Life of a ‘military brat’

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For some, being a ‘military brat’ was an experience like no other; an upbringing filled with adventures, living abroad and discovering new cultures. Yet I would argue that this is the case for the minority going by those I met living on Army bases/in Army estates. 

For me, it was a different story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond grateful for my Dad having a stable, secure job, providing us with a roof above our heads and food on the table. He always did his best for us.* I genuinely do believe, however, this ‘lifestyle’ had a great impact on the way in which I view the world. Do I feel guilty for feeling this way? Without a doubt. But on the other had, I can’t deny the effect the uncertainty of it all had on me in terms of mental state. After all, a war zone is a war zone. Waiting for the door to knock or phone to ring with that news was a daily preoccupation. Because anything could happen. He could be dead tomorrow. He could come back wounded in a week or two. He could come back safely. When would he be back? Who knows – he would be sent away for months at a time, with no ‘fixed’ return date from the tour. 

Growing up, the notion of having a home seemed like a completely foreign concept to me. (By home I don’t just mean an abode, more a place in which one feels settled.) It was always ‘the house’ and not ‘home.’ 

The dreaded question, which seems commonplace when meeting someone new, ‘Where are you from?’, brings with it a sense of unease. To which I hastily respond: ‘I have not idea.’ That’s the honest truth. I have no fucking idea. *Avoids desire to sarcastically respond: ‘my mother’s womb.‘*

To summarise it as briefly as possible: 

  • Both my parent are Scottish, yet I’ve only ever lived in England.
  • I was born in Southampton, though my parents weren’t living there at the time.
  • I’ve lived in – wait for it…
    • Bulford
    • Kineton
    • Wattisham
    • Wantage
    • Grove
    • Lyneham
    • Hadleigh
    • Bildeston
    • Canterbury
    • Lincoln – albeit only for a short period of time
    • and finally Leicester

The only reason I know is because I had to ask my Dad for a form I was filling in – thanks, Dad! I couldn’t remember past Lyneham – ooooops. It’s all a blur; I can’t tell you how long I lived in a specific area for, nor how old I was at said times. 

Fun fact! In the past 5 years alone I have had 10 houses.

Not surprisingly, moving house also means moving to a new school and starting allllllll over again. There’s no continuity, moving from school to school, and house to house, expected to ease into life as though it weren’t changing at an astonishing rate.

Result = social isolation. The irrational obsessions which plague my mind, particularly about death. Woooo. The whole it could happen scenarios my mind conjures up became debilitating. The fear of the unknown, yet never looking towards the future with a vague idea of what was going to happen. Because anything could happen.

If I’m completely honest, I thought ‘what’s the point in even trying to integrate when I know we could be moving any day, with only a few weeks notice? What’s the point in settling down to start the process all over again? And then over again? And over again several times more.’ Not pessimistic, per say, more cautiously realistic.. Because anything could happen.

While escaping and starting anew might blissfully seem like an ideal, I can assure you it isn’t when your path in life is out of your control. 

It’s not only a parent being posted abroad which disrupts family life. At times, a the family can be split up due to the childrens education. Important school years often mean the ‘family unit’ must be separated. 

During our GCSEs, for example, the family was fragmented – Dad in Bristol, Mum, Connor, Laura and I in Suffolk; it’s no mean feat living away from the ‘caregiver’ with whom you got on best.  My Dad’s lack of presence during this time – in spite of him being posted abroad on countless occasions at months a time throughout our life –  was immensely hard, arguably more so given that he was in the same country as us.

Not going  to lie, still surprised, 8 years later, that I managed to pass my GCSE Maths without my Dad’s logistical brain spurring me on from the sidelines.

I realise this all sounds rather doom and gloom, this brain splurge just seemed to come out as a vent about being a military brat – my bad. Was it all bad? Of course not. I was fortunate enough to have my siblings with whom to move through these hectic, formative years, for which I am eternally grateful.

Also, that ‘introduction game’ teachers always seemed to use? You know the one… Three statements: two true, one false. No one would ever guess mine on the first day! Winning! 

  1. Both my parents are Scottish 
  2. I have an identical twin
  3. I know Spanish 

Admittedly, people seemed to presume the first two were lies when they are indeed true; you can’t blame! Scottish parents? Nah, no Scottish twang. Identical twin? Such an unoriginal lie. For those of you who know me, I can’t lie to save my life. I just can’t do it! 

Ironically, I now do kinda know Spanish, soooo…

Would I change my upbringing if I could? 

Nope. Hypothetically speaking about changing the past is pointless. What’s done is done! I am the person now thanks to all I’ve experienced. In spite of the ‘hectic’ (I use that term loosely as I realise no-ones upbringing is without trials and tribulations!) I’ve come to terms with knowing that, yes, anything can happen, but I’m working reducing the significance I attach to these thoughts. Just because it could happen, it doesn’t mean it will. *mentally repeats this statement daily*

The same goes for all the things I thought would never happen. If you were to ask me a year ago if I would finish my degree, I would have answered no. Yet, here I am… A graduate. Would I ever find a place to call home? I found it. 

*unless in the event of death, obviously.

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