Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Cheers to Water Coolers & Community


My biggest hope for this space is to create a sense of community among spouses, just like me, trying to navigate the rough waters of military life and embracing the mess of it all.  

So how do we do that?  

Well, let me start with telling you a little story...

I stared out the window of our tiny little apartment on the first floor.  New spouses were constantly moving in and I was previously one of them, so you can imagine just how nosy I would be every time I saw vehicles packed to the brim pull up and a young lady would step out and struggle to unload the contents of her vehicle alone.  We were all brand new Air Force spouses and we had found a little apartment community for people just like us.  Except here I was, 30 years old with two older children.  Everyone else appeared under 20 with maybe an infant.  This was going to be a challenge.  

It was a beautiful Texas day when I saw her; a young mom carrying her baby in a back pack carrier and she lugged a large suitcase across the long stretch of side walk and walked far beyond where I could see.  She intrigued me, mostly because she looked close to my age, but also because I was curious what she was doing.  I walked away and a little bit later I watched her walk back across the window lugging the suitcase again.  I contemplated asking her if she needed help, but my nerves kicked in opted to just watch her instead.  Eventually she disappeared into one of the doors.  About an hour later, I saw her walk across again, baby and luggage in tow.  I could not figure out for the life of me what she was doing and who was this lady walking back and forth with a baby on her back and a luggage dragging behind.  

Fast forward a few weeks, I was still curious to get to know this lady.  I really wanted to be her friend.  Ever do that?  Do you ever spot someone and want to be there friend?  It's ok, you can admit it, because I do.  I do that all the time.  Anyway...

I sat down at my computer desk one day after putting my two year old down for a nap and saw her sitting on a blanket with her baby right outside my window.  Her apartment was a few doors down so I was really curious why she was sitting in front of my window.  I was too scared (and lame) to just go right out there and introduce my self, so I scanned the apartment looking for a reason to go outside.  I caught a glimpse of my van parked outside and remembered I had a cooler in the trunk so I staged a plan to casually grab my cooler and walk back and pull an oh I didn't notice you there kind of move.  Seemed brilliant at the time.  

As I walked out, I kept my head down and carried on with a mission to go get my cooler.  I walked back and...

"Oh, hello!  I didn't notice you there!  My name is Jhen."  My cooler swang in my arms as I peppily walked towards her.

"Hi!  I'm Elise."

A few weeks later, Elise and I were on our usual stroller walks, when I humbly confessed the day I went to get a cooler.  She laughed and said she knew because she was sitting outside my window hoping I'd come out and say hello.  She was my very first military spouse friend and we are still friends to this day, although we're countries away (her cool pilot hubby got overseas orders while we ended up stateside, as expected).  

So what does all this mean for us?  What does all this mean for this space?  

Much like my lame excuse of "grabbing a cooler", building community is all about taking risks, often feeling like a fool.  When we go out of our comfort zones, embarrassing or not, we're building a foundation of community.  Relationships take work.  Lots of work, and most of it requires you stepping out of your comfort zone. 

So to start this space, I'm taking the plunge to risk so much, but there isn't a fear greater than the belief I have for what this space will become.  So cheers to water coolers and community!

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