PCS season is nearly upon us, and it’s far better to go into it eyes wide open, than to pretend that it isn’t coming. For readers not familiar with the acronym, PCS stands for Permanent Change of Station. In layman’s terms, it’s a government-job-related move. Most military families move at least every two to three years. I consider ourselves lucky when we get to stay in one place for three years. It’s only happened three times, so far, in Horatio’s 24 years in the Navy, twice in Hawaii and once in China. The boys and I lived in Northern Virginia for five years, which is virtually unheard of in the Navy, but Horatio had three different assignments during that time, including a 21 month deployment.
In less than two and a half months, we will depart for our next duty station. As a Navy wife, my tasks in preparation for said move started many months ago. I had to fill out stacks of paperwork, including medical forms to certify we are all medically fit for duty and school applications for three of the four boys. As our move approaches, the To Do List continues to grow. We have to sell our car, find another one at our next station, sort through our belongings before three separate shipments (to decide what goes by air, what goes by sea and what we will hand carry), figure out how to get Westley the Three Legged Wonder Dog from point A to point B, and much more.
Less tangible, but definitely more important, are the emotional side effects of the move. Horatio will change jobs, the boys will change schools and friends, and we will all be in a new country and culture. These are dramatic adjustments and it’s my job, as the wife and mother, to monitor everyone’s state of mind, and try to maintain calm and status quo for as long as possible, leading up to the departure date.
This is no simple task. It’s easy to get caught up in the “one foot out the door” mentality, but it is healthier to be present and enjoy the time we have before the transfer. Young Harold vacillates between not wanting to leave and demanding to report to our new duty station immediately, combined with more than occasional pleas of, “Let’s just go back to America right now!” Bob, grade 6, is full of dread at the thought of leaving his friends. He has a very tight knit crew and has shed more than his share of tears over the thought of leaving them. He is somewhat comforted by making plans to visit them and have them visit him. Dwight, grade 9, is neither here, nor there, on the issue of moving. He is optimistic that his new school will offer more opportunities for making friends (as well as reuniting with old friends), and working hard toward his goal of excelling academically and getting into his top choice college in three years. Zack is pretty focused on the fact that he will graduate in about three weeks. He is relieved to have been accepted to his first choice university but is crushed by the fact that he has had to work as hard as ever during the second semester of his senior year. He definitely expected to slack off this semester, but the load has not let up at all. I’m juggling logistics of Bob’s rigorous play rehearsal schedule, Dwight’s study sessions, Zack’s graduation prep and party prep and trying to connect with each of my friends before we depart.
I keep my mind from going to a dark place by focusing on the coordination of it all and managing the family’s mood swings. I will definitely miss the friends I’ve made here. As I’ve written before, the expat life lends itself to making strong personal connections in a short amount of time. I will miss teaching at the school, I will miss the beauty of the country, and the smiles on the faces of the local people. I fear our next post will be quite contrasting. Like Dwight, I, too, am eager to reunite with old friends, though, and it’s easier to stay positive when I think about them.
Moving is hard, but managing it isn’t complicated if you compartmentalize the different aspects and stay on top of the details. We are two and a half months out, now. There’s a lot to do, and it can get overwhelming, but I know that three months from now, we’ll be on to a different kind of stress… that of adapting to our new host country.