Out of Place, Out of Culture – My Holiday Season

For those who follow you may have noticed I haven’t posted much in the last several weeks and I apologize for that! I have been pretty busy with the holidays and traveling but admittedly I have actually started several posts but ended up deleting them. I don’t feel I’m really suffering from “writer’s block” per say as I have many ideas and things I want to write about and discuss, but I’ve been having a hard time putting them into words. I have also been struggling a little bit personally with something I’m not sure how to describe; confidence maybe?

This pretty much started when I left Oklahoma to spend this month in Oregon with my family, the first two weeks of which my husband wasn’t with me. I didn’t realize it at first but this has been the first time in a little over two years that I have ever been completely without any military culture surrounding me. Now my husband is a veteran, and I am in the Guard so we don’t live actively on a base. One may not think at first glance that I am really surrounded by the military culture. However, I am with my husband on a daily basis, and all but one of our close friends are either current military or veterans, the only one who isn’t grew up an army BRAT. We have many coworkers, friends, and family that aren’t military of course but the friends we see on a daily basis and would consider our closest pretty much are. Our church consists of a lot of veterans as well, and Oklahoma is also a very military friendly state.

When I came to Oregon I was suddenly surrounded by my family which consists of no military or veterans (save for my Grandpa in Washington and my cousin’s husband who lives 4 hours away from my family in the Portland area), I had no friends that could relate, and was in a state that literally has no military presence save for a couple small Oregon National Gaurd posts.

This doesn’t seem like a huge deal but I started feeling very out of place and basically lonely. No one could relate to me in any way here. No one understands my culture. The jokes I make, the sides I take on issues, the reasons for my opinions and views, or even just the way I talk and think. I felt like I was in another country almost. (Well, the Southern/Midwest culture and the West Coast practically are two different countries…but I grew up in Oregon so that shouldn’t have mattered ha).

One of the first times I felt this was during a very heated argument I got into with my father in the first few days of my trip. Because of his experiences (or lack there of) his outlook on PTSD and issues of military were a far cry from my viewpoint. He wouldn’t believe that the military would or could ever mess up on the level that they do. Screwing up pay for months, CO’s abusing their authority against personnel they don’t like, or the endless cases of paperwork screw ups that can result in anything from promotion rejections to combat award rejection are some of the things he can not even believe to be possible.

He, like many, doesn’t think bureaucracies like the military or VA could ever do any wrong, or even see the harm the government can and has done to veterans. Because he was surrounded by a different culture, he simply could not understand or relate.

Another time was while shopping with my cousin. She asked me how much someone gets for the GI Bill because she saw an old high school classmate post on Facebook after getting out of the army that he was choosing from a couple Ivy League schools to get his degree. While she believes military deserves something she was worried the government was “paying all this money for them to go to ANY school they want…if you think about how many military people there are and how much top schools like that costs then that’s TONS of money being handed out if they just pay for anything and everything.” I kindly told her that there were a few different types of GI Bills, but that none of them simply allowed you to go to just ANY school in the country at no cost. She thought that was quite a relief.

The feeling of how out of touch and frankly uninterested my own family is to the military and it’s people was overwhelmingly strong.

I actually ended up leaving a dinner early one night and visiting my ex boyfriend (still a close friend) a few times simply because he was the ONLY person, being fresh out of the military, I could find that I could feel comfortable around. We didn’t have to talk about anything related to military, in fact I mostly played card games with his young niece and mom when I was at their house. But simply being around someone who understood where I was coming from in all directions, felt like finding another American in the midst of a foreign country.

Thank God my husband is here now. The past two weeks experiences have made me second guess myself a lot. I’ve thought that I may not be able to be the “bridge” between military culture and civilian culture that I thought I could try to be for some people. I’ve started second guessing my ability to help and my ability to open any minds to the people I am passionate about. I guess I never realized how ingrained and comfortable I have become in my own environment surrounded by so much military culture. I raised the doubt in my mind that I could ever convey the struggles and this culture to others who have no relation to it.

Anyway, I apologize for being so self deprecating on here. I know that this experience is meant to teach me something, and it already has taught me a lot, but I just wanted to share why I haven’t posted much and what’s been going on. Don’t think I forgot about the blog! I am so thankful for all of my followers and I truly appreciate you! Any words of encouragement would not go unappreciated either! I hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas! God bless!

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2 thoughts on “Out of Place, Out of Culture – My Holiday Season

  1. As with anything, people (including myself) tend to be ignorant with topics/cultures they don’t understand and have never been a part of or around their entire lives. It probably just made it that much more difficult since they were family members who didn’t understand “you”. Glad your husband is there now and you can feel more comfortable. Merry Christmas!

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