The day after Christmas, I was itching to take down the tree, ready and raring to go for the New Year. Don’t get me wrong; I love the holidays. It’s just that I have no time for nostalgia – the year 2015 was full of earthquake-sized life changes for me, and 2016 is shaping up to be no different.
Exactly a year after uprooting myself from San Antonio to Germany for my dream job, I: got engaged to my now-fiancé in January, planned a stateside wedding, endured a three-month long-distance relationship, and after months of wrestling with my conscience, quit my five-year career as a public affairs specialist with the Army and moved back to America in December to be with said fiancé.
My brain is still catching up with the rapid-fire change, but here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Prioritize people, not work.
I feel ashamed even admitting this, but for months I waffled with the idea of leaving a job I truly loved to be with my beloved fiancé. I felt guilty about leaving my short-staffed, overworked colleagues alone. Plus, was I really going to say auf wiedersehen to the opportunity to live in Europe? I finally realized I needed to prove to my fiancé that he, not my job or any place, comes first. What better way than upending your life?
Jobs are easier to find than your person.
If you look hard enough, you can find a job anywhere. But there’s really only one person who will still love you despite your obsession with cats and tendency to ugly-cry all over them after a bad day.
I am more than my career.
The fear and shame I felt about the possibility of being unemployed in a 9-to-5 job was a wake-up call to me: my identity needed a makeover. Now I’m excited to see what else I have to offer the world through volunteering, working in a totally different job or simply being a wife to a soldier. Talk about a challenge!
Good girlfriends can get you through anything.
My friends near and far provided a willing (and patient) ear for all my ups and downs, from celebrating my engagement to giving me pre-job interview pep talks to Skyping with me when I was sad, lonely and anxious about the future. Strengthening our friendships was the silver lining to being apart from my fiancé.
There’s no place like home – and being with your sweetheart.
Living in Europe was a dream come true for me, but that first kiss from my fiancé at the airport – and that first bite of real Mexican food – felt like a big, warm hug. Not to mention, convenience, good customer service and careful drivers were all things this American girl missed very much.
I’m leaning into 2016 with eyes wide open as I take on the new role of “Army spouse.” I hope you’ll join me on the journey. It’s going to be a bumpy, exciting ride!
Shayna Brouker is an almost-Army wife, Navy brat and fitness enthusiast. She lives with her cat named Kitty and Army fiancé in Tampa, Florida, and has a weakness for macarons and other cute French things, including bulldogs.
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