I recently followed a link to a military spouse's blog, the title of which I think is genius: They Call Me Dependent.
That's my classification here. On paperwork and sign-in logs, I check the Dependent box. It's a strange reality, particularly after having been so completely independent for so long. Aside from the official classification, I'm also financially dependent these days. I'm finding that it's very common for wives with professional careers to end up unemployed here. Add that to the many who choose not to work in order to be home with their kids and the real world go-to question of What do you do? becomes moot. So we ask each other what our husbands do, where they work, what unit or squadron they're in. And we ask about kids, whether, how many, ages. Then maybe we ask what did you do before this? What are you interested in? What do you like? But those tend to come after. A person could find herself lost. Dependent.
Of course, the irony is that a military wife can only be so dependent. For most of us, this life means being on our own a lot. You can't be overly dependent on a husband who's gone for six, nine, twelve months at a time. I feel like I come into this with a pretty significant advantage, having already been on my own for so long. I haven't formed the expectation that someone will always take care of the car or fix things or sleep next to me to make me feel safe. I don't love having to be the one to handle everything, but I know I'm capable of it because I always managed before. When I have to take out the trash, kill the bugs, open the jars (rubber gloves, gals), decide whether the car needs to be taken in, or, God forbid, iron something without his help, it's a bummer, but also makes me more grateful for everything he does while he's here.
Women arrive here though who are eighteen, nineteen, twenty. They are newly married and have never been away from home. Some already have babies. They too are generally fending for themselves before too long and it must be really tough for them. There is a lot of support here for spouses, but you have to be willing and able to seek it out.
Everyone gets through it, with varying levels of success. It seems that the ones who don't lose themselves in the process are the women who have answers to the real world go-to What do you do? question, even if they can't get work here. Jenn recently posted about how that question should be about so much more than a job and it was a good reminder to me. Dependent or Military Wife may be a role I have, but it's not what I do. I run. I write. I cook. I read. I volunteer. I bake. I explore. I meet people. I keep house. I do yoga. I grocery shop far more often than seems necessary for a household of two.
When Raj left shortly after we got here, it would have been easy to feel sorry for myself, without my husband in a country where I didn't know anyone. But it was also easy to remind myself that almost everything I've done in my life I've done without a husband. The vast majority without a boyfriend and a whole lot completely alone. So despite being pretty intimidated by finding my way around off base, I got in the car and drove myself to our nearest castle ruins, Nakagusuku, on a lovely weekday afternoon. I even packed myself a picnic lunch.
I followed that path along the side down into the woods. Without my designated snake spotter, I made sure to be hypervigilant for habu snakes, but the path was pleasantly free of them. On the way back, however, I heard a humming noise and saw what appeared to be a wasp nest. I'd read a terrifying poster on base about the natural hazards of Okinawa which told me that wasps here have been known to swarm. I began to have visions of some poor Japanese family finding my sting-ridden misshapen corpse days later since there was no one around. (In reality, while no one was in sight, people were certainly within screaming distance and there would definitely have been screaming.) Poor Raj getting a call to notify him of my untimely and horrific demise. Despite these very real (ahem) dangers, I manageed to escape unstung and make it to the concession booth for some mango ice cream to steady my nerves.
I think we can all agree that the potential for swarming wasps is a much more legitimate reason to never leave the house than not havng a husband around.
Still, I bravely leave my home pretty much every day, whether Raj is on the island or not. I feel pretty comfortable driving on the left now and have managed to find several places up to an hour's drive from our house all on my own. I want to make sure I take advantage of the opportunties we have here. Sure, I prefer if Raj can come with me, mostly because he's my favorite, but I also can't confine myself to the base during his work hours or the entire months he'll be gone. I'm still working out what life here looks like for me and there are some pretty big adjustments, personally and professionally. Yes, they call me dependent. But I'm still me, navigation-impaired, stinging bug-phobic, adventure craving, stubbornly independent and trusting that it'll all shake out somehow if I just keep on going.
Now throw your hands up at me.