For those unfamiliar with the lingo– ‘geo-bach/elor/ette’ is a commonly used term to describe a situation when a couple is separated geographically for one reason or another: such as pursuing employment opportunities, school for the spouse or kids, or maintaining close proximity to optimal healthcare. There are lots of differing opinions about living the geobach life, but here’s the bottom line: if you’re considering this as an option for your family get informed, weigh your options carefully, and then do whatever the fuck is best for you.
Story Time: Why We Decided to Geobach
My husband and I have spent over half of our relationship doing some form of long distance togetherness for various reasons. When we met, we were living in different parts of the country, so our foundation was built on figuring out how to make the physical distance not feel like emotional distance. Then, after living in the same city for a while, his two kiddos moved out east (where they still live with their mama). He teleworked for an IT company at the time so he relocated to Raleigh to be closer to them. I, on the other hand, had committed to the idea that I would not leave Denver without a college degree. I had already transferred my credits between five different schools, losing credits and racking up my student loan tab along the way. When he left, I had one full year left of my bachelor’s and I was getting the majority of it paid for thanks to busting my ass applying for all of the scholarships. I finally felt like I was being challenged in school, working toward a degree that I actually enjoyed putting the effort into. Beyond that, the program had a great recruiting program with 99% of graduates receiving job offers well before graduation day. It felt like an obvious choice to me: I would stay behind and finish school, and apply to accounting firms close to him.
Then his package for commissioned officer training was accepted and he got his assignment to Altus Air Force Base. He went off to COT and then job training after that, settling in Altus, OK just in time for me to finish up the school year. Well, by then my GPA had qualified me for acceptance into the accelerated master’s program which also allowed me to keep my undergrad scholarships, plus receive graduate funds. So I spent the summer with him in Altus and went back to Denver in the fall. Nine months of skype dates later I walked across the stage, grabbed that empty diploma case and bee-lined straight for the door. I didn’t hang around for the hat throwing and even though I was the 1% graduating without a job offer secured (no public accounting firms in Altus–go figure), I could not wait to pack up my little rent-a-room and move into my house with my husband.
I spent the summer scouring USAJobs hoping to find some way to utilize my degree I had worked so damn long and hard for. I sacrificed all that time and money–I was determined to get a return on my investment, while still attempting to figure out my newfound milspouse status. USAJobs has this nice feature for military spouses called the Priority Placement Program (PPP-S) that is aimed at helping spouses maintain careers while accompanying their service members on orders. I utilized this amazing little benefit and after applying for nearly every job I qualified for and then some, I finally got through to interview, and then a job offer! YASSS.
Unfortunately for me, we got married after husband got his orders to Altus. According to the DoD, I wasn’t the legal property of the service member at the time the orders were cut–thus, I was not qualified to be the recipient of any spousal job placement benefits. So they revoked the job offer. FAAHCK. With Altus being such a small base, job openings are scarce; and with no placement preference, I was screwed. The civilian personnel office cared more about my marriage certificate than my fancy-ass diplomas.
Me: But I have skills! I WANT to work! You have positions OPEN that I can DO! I have an intense desire to contribute to the continued success of the world’s greatest Air Force!
Them: Nope. Didn’t plan that elopement fast enough.
Me: What in the actual fuck.
I was discouraged.
Everyone I knew from school had jobs they were starting. Beyond that, I was a non-traditional (read: older) college student–so I already felt behind. I recognized I was in a slightly more complex situation, but still. I was anxious to get my career going and gain some experience. My husband was (and always has been) massively supportive: constantly reassuring me that something would work out, trying to get me to enjoy my time off, encouraging me to keep my options open by applying for jobs across all fields, and working tirelessly to soothe my anxious mind, all while fully supporting us financially (I wasn’t lying when I said he was the best).
Even with this support and reassurance, I slipped easily into a massive funk. Here I was, rounding the corner of thirty, college-educated, and for the first time since I was a teenager, I was completely reliant on someone else to take care of me. I’ve always valued my independence and suddenly it was gone. Without that, who was I? My self-worth plummeted and I struggled to make friends because I was so immensely insecure with myself. My sweet husband would try to get me out of the house to meet people, but I found myself dreading social situations to the point of panic. I didn’t know what to talk about because I felt like I wasn’t doing anything with my life. I would go home and cry because I thought so badly of myself and feared everyone could see it. He would build me up with a pre-outing pep talk, hold my hand during the whole event, and then deal with a meltdown afterward. And he still loves me, guys. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found him.
So what the hell does all this have to do with geobaching? I’m getting there, I swear.
Well, I finally came across a job opening on USAJobs that I qualified for and stood a chance at getting without having to validate my marital status.
You mean I can get a job all by myself?! LAWDY-ME! They let ladies do that now?!?!
Only catch was that it was two and a half hours away in Oklahoma City. I applied without giving it much thought because at that point, was so jaded I figured I’d never get a job. So of course I got an offer. OMG finally, validation. After all the rejections I finally landed something. I wasn’t a do-nothing-bitch with a bunch of needless skills! (btw, let me clarify before you get your panties in a bunch: stay-at-home-spouse/parent ≠ do-nothing-bitch) I wanted to accept the job, even though it would separate us again. I needed it. Quite literally for my sanity. To prove to myself that I hadn’t wasted all the time, effort, and money on a degree I would never use. Beyond that, my student loan repayment grace period was rapidly coming to an end. And I have A LOT of student loans. Like a lot. It’s actually kind of terrifying. Of course, it wasn’t ideal that we would be separated. Again.
The point of this crazed rambling:
I have my reasons. And even though I did just explain them to you–I feel no need to defend myself because I know I’m doing the best I can with what I have. I need to do this right now and my husband is a strong enough man to support me in achieving my goals, even when it’s not the easy choice. It doesn’t make me a bad wife. It doesn’t make me selfish. It doesn’t make me less of a milspouse. So don’t even come at me with that ish. Because we have committed to the idea that this short term sacrifice will manifest in long term gain. While it sucks to be apart now (so so much), and some people don’t ‘get it’, my husband and I will benefit tenfold from this decision.
So I say all that to say– if you’re considering geobaching–do your research, talk to people who have done it (hi), weigh all the options, and then do whatever the fuck is right for you and don’t feel like you need to explain yourself to anyone. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this decision. Your story will not have the same details as mine. But hopefully in sharing my thought process around the whole thing, you will take comfort that there is someone out there who gets it and has walked that walk. And if you’re reading this just because you like my blog (thanks bb) and are not actually faced with the to-geobach-or-not-to-geobach question–well, I hope this gives some perspective into the hoops milspouses have to jump through just to get a paycheck.
The struggle is real. Also, if you could bring me some wine that would be great.
Stay tuned for part 2: The good, the bad, and the ugly of geobach life