by Karen Poisson, Guest Contributor
As a spouse who has been in the military for a while, outsiders often ask you about this secret world. Since I try to find the humor in life, the best way to describe parts of this lifestyle is by telling people,
Marrying into the military is like joining a gym.
Don’t believe me? Here are 9 comparisons between a gym membership and military life.
1. Our gym is selective; not everyone is invited to join. And while there is no initiation fee, there is a test. If you pass that test, you and your family are members. You are welcomed to a place where you can be a better you.
2. Some people are given incentives to join. This can be monetary or job driven. It is a personal decision that often starts with a sales pitch. This is usually done outside the confines of the gym building and can come from a current or former gym member or someone unaffiliated with said gym. You may also be given incentives to stay.
Decisions should be weighed carefully for the welfare of you and your family. Sometimes staying with the gym is not what is best.
3. Once you have passed the test, you sign on the dotted line and enter into a contract with the gym. You stay until your contract expires or you can opt to renew. This is an ongoing process. You can transfer gyms when you have to go to another location. You don’t want the gym to cancel your contract. More than likely, you won’t be allowed in any other gym in the U.S.
If you don’t renew your contract, you still may have access to the gym if you have achieved lifetime member status. In the military, this is called “retired.” This designator allows you to keep your membership indefinitely so you can use the facilities at the gym.
4. There is an orientation that you must go to when you arrive at your new gym. This is usually a painless process. It provides you with information on all the resources at your new gym. You should try to attend with your spouse.
If you can’t, make sure you receive the information provided. This can be accomplished through your spouse or you can give your email address to a “gym leader” (key spouse in the Air Force, ombudsman in the Navy, and in the Army, it’s the Family Readiness Group). This person will give you updates on classes and changes that occur at your gym.
Don’t be afraid of this form of communication. It is extremely useful.
5. Every time you come to the gym, you must show your ID. Please refer to the first point.
This step is also necessary because many outsiders wish to see how our gym conducts itself. Don’t be offended and don’t anger the people who scan your ID to verify that you are permitted on the gym grounds. They are keeping your gym and its members safe.
6. Some gyms have all the bells and whistles; they have new and shiny equipment. Some places only have the basics or it’s old and rundown. Most people want to be at the new gym but there may not be one in your neighborhood.
Remember that you only need the essentials. Everything else is a bonus.
Besides, it’s the people who make a gym a home.
7. Our gym offers programs that help you grow as a person. At your new assignment, you can find classes at the gym, the hospital, the chapel and your family support center. These are broad-reaching and focus not only on your physical well-being, but also your mental and spiritual self. Take advantage of these free classes.
8. Music is a part of daily life at this gym. Most gyms have a wide variety of songs that are played depending on the teacher but here there are 3 songs consistently played along with the national anthem. Every once in a while, the gym’s “theme song” (service song) is heard but only on particular occasions. When the song is played, there is a raucous rendition sung by all who can hear it.
It’s better than any Zumba class song.
Trust me on this.
It is one way to get your heart pumping.
9. As with a gym membership, what you get out of the military depends on what you put into it. If you just pay your dues and never set foot inside the gym, that’s not frowned upon. You can go to every class offered and even volunteer. Maybe you just want to shop at the gym store and eat at the café. That’s great too. When you move to a new gym, you can decide how active you want to be.
So now, when people ask me if I go to the gym, I tell them that I live at the gym and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Karen is a part-time ESL teacher and a full-time military spouse. She’s been in this military game so long that her kids are away at college, leaving only the four-legged type at home. She’s moved 12 times including one overseas tour and now she’s ready for her next PCS adventure!