“So what do you do?” a soldier asked me.
“I’m a writer.” I answered, a little awkwardly.
“Oh OK, so you’re unemployed.”
Some people may have been hurt by his comment, but not me. I laughed.
He was right. At the time, I was making a little money here and there on freelance jobs. Also, my job is strange to most people, and elicits curious reactions.
They always want to know,
“what do you write about?”
“when are you going to get a regular job?”
“that’s a real job?”
But I’m not phased by these questions.
You see, I accepted many years ago that I’m different and that’s OK. I like watching “Harry Potter,” “Doctor Who” and “Supernatural” a lot more than going to parties and getting drunk.
I don’t like “Army Wives” (the television show). My husband says I can make anything awkward. I have always been the oddball – and that’s OK! Writers should be a little weird.
The important thing is, I never ever let this stop me. I go to every get-together with the unit, and I (awkwardly) start conversations and make friends with other military spouses and soldiers.
Occasionally I get to be surprised, and the person I’m talking to says, “I LOVE Supernatural!” or, “I’m writing a book too but I haven’t told anyone because I was afraid they would think I’m weird,” And suddenly I have a new friend and something to talk about!
It can be stressful to put yourself out there when you’re an introvert, have social anxiety, or you just have an unusual hobby but it can pay off more than you can imagine.
Military life comes with a lot of moves and meeting a lot of new people. If you don’t find a way to put yourself out there, it can become a very lonely life.
Here is my advice on how to follow your heart when you feel like the oddball:
Go to Social Events Even If It’s Not Your Thing
Your spouse’s unit or squadron will have regular social events and you should be there! Whether it’s a yellow ribbon event or a barbecue, GO! And don’t look mad about being there.
Talk to People Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
Talk to people, even when it feels awkward or painful. No one is going to judge you for taking the time to talk to them and be kind.
Don’t Mind the Jokes
I’ve heard service members described as callous or rude because of the jokes they find funny. They might poke fun at your hobby or job, but to be honest, they mean nothing hurtful by it.
Joking, roasting and teasing is how they show they care.
It’s how they keep things lighthearted when things are tough. Don’t take it personal.
Be Yourself and Realize You’re not an Oddball
Sure; I joke about being awkward or an oddball. I have social anxiety. I like things that might be considered “nerdy.” I have an unusual job.
However, in putting myself out there I’ve found so many more men and women who are just like me, have the same hobbies and interests as me, and the same struggles too.
The thing you think makes you an oddball may be the thing you have in common with another person at an event.
I’ve met service members that play Magic The Gathering (a lot…actually), Dungeons and Dragons, and Quiddich (it’s a thing, OK?). I’ve met spouses and service members that are writers, artists, cosplayers and doulas. I’ve known fantastic military spouses that have PHDs and fantastic military spouses that didn’t graduate high school.
The military community is so much more diverse than you can imagine and the people that you want to be friends with? Well they are probably just as anxious as you are. I’m only an oddball if I assume to know the personalities of people I’ve never met.
Embrace the Things You Love
Just because someone else thinks it’s weird, doesn’t mean their opinion matters. Go out and seek the groups and classes where you can enjoy your hobbies and interests. Check out the local library, community center, locally based Facebook groups, and that bulletin board at your local coffee shop.
Just because you’re a military spouse, doesn’t mean your life should revolve around the military. Make local friends and seek out that community that will support you, no matter how much of an oddball you think you are.
Oh and by the way, that soldier I mentioned?
I look forward to seeing him at events, because he always asks how my writing is going, and he genuinely cares to know what my answer is.
In a moment where I could have written someone off instead I made a friend.