three potted plants with roots busting out of the pots.
Photo by E.V. on Unsplash

I feel as root bound and hemmed in as a plant that has been in its pot for too long. Restless, edgy, stuck…I am hungry for a change.

The one single constant about the Army was that everything was guaranteed to change.  

Have orders? Expect them to change. Field problem coming up? You just knew all the details would change and would likely require adjustments to the six other plans you had tentatively made.  

I spent 25 years being wary of plane tickets, reservations, or vacation plans because there was always some kind of change happening.

That kind of change is annoying. But we learned to remain flexible, to bend and adjust and adapt.  “Semper Gumby!” was our rallying cry. The military was always changing, always requiring our adjustment and adaptation.

There is another kind of change that I have come to appreciate. 

When I went back to school; when our daughters changed activities; when we PCS’d and had to relearn everything about our new home; there was a certain nervousness at the new things, but there was also an excitement. New job? Lots to learn! New people to meet!  Those changes are exhausting but also exhilarating, even for a mostly-introvert like me.  

This kind of change, that we choose or that can lead to new opportunities, excites and invigorates. I agree with Kalie Vidales when she describes the feeling at PCS as ‘Happy/Sad’ – it’s both.

When we got stationed at Fort Hood, we had no way of knowing we would stay here. The whole unit had ben picked up and moved, surprising almost everyone involved, so our original move was an emotional and uncertain one. We bought a house, enrolled the kids in school, and made the best of it. Deployments, graduations, a Bachelor’s degree for him and a Master’s for me, and a whopping FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, we are still here.  

Yeesh.

In the last year, many people I love have made big changes.

My father and stepmom moved from their house of 20 years and back to my hometown. Our older daughter moved with her fiancé to a state neither of them had even visited prior to his job interview there. Our younger daughter has moved 2-3 times (depending on which changes you consider “full moves”) since COVID hit last year and had 2 dorm/apartment moves prior to that. Another family member has taken a work sabbatical that may be permanent, left their apartment in one state, and moved to a city they had only visited once. And they aren’t alone.

Everyone I know is surrounded by moving boxes.

Still we stay.  

I don’t necessarily want to “move for moving’s sake,” yet I spend hours on Zillow. I long for a change. My restlessness at home means that we have redone our living room and are making gains on redoing both of the girls’ former bedrooms so they will be comfortable places to visit and useful to us. My restlessness at work has meant that I have signed up for all manner of newsletters and continuing education options. 

And yet, the feeling remains.

Reading Facebook posts on life after the military, it would appear I am not alone. There are many stories of retiree families who give up a home to travel full time in an RV or move every year or two. Veterans often change jobs frequently once they leave the military, so this restlessness isn’t just ours.

It feels very weird to morph from someone who is always adapting to changes and new units, never really diving deep into any situation, to someone who is settled, rooted, and secure. 

Part of the problem, I think, is that we didn’t choose this place.  The Army chose G’s duty station, and circumstances dictated that it would be our last. I had always imagined that we would choose our final home and choose where we would live post-military. Instead, a sort of inertia has set in. 

We have put down some roots in this community and have enjoyed job opportunities and social connections post-military. We have favorite restaurants that have survived the pandemic, which is the best movie theater, and the routes around town to avoid heavy traffic areas no matter the time of day or year. We know the history of the city council, scandals and all, and can read between the lines of the local school district’s news announcements. I have grown to like many things about the city we have called home.

There are times in our lives where we are faced with complex emotions. There is nothing here to fix, necessarily; it is just time to sit with the feelings and look at what is underlying them.

In one post I found about post-military RV living, the author stated that RV life just, “put off all the decisions and transition issues that come with retirement. But that time also gave us perspective.”

Heck, maybe we will also choose to take some RV time, and make it fun for all of us.   

Perhaps this root bound time is what we have needed, too, and didn’t realize it at the time. We have figured out how to be married without kids at home, had long talks about what we want our future to look like, and what kind of work we both want to do. 

There may be time later to move and choose a change. For right now, our choice is to improve the place where we have been planted. When flowers get root bound, you jostle the roots a bit and adjust the pot. As we have adjusted ourselves, I look forward to seeing what happens next.

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