by Erin Noble
It is PCS season in my house, again (sigh). We move every 2 years, which puts us in an almost constant cycle of either planning for or recovering from a PCS. Right now I am in what I like to refer to as PCS purgatory. You know that time, after your spouse has sent in their “dream sheet” (which, because you are a lawyer was discussed, debated, reviewed and then re-reviewed, taking every possible contingency into consideration) when you are waiting to hear where you are moving.
I have a theory that the same qualities that make us the kick-ass lawyers and law students can make military-spouse life particularly challenging. We were often drawn to the law because we are problem-solvers. We identify multiple solutions, weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each, and then help our clients navigate the way forward. We are planners by nature.
But as a military spouse, so much of what happens is hard to plan. There are the happy surprises. Your souse gets a long-shot promotion that is great for her career but means she will be gone more than she is home, or your spouse is chosen for a special assignment that is a great opportunity, but means relocating your family (and career) every year for the next three years in a row (this one actually happened to me). And of course you know the unhappy surprises, the deployments, the injuries, the downsizing or right sizing or whatever the terminology of the day is for a career ended before your spouse would have chosen.
Dealing with the unknowns is tough for all military spouses. But if you are a planner by nature like so many military spouse attorneys, it can be even more difficult. My last PCS was really hard. We were given an assignment, later told the assignment changed, and then later still told the assignment changed again. Not an unusual occurrence for the military, and also no one’s fault. But it put us way behind everyone else in finding out where we were moving (oh how Facebook tortures you in times like these when it seems like every single person you know is announcing where they are moving while you are still in PCS-purgatory). It put me way behind in my normal PCS planning. I was leaving a job that I loved with no prospects. I was leaving a community where my family had deep connections. I am sure this all too familiar to my fellow MSJDNers.
My instinct was to grab a tub of ice cream, binge watch my favorite show, and lament the sorry state of affairs, and that was alright, but only for a little while. You are allowed to be sad (I will neither confirm nor deny that I shed a tear leaving my beloved office the last day).
But then you need to do what you do for your clients, look at all the options, research, weigh the pros and cons, and figure out the best way forward. Your lawyer skills are a valuable asset in times like these (I am looking at you PCS notebooks, color coded, expertly tabbed, containing exhaustive research). Put those skills to use at home.
Also, get connected to a supportive community. MSJDN has been that for me. Consider volunteering. It can be a nice break to focus your problem-solving skills on helping others (and if you are looking for a place to put those lawyering skills to work, MSJDN is always looking for volunteers, and nominations for Board members are coming up soon).
A transition often means leaving things behind. But transition can also present opportunities that you would not have even been looking for except the military spouse life shaking things up. I entered this round of PCS purgatory in a fantastic job that, in what has turned out to be my very own military spouse attorney miracle, will move with me when I move this summer. I would never have found this position without our last (much dreaded) PCS. It could be a chance to travel, spend more time with family, pick up a new skill, or continue your education. It is not possible to know or to plan for everything that is waiting for you on the other side of a transition. I believe that military spouse attorneys have just the skills necessary to identify the opportunities that each change presents and strategize how to leverage those opportunities for when military spouse life inevitably changes things again.