As much as we plan, every move seems to produce the unexpected and we find ourselves coping with a PCS surprise.
There is an incredible amount of work that goes into preparing for a PCS. We attend briefs, knock out Transportation self-counseling, map out trip routes to a new duty station and more. Despite our best laid plans, though, each move serves to remind us that a plan only takes us so far. Those unexpected challenges on top of leaving friends and the upheaval of a move can feel cherry on a rather unpleasant sundae. How do you cope with adding stress of a PCS surprise?
Laying The Ground Work
I had a professor in college who prominently displayed a sign on his office door that proclaimed “A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine” – exceptionally frustrating when your printer runs out of ink mid-paper. Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned that when it comes to a PCS the saying could be turned around and applied. Failing to plan practically guarantees an emergency! As soon as we have a solid indication that a PCS is on the horizon I print out my PCS Toolkit, start gathering information and add the major tasks to my calendar. It helps to ensure that the things I know need to happen won’t slip my mind and surprise at the least convenient time (like forgetting to get an oil change before a 1,700 mile trip and having the oil light come on mid-drive).
It’s OK To Struggle
When we’re in the thick of things, it can feel like no one else struggles like this. Other people seem to have it together. Their PCS goes smoothly, door to door with a minimum of fuss and broken furniture.
The reality is that moving, especially when its the third time in 5 years, is hard. Everyone’s struggle is a little different because we all have varying strengths and weaknesses and perspectives. We can appreciate that a PCS is tough, breaking down boxes gets old, and finding a new reliable source of chimichangas is frustrating when you have a perfectly good regular restaurant at your last duty station. Giving yourself permission step away from the to do list and find something fun for an afternoon or lay around and watch a movie to give yourself a break can be just the thing to recharge.
There’s something to be said for consistency in the face of change. Especially when the PCS challenges are becoming overwhelming, continuing your existing routine brings comfort. Friday night dinners with family or Saturday afternoons at the driving range offer a way to push back the anxiety that comes with learning a new community. Children, in particular, may rely on maintaining routines through out a PCS. Do a little research to figure out a restuarant that has locations at both your old & new duty stations. Then, set up a regular weekly date with your child (or children) for lunch or a treat. Continuing that positive time gives them something to look forward to and focus on as they adjust.
Rebuild Your Village
Moving can be an incredibly lonely, isolating experience – for both service members and their families. Combat isolation by taking steps to rebuild your “village” as soon as you know where your next duty station will be. Reach out to friends for connections to people or organizations they may know of in your new community. Research to see if any of your current hobbies can be found – a weekend recreational sports league, volunteer clubs/organizations, churches, groups like RWB or wear blue: run to remember all offer ways to build relationships quickly in your new community. Those friendships offer a buffer against the challenges and inevitable surprises that pop up during the PCS process!
Piecing together preparation, the resiliency to accept a bit of struggle, knowing how to recharge your batteries and the resources to connect with your new community offers you the tools for coping with a PCS surprise.
What’s the biggest shock you’ve dealt with as you PCS’d?