Once again, we were waiting for PCS orders. My husband and I have been through this routine four times before, so this time it felt familiar. I began anticipating the move a year ahead of time, by cleaning out closets and making trips to the thrift store.
My husband had spent three years with the same military unit and deployed with them twice, so we knew he was eligible for new orders. But for our branch and his job description, there is no wish list. There is only “the needs of the military.” There was no way to predict where the military would send us, or when the orders would be announced.
So we waited. We considered our options: perhaps we would be sent overseas again. Not a bad option, but a bit daunting, since he would soon be retiring and we would be faced with buying a house and looking for jobs while stationed overseas. Maybe we would return to the East Coast, which had a lot of possible assignments and the added benefit of being in driving distance from our relatives (whom we hadn’t been stationed near for our entire marriage.) Or maybe we would go to the West Coast, which could include anything from the snow of Alaska to the desert of 29 Palms California to the sandy beaches of Hawaii.
We didn’t know where we would go, so we waited. And waited. It was stressful.
For months, we were waiting for PCS orders. We watched friends announce their orders and when they would be moving. We fielded questions from well-meaning family members: “Where will you go next?” “Did you put in a first choice?” “When will you move?” “Are you coming to visit this summer?” This wasn’t our first PCS move, but our experience didn’t help. We had no answers. It was difficult to remain detached and not to get our hopes up about various possibilities.
Still no PCS orders.
While we waited, we tried to plan. We hoped to spend our PCS move traveling across the country and doing some camping. Our kids are old enough to enjoy hiking in the National Parks. We looked forward to a military-funded “vacation” that would give my husband a chance to visit family members for the first time in a few years.
Then our children started asking questions. They wanted to know what school they would go to next year, what our next house would look like, whether they would have any friends, what sports they could play. And we had no answers to give them. We tried to be optimistic about new opportunities, but everything was so uncertain. It was too early to start researching details about specific duty stations. The future was one big question mark.
Then there was the matter of my work schedule. I work from home as a freelance writer, so I knew I could bring my business with me and work from anywhere. But certainly a PCS move would take time away from my work load. I didn’t know if I could commit to large future projects or go to business conferences. Would we move in August? Or maybe September? It’s hard enough to take time off when you are self-employed and there is no one to cover for you. It’s nearly impossible when you don’t even know what month to plan your “vacation.”
And then one day, finally, when my husband went into work to check his email for something else, there they were: official web orders! We were going to… nowhere. The orders were to another unit, at the exact same base where we had been for the past three years. We didn’t even have to move to a new house.
At first, I was disappointed. As much as I had tried not to hope for specific assignments, I had looked forward to the possibility of finally living in the same time zone as our families. I wanted the kids to be able to spend time with their grandparents. And to be honest, I was rather bored with our duty station and ready for a change of scenery. I felt like we had already accomplished our bucket list at this location, and I was itching for new adventures elsewhere.
But once I moved past the initial disappointment, I realized all the benefits of not moving:
- I didn’t have to pack up and sort through everything in our house
- our kids could stay at the same school for a few more years
- I didn’t have to take a few weeks off work while we drove across country
- I didn’t have to spend weeks transferring bills, changing our address, finding new doctors, and locating new providers for everything.
In short, getting orders to stay put is not the worst thing that can happen. It’s certainly easier than moving. It gives us a few more years to enjoy our home, school, and local surroundings. And at least some of our friends will still be here for the next year.
So for now, we are counting our blessings, and making the most of this surprise.