My (very) new husband smiled at me and tried to slide the wedding ring over my finger. It wouldn’t go over my knuckle.
He tried again. With the excitement of our wedding day, my nerves had completely taken over and here I was, with warm, swollen hands and a ring that was suddenly too small for my husband to put on my hand.
Grinning and a bit embarrassed, I took the ring and awkwardly tried to jam it on my finger.
Finally, I got it over half of my knuckle and we continued with the rest of the ceremony.
That moment is funny to me now. When I struggled to get the ring onto my finger, it was a symbol of being married to John, a sailor.
I had no idea what all that would entail.
You see, before our wedding, before we had even started dating, I had earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I had a successful teaching career in Baltimore.
I was the teacher who cried in front of the class while reading the last part of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (I know, I know. I was That Guy.)
I had broken up fights – I had even gotten punched in the face. I wrote curriculum. I held my students’ babies as they took quizzes after school. There were good and bad days, but I felt like I was doing something really important.
I loved my students. I loved my colleagues. I loved what I did.
And then I fell in love with a sailor and said yes to marrying him. I resigned from teaching. Because of a weird PCS schedule and the ridiculous hoops I would need to jump through for certification in a new state, it didn’t make sense to pursue teaching. At least not for awhile.
So I waded into the uncertain waters that are underemployment in the world of military spouses.
Y’all know what I’m talking about: working jobs you don’t necessarily want to work because there’s literally nothing else available. Being overqualified for a job and being staffed for only a few hours a week.
Doing all of the cost-saving measures that drive you absolutely bonkers, but that you have to do to keep a budget on track. Having an interview run sour because they figured out your employment would last as long as your spouse’s orders.
I lost my sense of self and I felt really resentful – not toward my husband, but toward the military community.
By a few weird twists of fate, I fell into being an entrepreneur with my blog. I wasn’t expecting to do it. In fact, I was really sure I couldn’t do it. Yet somehow, here I was, doing the thing I thought I couldn’t do.
And then I did something that changed the trajectory of my small business and my involvement in the military community forever. (Drumroll, please.)
I went to a SpouseBuzz event where I met so many awesome people my head nearly exploded. Military spouses from all over D.C. were in attendance – people from different walks of life, different professions. People with different views. People who didn’t know me as Jo, the totally defeated military spouse.
Adrianna Domingos-Lupher, founder of SoFluential and NextGen MilSpouse, recognized me (what?!) and gave me both encouragement and tips on what I needed to do to really get my blog off the ground. (Step 1: Treat it like a business. Step 2: Get out of your own damn way. Step 3: Jo, why in the world don’t you have a domain name?)
I met Rachel, the Professional Army Wife, who became a fast friend when we realized how much we had in common.
Short and sweet: I got hooked on our amazing military spouse community.
Every time I’ve attended a new event, from Homefront Rising to Embark, I’ve met more amazing people who make up our military community. There are so few communities that are so small but offer so many wonderful (and almost always free!) opportunities to grow and meet people. It’s truly like playing 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, military-edition.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or not. I’ve watched people connect with each other and find resources they didn’t know existed during military spouse community events.
The first step is getting out of your bubble and trying something new.
This year, there’s a new series of events available to military spouses called #MilspouseFest2016.
The first event is in San Diego on April 19 and will feature emcee, Jacey Eckhart, lots of prizes and free gifts, and an interactive sessions to offer you real help, advice and resources for your military journey. (Did I mention everything – including lunch – is free? You just need to RSVP and come!)
Not in San Diego? That’s OK!
Follow #MilspouseFest2016 on social media (especially Instagram and Twitter) on April 19.
There are more #MilspouseFest2016 events coming that will be staged across the country and the places and dates will be announced shortly. Keep your eye here for more information.
In the last few months, I’ve found myself thinking back on how hard I tried jamming my wedding ring onto my finger. My experience becoming comfortable with military life has been so similar.
How frustrated I was.
How it hurt a little.
And also, how the more time I gave myself and the kinder I was to myself, the easier that ring eventually slid on…and how now it’s basically become a part of me.
Attending military spouse events was the beginning of feeling at home in my new community and it was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.
It could be the start of something wonderful – a friendship, a new connection for a career, a needed sense of belonging. But you can’t experience it without trying it.