In December of 2005, I was a senior at the University of Florida finishing up the last of the requirements to graduate with a degree in Linguistics. I’d worked non-stop to stay on track to graduate a semester early while planning my Atlanta wedding and dreaming of a career in corporate law. Graduation day came and less than one month later, I was a married woman ready to start my new life with my new husband at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
My husband had spent the duration of our 5 year relationship long-distance, with a year of our engagement spent oceans apart while he completed a tour in Korea. I was thrilled to finally be able to be with him all the time, doing all of the routine day-to-day things couples do and learning about military life together.
We settled into a routine, I got a job at a local law firm and started studying to take the LSAT that summer. At that time, I truly believed that it would be possible for us to balance two high-powered careers in some sort of power-couple utopia, but life had other plans.
By May I found out I was pregnant with our first child and a month later, deployment orders came. Long story short, he left and my pregnancy became incredibly high-risk so I quit my job, moved home with my parents and put law school on hold. (Spoiler alert: I’m still not a lawyer today).
I’ve met so many other spouses with similar stories. Careers they’ve walked away from or that never were, dreams put on hold and plans derailed. See, when you marry someone in the military, you think you know what you signed up for, but this life quickly teaches you that expectations don’t always match reality.
We live a nomadic lifestyle: we pack up, move and get settled only to start the process over again a few years later.
With that sort of life, it’s no wonder employment and isolation are two of the biggest challenges military spouses face today.
Is it possible to have a career while married to a service member? Sure! Does isolation have to be an ongoing challenge? Not at all.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a military spouse is to be flexible.
If you’d have asked me if I thought entrepreneurship would be in my future when I was nose deep in LSAT prep books, I’d have probably laughed at you. Yet, here we are. All these years later, my goals and dreams have shifted. Entrepreneurship became my way to overcome both the employment and isolation challenges this life brings and now I want to pay it forward.
So what now? I may not have the ability to solve all of our employment or isolation problems, but I do have the ability to make an impact, one spouse at a time. My vision for Westhouse is two-fold:
First, I aim to grow it into a company that sells goods from a host of small shops, both military spouse and civilian owned, so that a single purchase creates ripple effects of support.
Second, I will start a commission-based Ambassador program that helps spark connection and provide opportunities for spouses to earn an income while maintaining the flexibility this life demands.
I truly believe that challenges are opportunities to grow our ability to adapt and overcome. Where you are today might not be what you signed up for, but where you go from here is entirely up to you.
What's your story? Are you where you thought you'd be at this stage in life? I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below or join the conversation over in the Facebook group Westhouse Insiders: Milspos on a Mission.