to get to the point where I no longer want to make friends.
I want to also recognise the value of friendships born via social media. It didn’t exist when I potentially needed friendship the most but over the years it has become part of my military community. Now via the charity and Instagram mostly, I can honestly say I have widened my friendship circle and met people who I class as friends. They make me laugh and smile when it is so needed, they are at the end of a message when I need advice and when it all gets a bit overwhelming. It’s become somewhere I feel real comfy.
It isn’t always easy making friends, starting afresh over and over again and we do often lose enthusiasm I know, it’s hard work continually putting yourself out there. Some postings will be easier and you’ll have tons of friends, others will be harder and maybe just one person will be your buddy.
I’m in owe of my daughter Madison and her ability to make friends wherever we move to, but I do sometimes worry she won’t have what I have. I have friends who I went to school with, I’ve known since I was 11 and they are so special in my life, that history is so comforting to me. Madison has moved through four schools since she was 11 so those friends are a few chapters back in her life now, it’s been a constant conveyor belt of friendships for her. She’s off to university this year though and I have no doubt will use all she’s learnt from being a little trooper and those qualities will help her fit right in and make lots of friends, which can be taken as a real positive.
Back to us though, wherever you are at in your military journey right now it’s a certainty that you will have good experiences that fill your heart and you will have bad experiences where you can’t wait to get posted to leave some people in your past.
I really do promise though you will find those gems who bring so much to your patchwork of military life, who contribute to your journey and those make it all so worth it. I’m forever thankful of the people this far over the last 21 years who have crossed my path and made that path a better place to walk.
One last thing, always think quality over quantity!!! 😉
Love Louise x