The Best of Times, the Worst of Times – A Tale of Two PCS’s

boxes for moving or a PCS
large moving truck on highway through the mountains
What a long strange trip it’s been.

You know it well, friends. Your orders are cut. Your new life is just around the corner. You have only a few short months until youyour spouse, and your family pack up your current life and unpack it somewhere else. Such is the merry-go-round of PCS purgatory in which all of us exist. 

Depending on the circumstances of your new assignment, the prospect of a fresh start could be invigorating. It could be the Best of Times. 

My tribe is fortunate this time around, as we fit snugly into this category. My husband daydreams daily about his new assignment. It is in an area in which he is passionate, and he is more than ready to transition to his new role. My girls and I are excited about this assignment as well. It will, for the first time in my husband’s already long career, guarantee us four whole years in one spot. The longest we’ve ever been anywhere is just over two, so this will provide our little family with the stability we have all craved desperately for a decade. 

Our new location is a mere 5-hour drive from my family. Not the 16-hour drive we were accustomed to. My dad, my sister, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and my friends will be a morning’s drive away. Our very best friends, complete with a brand new baby, will arrive at this same assignment one month after us. We put a contract on a house just yesterday in a town with exceptional schools. It is thrilling. 

For those who aren’t so lucky, it could be The Worst of Times. 

The Assignment Gods were not nearly as benevolent with my dear friend’s family. It was not the assignment she or her husband hoped for or even thought possible at this point in his illustrious career. It’s far from the job he deserved, the location she wanted, or the great schools her girls currently attend. In short, it sucks the big one. They are justifiably confused and angry at the series of unfortunate events that landed them in this assignment. I just want to hug her, take her out for cocktails, and stuff her full of ice cream and grilled cheese because that’s what I find comforting. 

Despite the differences in what is to come, both of our families will begin new lives in four months. Just as many of you will. It’s a daunting experience, no matter how you feel about where you will land next. It’s especially stressful and difficult in our current world of stop movement orders and pandemic-induced delays. It takes a lot out of all of us. 

Fortunately, military spouses are an undeniably resilient lot.

military spouses against backdrop of american flagMaybe it’s that the kind of people who choose to serve their country also choose equally exceptional people to spend their lives with.

Maybe it’s the moves, the deployments, or the temporary duty assignments that instill grit into our souls.

Maybe it’s the fact that we have to end and begin distinct chapters of our lives every several years which affords us the ability to pivot gracefully.

Maybe it’s the cold gale of overbearing instability we are all forced to confront and embrace that allows us to develop the thick skin necessary to face it frequently.

The fact that we must take these circumstances – good, bad, or indifferent – and bloom where we’re planted is deep within all of us. Especially the OG spouses with many, many moves under our Nike’s. 

So, although we are all approaching our new lives with disparate feelings, we keep on keepin’ on. Because that’s what we all do.

We pivot. We pour over Zillow and to find a house to make a home in a place we’ve never personally been. We diligently research schools that are best for our kids and try to adjust our home searches to align with those. We further check into ballet or art or baseball or robotics or music programs that will ease the transition for our kids; hopefully, these will help them make friends before the new school year starts. We deal with our spouses’ stresses or annoyances with their current jobs and try to understand they are ready to move on just as we are. Or, we empathize with them that we too are sad to leave our current lives and are really uneasy thinking about what will come next.

We post desperate pleas on base or post spouses groups on Facebook for advice, or to solicit potential friends in the new area. 

My dear friend and I found each other after she mercifully answered my pathetic Facebook post years ago. It melts my icy heart to think of how the sun shines just when it needs to on some of the darkest days. We’re lucky to have each other. We’re fortunate to have friends to call and cry to about how overwhelming this all is and know the person on the other end gets it. We’re lucky to have someone laugh at how absurd it all is because she’s been there too. 

So friends, if you’re sharing in this PCS purgatory this season, I wish you all well.

I wish you the energy to organize and purge. I wish you uninterrupted time during the day to get rid of all of the toys your kids haven’t touched in a year but insist they cannot live without when you have the nerve to suggest donating them. 

I wish you the determination to check the housing sites multiple times a day.  I wish you the kind of luck that comes with finding a home that satisfies 80% of your non-negotiables and the fortitude to deal with losing it to another eager hunter.

I wish good schools and safe neighborhoods for your kids. I wish your spouse fulfillment in his or her new assignment. I wish that you find your niche in a new job, a new volunteer position, a running group, or whatever trips your trigger. 

I wish your dogs big fenced-in yards and dog parks where they can roam free. 

But most of all, I wish for you to find friends like mine during this season of change. Because we all deserve a person who kindly reaches out to help when you’re having a tough go and who accepts your hand when he or she is. 

And whether it will be The Best of Times or The Worst of Times, I wish nothing but the best for you and your families.


  1. Kate, this was such an incredibly amazing read! I went back and read through some of your other blog posts and you have such a gift for writing. We were the family having the ‘worst of times’ before we arrived at this assignment. And knowing another PCS is coming within the next year, I completely relate to this. -love, Jeannette (another MilMB writer)

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