Not a loner after all -- just a military spouse
Prior to writing this column, I had never taken a test like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which has been used for decades in the military and other organizations to assess personality. I had always assumed I was an introvert, because over the course of 23 years as a Navy spouse, I spent so much time by myself. I mistakenly thought my loner personality was the reason why it was difficult to make friends every time we PCSed.
Turns out, I was wrong.
(That is, if you believe the results of the free Myers-Briggs knockoff test I took online today because I was too cheap to spend $49.95 on the real thing.)
According to the test results, I’m 68% extroverted. Huh ... I guess I don’t actually prefer to be alone after all. The free preliminary report (“more detailed results are only a click and a credit card payment away!”) indicated that I intuitively seek out people, cooperation, friendships and social support.
Then why on Earth did I spend so much flipping time alone as a military spouse?
About three years into our marriage, my husband Francis, a young intelligence officer, was stationed overseas at sleepy RAF Molesworth, England. The U.S. military families living on base thrived socially, but we thought living on the economy would maximize our cultural experience. We moved into a house built in 1863 in the village of Ramsey, where our neighbors were polite and reserved, as the English tend to be.
While Francis stood long watches, I spent my days with our infant son, strolling to the village bakery, the butcher, the playground, the duck pond and Sainsbury’s. The sun began to set at 4 p.m. at that latitude. Waiting for Francis to get home was agony. I craved adult contact so much, it hurt. When he was late coming home, I’d get so mad, I’d strap our baby into the stroller and walk the village streets in the dark, muttering to myself, “Let’s see how HE likes it alone in that old house.”
Even after making some friends, our remote location dictated that my days were endured without much contact with other adults. For three years, I became slave to my own solitary routines, mastering meal preparation, planning travel, researching and implementing home therapies for our son after he was diagnosed with autism.
By the time we moved to Virginia Beach, Va., I’d become accustomed to being alone. I managed to make new friends, but I maintained a fairly solitary daily routine throughout Francis’ many shore duties, deployments and travel assignments.
We moved overseas again in 2008, and again I had to make new friends. Our very social neighborhood on Patch Barracks had shared patios and a huge playground. Why was it so hard? Could I make new friends in my 40s? What was wrong with me?
Rather than face the challenge, I decided that I was a loner. That explained everything and gave me the excuse I needed to stop trying. To make matters worse, I started writing while we were stationed in Germany. While the other military spouses got to know each other on our shared patios, I was cooped up in our apartment, tapping away at the keys of my computer.
During subsequent tours in Florida and Rhode Island, I continued to use the loner excuse to avoid the difficult task of making new friends.
Essentially, I spent most of my adult life believing mistakenly that I was an introvert, when the real problem was that I was just a military spouse. The reality is that finding new friends after each PCS move is not easy. There is instant camaraderie among military families, but finding friendship chemistry with other spouses can be hit or miss. It takes persistence, sincere effort and a thick skin.
Somehow, I found friends at every duty station. Karen, Cindi and Di in California. Navarre, Jean, and Mabel in England. Natalie, Suz, Tina, and my bunco girls in Virginia. Erin and the patio crowd in Germany. Muffin and Tara in Florida. The whole gang in Rhode Island.
The knockoff personality test has confirmed the truth: I was never a loner, and I needed all of you all along.