Freeze-Dried is a female grad student on-her-way-out-of-the-
twenties. She's into SF/F, food, hugs and some (albeit very little) exercise. She is Mostly Harmless and can be reached at frozendry.at.gmail.com.
Ever since you’ve invited me to do a guest post in this space, I’ve been wondering about what I can say as a traveling spouse that you haven’t already – incredibly honestly and eloquently – addressed. And I’m convinced that I can’t do an abstract idea-post related to being a traveling spouse*. My solution, forgive my indulgence, is to focus on me.
A couple of years ago, I decided to follow my partner, (not just because it is the right thing to do**), but because I wanted to***. At the time, although I was in a job that I thoroughly enjoyed, I hadn’t really begun to think of it as a career. After an initial wave of uncomfortable dependence (that passed with support from the spouse), I eventually maneuvered my way into my first unplanned “home-maker” year. I learnt to cook. I also learnt how not to trip over one’s laundry, and how to fold clothes (no, it is an ancient art, really) and sometime down that road, found out that I really wanted to find a career in the academe.
But more recently - sometime over the Christmas break, actually - I discovered that a lot of who I am has come to be built around one relationship. To most people that meet me now, I’m a spouse before I’m a person, much more in fact than P is. This is significantly different from our pre-travelling situation. Back then (it does feel like ages ago), I was an individual / a woman before anything else. I suspect a lot of this difference has to do with having chosen a dependent life.
Between commuting to work, hanging out with P and getting stuff done for school, for want of both time and interest, I do very little else. Consequently, new people meet me as a role rather than as a person. On the other hand, P, given the nature of his job and of our situation still has a more independent life than me. For instance, he meets people at his workplace as a so-and-so-specialist and the dynamics of a job allow for development of (a certain kind of) familiarity, while grad school can be very immersive and isolating.
Anyway, people meet P as an individual / a man before meeting him as a spouse.
[Okay, now is a good time for that interjection: P works his job (although he’d rather be pursuing his art), so that we can have the life that we do. For this, he has my highest respect. I must clarify that this post should in no way suggest that he is insensitive or otherwise oblivious to my concerns.]
Meet my freaking-the-fuck-out moment: In my own mind, I have become a spouse who is incidentally, doing other things.
Self, meet Insecurity. Insecurity, meet Self.
For me, this realization has been attended by some seriously debilitating angst, helplessness, and – surprise, surprise, possessiveness – the kind that has, in the past, made me run in the opposite direction. Coming to terms with this idea (that despite all the things I do, even I think of myself as a spouse first) hasn’t been easy. It means un-learning some things and re-learning some others. It means walking out of this comfort zone of a secure and familiar identity (that I didn't even realize I was building) and learning to be at home with the unknown. And perhaps most scarily, it means having to do this – being a traveling spouse – without losing myself.
A dear friend (who re-appeared quite of the blue to buoy me through this very personal crisis) said, “Being possessive is okay. But what matters is what you do when they’re around and what you do with yourself when they are not.” All suggestiveness aside, that’s my new goal. Yes, with the traveling spouse deal as it is, I don’t necessarily know how, if at all, I can have a completely independent identity without going back to a non-nomadic lifestyle. Hell, I don’t even know how I’m going to work at this.
But, I’m determined to atleast try.
*’cause almost everything about being one is so personal, init?
**Which is an expectation where I come from
*** A complete distrust of long-distance relationships may also have had something to do with this decision.