Where’s My Community? Making Friends on a Military Base.
Your environment plays a key factor in living a fulfilled life. In order to bear fruit, gain fulfillment, and meet fruition, you must intentionally create an environment that will sustain you.
When I first found out my husband had been commissioned into the Air Force, I began conducting furious research. I mean, yes, I had some basic knowledge. I knew, for instance, that military families move around…A LOT. Since I’m an ambivert (introverted extrovert, or extroverted introvert – either way, you get the point) I was a little concerned about my social life and wondered how to go about building a support system that would help me navigate my own new life as an active duty military spouse.
I found happy articles on “how to find your village” and they all made finding friendship on a military base sound so organic. Spoiler alert: it’s not. Or, at least, it hasn’t been organic for me. Of course, I attribute a lot of that to the fact that 1.) I work 2.) I work, oh, about an hour from the military base. So by the time I drive to work, work a full 8 hours (sometimes more), and make it home, I just want to crash. You don’t meet a lot of people that way.
I’d been with my husband at his new duty station for about two weeks before he had to leave for six and there I was…alone. I didn’t receive a single phone call, or a single neighborhood caller during that time.
We live in privatized base housing, surrounded by other military families, and I thought that would be enough. I’d made a few connections and smiled at the people I met at the functions I was able to make, and I thought that would be enough. My husband introduced me to people and asked them to check in on me while he was gone, and since he’s a Chaplain…I thought that would be enough. Spoiler alert No. 2: Ha! It wasn’t.
Expecting your village to find you isn’t a good recipe for meeting neighbors, let alone making friends.
Your community will not come automatically. That just won’t happen. Yes, we kind of expect people to reach out to the newbie, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, you have to foster your own outreach program, put yourself out there and create intentional moments of connection.
As this blog progresses, you’ll likely find me mentioning “intentional moments” quite a bit. For my working military spouses, my mama (and father) military spouses, or even just my more introverted spouses – this is both pivotal, and a significant challenge. [And note, this is one of those posts that applies to all spouses/significant others, not just those in the military.] You cannot count on your significant other to be your end all be all – that’s a quick road to loneliness.
Here’s how I have learned to create intentional moments :
1. Speak. Yes, I’m serious. When you do have time to attend an event, work up the nerve to walk up to a complete stranger and say hello. Introduce yourself! Conversations can’t be bad, until you speak.
2. Develop your elevator questions. Like an elevator speech, these are stock questions you always ask of new people you encounter. Make them interesting!
3. Exchange numbers. It’s as easy as saying – I’d like to connect with you later/we have something in common/would you like to grab dinner sometime? Let me give you my number.
4. Fight through the fatigue. Don’t go home after work. If you have met someone new, and done the above, shoot them a text and make that meeting you discussed during small talk, happen.
5. Consult an acquaintance, instead of Google. Looking for new places to shop, things to do, somewhere to dine? Ask that new (prospective) friend for recommendations, before you consult Google or Yelp. Then, follow their suggestion and text them about it later – “So glad you recommended x! We loved it.”
Small steps like these can get you pretty far. And, of course, join your local groups – Enlisted Spouses Clubs, Officers Clubs, Toastmasters, professional groups – and of course, church! (Tip: you have to actually attend meetings for this to work).
How did you build your village?
By the way =>here’s “Loneliness Road”. (It May look pretty in the picture, but we don’t want to go down it – okay? Okay, glad that’s settled).