Sunday, March 21, 2010

Priorities - By Mairin Haley, Age 16

I have been to eighteen of the fifty states. I have ridden the Metro in Washington D.C., the subway in Paris, and the Tube in London. I'm a pro at traveling on airplanes. was born in Tacoma, Washington, I currently live in Heidelberg, Germany, but I call Rochester, New York my home. I have moved eight times in my sixteen-year life. I have suffered through two deployments and rejoiced when my dad returned. In short, I am an Army brat.

"Home is where the Army sends you." That phrase is a favorite among military family members. It sarcastically captures the main feature of an Army family's lifestyle-constant moving from place to place, sometimes with less than six months' warning. Moving is an unfortunate and unavoidable aspect of a military kid's life. My family and I PCS-that's an Army acronym for Permanent Change of Station, the official name for relocation-about every two years; whenever it's time for my dad to have a new job, it's time for us to pack up and go. I've moved so many times, I have it down to a science-my parents have barely told me the news before I've carefully wrapped and packed my favorite belongings. (You can never trust the movers to treat your fragile possessions with the care they deserve. I've learned that the hard way.) Also necessary is the skill of packing as many clothes as possible into one suitcase. Household goods don't always arrive on time, and it's never pleasant to be stuck wearing the same clothes for a month. Over the years, I've cultivated these necessary skills-moving is almost second nature to me.

Packing and shipping stuff is easy; unpacking and decorating my new room can even be fun. However, the emotional aspect of moving is not simple, and I will never get that down to a science. Leaving friends behind and starting over in an unfamiliar, and therefore uncomfortable environment is never, ever fun. When I'm new somewhere, all I can think about is how much I miss myoid school and myoid friends, and I wish with all my heart I could be back in myoid neighborhood. Before a move, I try to prepare myself by thinking of how great our new house will be, and how much fun I'll have exploring a new city. Before we came to Germany, I tried to convince myself that I would have so much fun traveling around Europe that I would never miss Virginia. It never works. The first few weeks, or sometimes months, after a move are awful. When I'm new and I have no one to talk to and no one to hang out with, I just feel absolutely, unbearably lonely, and it's a terrible feeling. When it's really bad, I'll even stop emailing or calling my old friends, because the pain of remembering how happy I was in the old place makes the new place seem a whole lot worse.

The lonely phase doesn't last, though; eventually, I meet some people and make new friends, and then I catch up with my old friends, and the whole world seems so much better. Facebook is a huge friendship-preserver. While it's not the same as face-to-face contact, I can stay connected with all my friends no matter where they are - depending or the time difference between us, we can chat online. I still miss my old friends from time to time, no matter how many new friends I have. There's no solution for times like those. But I think of how lucky I am to have met so many people all over the world, and that makes me feel slightly better.

I've learned many things living as an Army brat. But, above all else, the Army has taught me how to prioritize. Stuff, I have realized, does not matter. Stuff breaks or gets lost during a move. People matter. I may have lost some favorite belongings while moving but I will always have my family, and that is all I really need. Separating from my friends and leaving everything behind is hard, life-shattering even, but my family is always there for me during every single move, whether I realize and appreciate it or not. Sometimes, all I want is to live in one place forever and never move. Sometimes the nature of our lifestyle makes me very unhappy. But one of the happiest moments of my life was when my dad returned from a deployment in Iraq. When I saw my dad, safe and sound and back home with us, I didn't care where we were living or where we might be moving. I would move every six months if it kept my dad safe and my family all together.

When people find out my dad's in the military, they sometimes thank me for my service. My first thought is always, "Don't thank me-my dad's the one that serves our country, not me." But I have realized that I do serve my country, in a way. I support my dad as best I can. I put up with being a military kid, through the good and the bad. (Traveling all around Europe is pretty fantastic, despite everything else.) I know my dad has an important job, and the safety of our country is worth the sacrifice.

I will not go to the same high school for four years, as much as I want to. But, I would rather live in a safe country than graduate with my friends. At least I can know that my friends are living in a safe country, too.

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Julie Rahm

Mindset means everything. And no one knows this better than Julie Rahm, aka America's Mindset Mechanic. A former naval physicist, Julie applies physics to the energy of human thought and the results thoughts create. As a military daughter, spouse and mother-in-law she has experienced the challenges of deployment separations, frequent moves and telecommuting careers while remaining happy and achieving her dreams. With her passion and people-loving style, Julie has provided the metaphorical tools for thousands of people to bridge the gap between their thoughts and their lives. Julie Rahm, M.S., is a certified Frame of Mind Coach who has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including The Phil Knight Show and ABC affiliates. She hosts The Mindset Mechanic LIVE on Saturdays and Sundays on FM107.1 WTKF and AM1240 WJNC in Eastern NC. Her weekly column The Mindset Mechanic appears in The Pamlico News. She has been quoted in numerous newspapers, and on the web at and Julie is an inspirational keynote speaker conveying life lessons through a blend of intuitive success strategies, enlightened wisdom, humor and fun. She is the Champion of Military Kids around the World. Julie's latest book is Volume I of Military Kids Speak.

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