Thursday, June 12, 2008

The perils of growing up a military brat... or why I can't be bothered to keep in touch (Answer - I'm lazy and ill-trained but trying to do better!)

So, other than football mania, not a whole lot has been going on this week that I would consider blog-worthy. This leaves me with the question of what to blog when a post is "due" but nothing inspires an entry: look for writing prompts! I flipped past six or seven prompts until I got to this one:

“Is there someone important in your life that you have lost touch with? Why do we allow ourselves to get so busy that we place our friendships on the backburner?”

I was preparing to skip that one as well - it's the kind of question that only makes you feel worse the more you think about it - but it stuck with me. This level of self-examination is bound to remind me of the parts of myself I'm not so fond of, but then again I could probably use that sort of reminder every once in a while. The quick answer to the question is yes, I have lost touch with an important person in my life. The longer, and more telling answer is I have lost touch with any number of important persons in my life - in fact, with most. You would think the internet would make it easier to keep in touch with people over any span of time and distance, but I'm starting to think otherwise. Maybe because email is so quick and easy, we find it even easier to neglect. Sending a card, postcard, or letter requires some forethoughts and preparation - it takes work. Email takes a few seconds sitting in front of the computer and, honestly, isn't that where most of us spend a substantial part of our days?

My lack of keep-in-touchness dates all the way back to my childhood. I keep in touch with one childhood friend - intermittently and through Facebook only- and maybe three friends from college - also intermittently and through Facebook. I quit my job just over a year ago this month, and yet in that time I've already lost contact with all my former buddies but five. This is a really sad statement to make in a world where I could easily be communicating with several people effortlessly and on a daily basis.

I trace a little bit of this to growing up in a military family. Now, dad, before you get too up in arms (ha ha get it?!?!? Army! Up in arms!) I think the pros of growing up the way we did far outweigh the cons. In fact, I'm pretty convinced that if I (and Mr K for that matter) had not grown up thinking frequent moves were a normal part of life, I would never have had the courage to move to Switzerland in the first place. Moving every couple years taught me how to adapt and how to find my niche in a new place (though many people would probably argue I've never actually been so good at that part). It made me more reliant on myself because I knew that, every couple years, it would be time to start all over again. I grew up seeing people do work they were dedicated to and believed in and that developed my own work ethic. So, no, given the chance, I would not choose any other kind of childhood. The downside to all that moving was the sense that friends and companions are replaceable and, in fact, have to be replaced every few years. Gah, that sounds terrible even to me reading over it, so lets try and explain this a bit better.

As a child, I knew every couple years I would be leaving all my friends and starting all over again. When we were still in military schools, this was hard but because you knew everyone else was in the same boat, it wasn't the worst thing in the world. You made friends fast and moved along from there. So I would be inseparable from a friends for a few years and then one or the other of us would move. It was sad but, thanks to the typical kid-attention-span, you moved on. As I got older, those friends and I would exchange sloppily written letters and postcards for a few months and then that, too, would fade away - not a big deal, just how life went. When my dad later went into the Reserves, my sister and I found ourselves in a civilian school system and it was a huge change (and probably fodder for a posting of its own, assuming I feel like dredging all that up again). Suffice to say I spent most of high school fairly niche-free since everyone already had their friends by the time I came onto the scene. No matter - in a couple years I knew I would move again - to college - and start from scratch with everyone else. Then when college started, I already knew in four years we would all be moving on yet again. See the cycle?

So, here I am, doing my best to better keep in touch with the people I have left (in both senses of the word). The good news is this: of the people I've managed to keep in touch with, it has been well worth the effort. I've gotten to know so much more about some of these friends through email and phone calls than I ever did when we lived in the same town. I love it that many of my friends blog - it makes me feel much more in-the-loop on their lives and also provides a kind of insight into their minds I would never get otherwise. I've discovered among my friends painfully talented musicians, brilliant writers, an incredible dancer, and just plain good people. I've been honored to know these people and feel continually enriched and encouraged by my interactions with them.

This is the kind of thing I try to remind myself of when I'm feeling just too busy to answer an email. Back burners are for the ignorable and the replaceable, and I've finally figured out that friends are really neither.


Ars said...

Keep in touch, m'kay?

Jen said...

VERY well put, and although I didn't grow up in a military family, I've moved every few years since I was sixteen. I'm just as bad (if not worse) than you describe yourself to be, so I can totally relate!

Carl E said...

I did grow up in a military family, hence why my mother is Japanese and I was born in Japan. But, since my father died when I was young, I was spared the "moving every couple of years" scenario that can happen in Army families. I think you handled it well in your really need to consider writing articles...freelance if you have to, but you have a knack for words and you should put it to good use!! :-) I know Jen and I are glad to have met you and Mr. K and hope we keep in touch!! :-)

-P said...


katie said...

well put!! makes you think... I'm right there with you on this...