Saturday, October 16, 2010

Military INdependent

Even though we take great pains to avoid posting too much personal information, I'm confident most of the readers of this blog are aware (especially after Jon's recent analysis of Afghanistan) that I am married to the military.  Being in the military comes with a tremendous amount of benefits to balance the significant hardships that our service members face.  But this blog post isn't about them.  It's about me.  Or rather that group commonly known in military circles as "dependents."

I cringe every time I hear that term because out of all the military spouses I know, very few of them are what one would typically refer to as dependent.  In fact, they are the most independent group of people I know, more than capable of taking care of themselves (and often children as well).  Separations are a part of life for the military community, leaving throngs of single parents and "geo-bachelors/bachelorettes" in their wake.  I have friends who have juggled work and school, managed the schedules of multiple children, planned international travel, relocated to another state, taken care of tumor-ridden rats, and even given birth, all while their spouses were deployed.  I don't think a dependent person could have handled any of those things.

While I didn't face anything nearly so daunting during Jon's last trip to the desert, I experienced my fair share of challenges.  And honestly, I had my fair share of fun as well.  In my quest to keep myself busy, I had a pretty adventurous couple of months.  I even created a list of things to do while Jon was gone, which featured such gems as eat mushrooms, watch movie musicals, look at flowers in Victoria, tap dance in a recital, and drive a stick shift.  Yes, you caught the last one correctly; I learned how to drive Jon's car, which has a manual transmission.

Jon has attempted on multiple occasions to teach me to drive his car.  Rarely did the lessons leave the parking lot and when they did, Jon had to motion to the vehicle that pulled up behind me to go around because my "performance anxiety" caused me to kill the car at the most inopportune times.  Truth be told, I was not the best student.  I didn't practice enough and I didn't handle Jon's instructions (which I perceived to be criticisms) well.  I was just too emotionally involved.  But after the third or fourth time of having to wake Jon up on his day off to move his car because he had parked me in, I vowed that I would learn.  I just didn't tell him that when he grumbled his way out of bed.

I figured I would do better with a different teacher and actually contemplated going to a driving school.  But then I remembered that I'm cheap and asked some friends to help.  Paying for pizza was certainly a lot more affordable than professional lessons.  So, my good friends and I headed out on a Sunday afternoon and took several spins around the middle school parking lot.  I remembered more than I thought, so my teachers directed me out to an actual street.  With other cars.  And hills.  Those two things came together quicker than expected as I found myself at a stop sign at the top of a (small) hill.  Both hands gripped tightly on the steering wheel, I started to get nervous when a car pulled up behind me.  But I successfully made the turn without killing the car or freaking out, which prompted one of my teachers to proclaim, "Now you know how to drive a stick shift" (or something along those lines).

That vote of confidence did wonders for me.  I continued to take Jon's car out on brief errands around town with the goal of picking him up at the airport when he returned.  And because I like surprises so much, I kept the entire thing a secret, made only slightly more difficult when Jon informed me that he had reduced his car insurance since the car wasn't being driven (I managed to turn it back on).

The day finally came to meet Jon at the airport, and on top of all the normal nervous anxiety caused by his return, I had to drive a manual transmission approximately 35 the tail-end of rush hour traffic.  But it was all worth it.  Jon was so surprised that his first comment on seeing his car instead of mine was, "So, I have to drive home, too?"  I think he was pretty impressed when I slid behind the wheel instead.

So, yes, I get the slightest bit annoyed when referred to as a dependent.  When I told Jon what I had decided to call myself instead, he thought it was a much more accurate description.  In fact, he thinks I should start a whole new blog on just this topic.  Apparently the domain name is still available...


Amy said...

I like this post. And congrats on learning a stick!! :) You amaze me with all of the things you do to keep busy. I've enjoyed reading all the posts!

Spoon said...

You, my dear, are definitely one of the "independents." Right back at you with all the things you've been up to lately!