Playing the assignment waiting game

Playing the assignment waiting game

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Every couple of years the rumblings of an impending move start rippling through my family. For many dependents and family members, it’s easy to adopt a roll-with-it outlook. However, for others (myself included) it can be the start of serious anxiety, especially if you have no control over the process.  In the early years, the anxiety felt paralyzing. As we approach the sunset of his career, the unknown still creeps in; however, I’ve discovered ways to help deal with the unease of waiting for orders.

Stay busy. I love a good and challenging project, but I’m also a self-admitted procrastinator. I once bought a vintage piano in desperate need of a refurb and it sat in my garage for nearly a year. As the waiting game commenced for an assignment, the doubt and what-ifs crawled into my psyche. So, I decided it was a great time to tackle the piano. When I worked on it, I wasn’t worried about anything else. I was more focused on making sure I had enough sanding paper and proper ventilation than I was on where we were going next. Staying busy with various projects, however big or small, can provide a sense of accomplishment and keep your mind at bay.

Start the purge. Every permanent change of station (PCS) usually comes with some sort of purge before the household goods get packed up. Why not get started on it a little early? We had almost a nine month notice before we moved to Germany. Rather than fret on the small details of when the orders would come in and when we could get things scheduled, we started methodically going through each room. We donated the outgrown clothes and chucked or sold the items we knew we wouldn’t need. We dedicated a spot in the house to start accumulating our unaccompanied baggage so we wouldn’t be rushed into deciding what would go first. It helped us feel more organized and was one of the few pieces of the move we had control over.

Focus on the now. While it can be fun (and kind of entertaining) to dream up different scenarios of where you might end up (I constantly fantasize of going somewhere warm and sunny), it can also lead you down a rabbit hole. Taking a peek at Zillow can turn into looking at schools or crime statistics, which can snowball from there. Close the computer window and walk away. Focus on where you are right now at this moment. Find your favorite beauty spot nearby, enjoy the peace and take some deep breaths to clear your head.

Give yourself grace. You know you’ll be picking up and moving to a new post or base soon. It’s going to be an emotional rollercoaster and it can become overwhelming. Just know it’s normal and you’re not alone. It’s okay to feel the way you do. Allow yourself to make space for those emotions and keep moving forward, even if it’s just baby steps.

Look at the bright side. Let’s be honest — sometimes the potential locations are less than geographically desirable. It’s easy to feel a bit deflated and start zeroing in on the negatives. There are positives in every place, you may just have to dig a little harder to find them. We’ve been stationed in some phenomenal places and others where people have asked why our branch of the military has it out for us. But even in those difficult places, there have been amazing people and culture to discover. Focusing on the good can help build the excitement of what’s to come.

It’s going to be okay. We are currently in the throes of waiting for an assignment for this upcoming summer. I’ll admit I caught myself beginning to worry about what we would do if we ended up here or there. We have a son who will leave for college at the same time we’re due to move. Will we be near him? Will we end up overseas again? As these thoughts flashed through my head, I took a step back. No matter where we end up, it’s going to be okay. We’ve done this for almost 20 years. I know it will work out. Where we land on the other side is something we have absolutely no control over, so it’s not worth worrying about until we know for sure.

Talk to a professional. If the anxiety and stress are becoming all-consuming, you may want to consider talking to someone. Military and Family Life Counselors (MFLCs) are available to speak with. These appointments are confidential, and no records are kept. MFLCs can assist with finding different avenues to channel your anxiety and can also just be someone to vent to.

Playing the waiting game with impending assignments is never easy. But with the right tools in your arsenal, you can help keep the anxiety tampered down.

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