Hitting the Unpause Button


Call me crazy, but I absolutely love PCSing! It is a great opportunity to purge all the junk in our house, find a new place to call home (usually with more space, maybe a pool, and better appliances), redecorate/buy new furniture, and meet new people. Don’t get me wrong, I hate that we have to leave all of our friends behind, but in my experience, we usually reconnect and end up living near each other again down the road. Plus, who doesn’t love a cross country road trip?

When the opportunity arose for my husband to get stationed in Japan, we jumped on it. I thought, how cool will that be to see Asia and have our kids potentially learn a second language and experience a different culture? Immediately, I started a list of all the places I wanted to go and things I wanted to see. Did you know there is an island in Japan completely overrun with bunnies? Definitely on my list of top ten things to do while in Japan!

On our way to Japan! All the luggage for 2 adults and 1 baby. 

Well, the process for an OCONUS PCS (Outside the Continental United States Permanent Change of Station) was so overwhelming and frustrating that by the time we finally arrived in Japan, I was ready to leave.

Any and everything that could go wrong with our move did go wrong. My optimism for this PCS had faded; I was exhausted and fed up with the military. Sometimes the military really can suck all of the fun out of something. I was ready to just get through the next 3 years as fast as possible and start fresh back in the States.

Recently, I met a spouse who was leaving Japan after being stationed here for many years with her husband, and she totally hit the nail on the head of how I’d been feeling since our PCS. At their farewell party, she told everyone to be sure to hit the “unpause” button while in Japan. She said it is easy to hit “pause” if you are unhappy about living overseas and never give yourself the chance to truly see or experience Japan. Her statement made me realize I really had hit pause ever since we had arrived.

We’ve been in Japan a few months, and I still don’t feel settled in our new house, and I am still very unfamiliar with the area. Part of this is from being so frustrated after the move, and the other part is from my fear of the unknown.

Like I said, I used to love PCSing because it afforded me the ability to explore new areas. The first thing I used to do after a PCS was to map out the fastest route from our new house to all my favorite places like Starbucks, Target, and Chick-fil-A; then I would branch out and find all the best local places. However, living in a foreign country is more daunting than I ever imagined. Everything is unfamiliar: customs, food, driving, and language. I feel very out of place, especially when I’m off-base, so I try not to do it very often by myself. 

I did manage to find the closest Starbucks which is about an hour away and they have a drink called American Cherry Pie!

Time is passing quickly, and I’ve been on pause since we arrived. I spend way too much time on base. I keep thinking I’ll wait until the weekend or one night when my husband gets home early to try that restaurant everyone is talking about or go to one of the popular tourist spots. Unfortunately, he never seems to get home early, and when he does, usually we are both too exhausted to drag the kids out in town to go exploring. 

I don’t want to miss the next three years or this amazing opportunity we have to live in another country, but I’m afraid I am.

So, I’ve decided to hit “unpause,” and this is my action plan for how I want to do it:

  1. I’m going to finally finish unpacking those last three moving boxes in the closet, hang up our family photos on the wall, and buy an area rug for the living room. Having everything unpacked and decorated always makes our house feel more like a home.
  2. The library on base offers a free Japanese language tutorial that I have already downloaded. I plan to designate a small portion of each day to learning Japanese. This will give me more confidence when I go off-base to visit new places.
  3. I’m also going to try something new every week even if it is something as simple as going to a grocery store off-base or tasting a new Japanese dish. Heck, if I’m lucky, I’ll find the Japanese equivalents to Target and Chick-fil-A, and my life here will be set for the next few years!

 If you find yourself on “pause” after a PCS, whether you are overseas or not, think about what you want to accomplish or get out of the experience. Set small goals to “unpause” your life. Most importantly, don’t let a bad duty station or PCS experience force you to put your life on pause.


  1. Great article! It’s easy for anyone to hit the pause button, anywhere, any stage of life. Thanks for your perspective. I will challenge myself to try a few new things this month – and I’ve lived in this same house for 23 years!

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