“Home is where the Air Force sends you.” –Mom
As a military kid, I never really had a home. My father was always being sent to different stations and it seemed like we were always packing and unpacking. It was a perpetual motion of getting a room set up, catching my breath, then packing it back up and moving somewhere else in the world. Doing this meant starting and losing friendships, trying to understand new and different cultures, and the eventual resignation that you are the part of the Air Force, and the needs of the service supersede the desires of a teenager to find a place that is home.
However, in my teens I was able to finally call one place home: Maryland. It was where I spent a few years in elementary school and where I graduated high school from (in between, my family moved to Hawaii and Iowa). This was where I got my first driver’s license, where I saw Michael Jordan play my beloved Washington Bullets in the old Baltimore Civic Arena, and where I played backyard football every Saturday with my friends. It provided a sense of normalcy; my dad was getting ready to retire and had no desire to move anywhere else. He bought our first home (we had either lived in apartments or on base housing), got a dog and even purchased a nice car (a 1998 Nissan Maxima, which was high rollin’ on a Master Sergeant’s salary). All the comforts I was looking for were there; steamed crabs, Dunkin’ Donuts, the PX food court with Anthony’s Pizza, Donnie Simpson on the WPGC morning radio show and Go-Go playing at night on WKYS. I had finally found a home.
I moved away from home to attend college, which was bittersweet. I desperately wanted to attend the University of Maryland College Park, and while I got in, I couldn’t afford it. It was either join the Marines or take a scholarship to Iowa State. Since deciding to go to ISU, I hadn’t been home for almost 15 years. I moved to Iowa, Minnesota, California, then back to Iowa. I experienced some amazing things: I got married, became a teacher, got a tattoo to remember my grandmother who died of breast cancer, and survived both Occupy Oakland and the “polar vortex”. I fell in love with student affairs, then hated it, and then found myself driving from California to Iowa to reconnect with the field. All the time, there was a part of me that wanted to keep driving back to Baltimore.
When the time came to do a search, both my wife and I agreed that it was time to head back to Maryland. While I was gone, my dad and mom both graduated from college, my brother became a police officer and a father, and the Orioles suddenly became contenders in their division. While I wanted to move ahead in the field and desired the job with the nice title and responsibilities, it was far important for me to watch my nephew play baseball on the weekends. It was equally important for my wife to see her sisters who live in New York, and a 4 hour Amtrak ride was a major selling point to moving here. We both wanted to be in a place where we could buy a house, start a family, and maybe catch an O’s game from time to time. For us, Maryland was the place. Our transition has been pretty seamless; as long as Camden Yards and the Broadway Diner haven’t up and moved, then I can figure out the rest. What has really helped is a brother who is ecstatic to see his older brother and sister-in-law and a nephew who has an uncle he can pick on.
I’m realistic in knowing that if I want to advance in the field and reach my ultimate goal of becoming a Dean of Students, I’m probably going to have to move. I will eventually have to pack my bags, wait for the movers, and have to re-establish myself in a new environment. As I can attest, Air Force kids can handle anything thrown in their way. But for now, my career advancement doesn’t necessarily mean I need to box up my stuff anytime soon, and I’m not looking to do so. My nephew’s baseball games are way more important right now.
This post is part of our month-long series #SAmobile, a look at the stories of SA pros who picked up and moved for their career. This series is about the struggles, the successes, the hurdles, and the emotions involved in such a life changing decision. For more information, see the intro post by Juhi Bhatt. Check out other posts in this series too!