Happy-Sad: How I Feel Every Time the Army Moves Us

doormat with "hello" and flower pot with US map

Well, it looks like we’re moving again. Like I knew we would. It looks like we’ll be starting over again, like we always do (for a little while, at least). 

It’s a move we knew would be happening after our 2 years at our current duty station. The news didn’t catch us off guard, even though we all know the military has a talent of doing it that way sometimes. We knew going in: 2 years and then we’ll be gone again. And we’ll be at our next duty station for less than a year.

Buckle up – HOOAH!

But even with a 2 year heads-up, it still feels hard. I wish I could explain the simultaneous excitement and dread that come with every move. I typically get two responses in regard to our vagabond lifestyle from those unacquainted with military life. Either people think it’s exciting and amazing and I’ve done this a million times before so I shouldn’t have any trouble. Or they think our life sounds like the worst possible option for our mental and emotional well being. Sometimes both of these sentiments feel equally true.  

There’s something about moving that just makes me feel….Happy-Sad.

young girl looking away sad
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

I’m happy for a new adventure. I’m happy that my husband’s career is progressing. I am glad to meet new people, to make new memories, and to start fresh and begin anew.

But I’m sad, too. I’m sad that we are leaving our extended family behind, as we have been lucky enough to live near our family for the last two years. My kids are old enough to realize we are moving this time, which is difficult. I’m not happy that I have to start over and date new friends to try to find “my people.”

I’m happy that my husband has a steady job, but I’m sad that he has a job that requires so much sacrifice. I’m sad that I’ll have to start all of our Tricare referrals over because we are switching regions but happy that we know we’ll receive healthcare no matter where we go. 

Happy-Sad, this feeling that looms over every move and settles in most nicely in the last few months before our departure to a new duty station. This feeling that causes me anxiety over things we need to get rid of, things I’m afraid will get broken in the move (my sanity, for example), and things I’ll have to throw away at night so my kids don’t see. This feeling that sometimes makes me pull away from friends to make the break a little easier. It causes me to stay up way too late looking at fun things to do in the new place while at the same time desperately trying to tick off items on our bucket list at our current duty station. 

“How do you feel about the move?” The number one question we’ll get asked. 

Most of the time I just say “I don’t really know.” Which is true. But the more I think about it, the more I like Happy-Sad. Joyful Disappointment, maybe? Hopefully Let Down? Whatever you want to term it, if you’re moving this summer or next (or eve), just know I feel it, too. 

I think the difficulty of explaining all these feelings comes with the fact that we don’t want to sound ungrateful or angry or discontented.

You see, I am SO grateful for this life and the opportunities we are afforded through the military. Sure, I get a little angry, but trust me: I understand that this life was a choice, and one we made with our eyes wide open and with all the information.

I am very content in our life. I love the military. I love the camaraderie and the friendships we get to make. I love the adventure of moving to new places, seeing new things, and digging in deep for however long we are there. 

letter board on table with "Goodbye Friends"
Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

But this is also hard. It’s hard to have all of your belongings packed up and driven away without you knowing how much of it you’ll see or how much will be in once piece when you see it again. It’s really hard to say goodbye and wonder how long it will take for you to meet people you can be yourself around again. Add kids to that mix, and it adds another level of hard: schools, changing time zones, a new place where they don’t know a soul either. It’s definitely hard leaving the pediatrician who actually listens to you when it took you 1.5 years to find them. And it’s hard to make a new place feel like home when the last one took so long to feel like it was. 

Happy. And sad. And forever leaning in and making the most of military life.

If you need me over the next few months, I’ll be wrapping my arms around the Lone Star State. I’ll be meeting friends for coffee and and selling everything I can on Facebook Marketplace, hoping I don’t have to move things I don’t need across the country yet again. I’ll be saying yes to more playdates and checking out books on Kansas from the library to read to my kids. I’ll be Happy-Sad as we gear up to say goodbye to the Bluebonnets and embrace the Sunflower State.

Home is where the Army sends us. And home is where we’re headed. But it’s also what we’re leaving behind.