Here’s something you need to know about me: I love storytelling. Reading stories, sharing stories, telling stories—I love everything about it. But beyond that deep and abiding love, I believe that telling our stories is one of the most important things we can do. Especially as military spouses.
Our lives as military spouses are unique but also commonplace, straddling both the military and civilian worlds. We see the life through both lenses and because of that we have some great stories to tell.
Stories that need to be told. But why, Julie? Why exactly should we tell our stories? Well, here are my top three reasons:
When we received our first set of overseas orders, I had a lot on my plate. I was a new mother and a fairly new military spouse. Having never lived outside of the United States, an overseas move was a big ask on top of everything else.
As my husband told me about our next grand adventure, my brain shifted into “must figure this out” mode (aka “survival” mode).
Okay, we were moving to England, which is quite low on the culturally different list, but I didn’t know much about the country beyond popular movies and tv.
Being the bookworm I am, I popped into our local bookstore and perused what they had with regard to my soon-to-be home, walking out with first-hand accounts of expat life in the UK and a handy language guide that highlighted the differences between British English and American English.
Laugh all you want, but the language guide is one of the most useful books I’ve ever read and saved me from countless verbal faux pas.
But here’s the most important thing I learned from those books: they really helped.
Reading someone’s account of their own experience in a foreign culture was a chance to dip my toe into the place before I landed there. After reading them, I felt more confident about our move to England.
That comfort prompted me to do the same for every consecutive overseas posting, which over the years morphed beyond books to blogs, vlogs, and social media stories.
The more information I gleaned, the better prepared I was for what awaited me. Knowledge is power.
Seven years later we moved to Africa and I spent a lot of time explaining to others why the Navy was sending us there . . . a lot of time.
Moving somewhere that the majority of our family and friends knew nothing about, I was inspired by my previous sources of information to become a storyteller myself.
Once a month I wrote vignettes about our life in Africa and sent them to the folks back home via an email group. They weren’t diary entries, but rather a single story from the month that I thought offered insight into the life we were leading.
Over the eight years we lived on the African continent, I was able to enlighten hundreds of people about the different countries and their cultures, and the work that we were doing.
Every “thank you for sharing” or “wow, I never knew that” from readers put a smile on my face and cemented my calling as a storyteller.
While I devour stories about the places we move to, like most bookworms I also happily rely on storytelling for personal entertainment. I especially love stories in which I can see myself, the ones so relatable that I’m not only enjoying the tale, but am also aware that I’m not alone.
Finding an entire cadre of military spouses who are out there writing and sharing their experiences was like finding a gold mine—when I want a good tale that makes me say, “yep, I totally get that” there’s no better place to turn.
I read military spouse authors like Kathleen Rodgers or Siobhan Fallon when I want to be taken into fictional worlds similar to mine—escapism without escaping completely.
Or maybe I’m looking for those first-person accounts, like when we lived in Germany and I would pick up a copy of Stars and Stripes to read Terri Barnes’ most recent piece about military life.
Her missives, later turned into a book, now sit pride of place on a bookshelf in my office.
Storytellers keep us company and enlighten our minds.
They inform and educate. They make us laugh or cry or simply ponder some of life’s big questions. They even help us when we need it most.
So, why not join them?
As military spouses, we have so much to share. We can use our fabulous imaginations to entertain, to take others to new worlds. Or we can share experiences to bring our community closer together. Or we can work to bridge that civilian-military gap. Or perhaps we simply tell our stories to remind ourselves what we’ve been through.
As I always say, we are nothing if not stories. Are you ready to share yours?
*Julie Tully is the award winning author of Dispatches of a Cowgirl. You can find a copy wherever books are sold. For more on Julie, Check out our M:M Expert Blogger Page.