Fair winds and a following sea

Cassandra is hanging up her keyboard, at least as far as her website is concerned. I’m sorry to see her go – she’s been one of my daily reads for some time. One thing she added in the comments to her goodbye post really struck me:

Anna, when you move every one to three years, certain things civilians take for granted (like permanent relationships with people) aren’t things you can take for granted. I have become close to people I moved away from and was never stationed with again. Ever.

I have had relatives I didn’t see for years because we were both in the service. And now one of their sons is dead. I didn’t get to watch him grow up – the years between three and fourteen just flew by.

And then it was too late and there were no more years where that came from. So sometimes it is not a question of ‘getting out’, but of making friends where you can. And for me, making a few close friends on the Internet meant that for the first time in my whole life, when I moved, nothing changed in my friendship.

Think on that a bit.

I grew up as an Air Force brat, then went into the Navy. I intended to make it a career, although that’s not how things worked out. There’s a deep difference between the military and many civilians because of this … you tend to presume that people won’t be around for long, because everybody is transient.

One of my friends at the Naval Academy came from a small town in Alabama. Before he entered the Academy, he hadn’t been more than about 50 miles from home. He grew up in the house his grandfather had built, which was three blocks away from the house his grandfather had been born in.

He had roots in his community. I have no doubt that, for the rest of his life, he’ll be able to return there and find people who know him, either directly or through his family.

I don’t have that. Before I entered the Academy, I’d lived in two places in Texas, Colorado (two houses, but only a few blocks apart), Philadelphia, two locations in France, and two in England.

I’ve been living in and around Denver since I left the Navy (over 25 years, now), but it’s not home in that sense. I have nowhere that’s home in that sense. That’s partly because Denver, like any city, is too big. In such a place, you set down roots in a neighborhood, not in the city as a whole.

Apart from the hassle/trauma of moving, I’d have little heartache picking up and going somewhere else. Sure, I have friends I’d miss, but I’ve never set down strong roots here. I’m not sure I’d know how. After growing up moving every couple of years, I haven’t found anyplace that resonates with me. Denver’s fine, it’s comfortable, but when you get down to it, it’s just another place.

There are compensations. I have friends I made over 35 years ago … we don’t keep in touch, but when we get together, it feels like we’re picking things up pretty much right where we left off. I’ve seen more of the world than most people. I consider this valuable for several reasons. There are many beautiful places that aren’t in the US. Cities in other countries don’t look the same as cities here, and that has effects on city life and culture. There’s more history that’s accessible in other places (such as Europe or Japan). I have first-hand experience, not so much as some, but enough to be instructive, that the way people live here isn’t the way they live elsewhere. Antigua is probably the place where that was the most obvious to me.

American life in general has become more mobile over the last several decades, but it’s still American life. Moving every few years is pretty much universal in the military, and exposure to other cultures is more common.

Military life is different from civilian life, for the families as well as the military members themselves. As Cassandra suggests with relation to the effects of military life and the internet on personal relationships, it’s worth thinking about.

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