Live What You Believe #FeatureFriday

For quite some time I’ve wanted to share mini profiles about people in my life who lived in such a way that sparked my motivation to refine what I believe and endeavor to live what I believe in light of truth (rather than circumstances or emotions.) I have several notebooks of topics and ideas on this, but this week @CBSNews featured a friend of mine, Jennifer Wilson Avery, who recently retired from the Air Force and Missouri Air National Guard. Be sure to watch the video below for Jen’s story, it’s the kind of news that seems rare these days and exactly the kind of news I want to share with my girls: proof that you can dream big, aim high 😉, and follow your heart.

I met Jen a few months after marrying into the Air Force. I’d traded in my White House Staff ID for a “dependent” ID and begun looking for a job, trying to figure out my place as an Air Force Spouse. I’d seen my mom navigate this life, and had heard my grandmother’s stories, but I hadn’t been around the military since my dad retired fifteen years prior, and I didn’t know where I fit. I’d had a career that I was proud of, but suddenly my experience didn’t seem to match what I thought was true and possible for an Air Force Spouse. (A misperception confirmed by my repeated interactions with civilian personnel system.) In one of my lowest moments as a new Air Force wife, I wondered whether my goals and dreams mattered in this new life. I knew my husband loved me and my dreams, but maybe those needed to take a firm backseat until he retired. {This kind of thinking, friends, is what I call ‘believing what I live.’}

Not long after meeting Jen I eventually pieced together that not only was she a B-2 pilot, but she was one of the first two female B-2 pilots, AND she’d flown in combat. In addition to being a rock star pilot and trailblazer for #bomberwomen she was a wife and mother who confidently (and honestly) wrestled with the challenges of juggling all those roles. Sometimes she did it with a smile, other times she was probably smiling with clenched teeth. More than once we talked about what it meant (and requires) to do it all and do it well – because, doing it all perfectly is an illusion.

Jen’s friendship was the first of several Air Force friends whose example caused me to really look at what I believe about the role of an Air Force Spouse, and the (false) assumptions I had about what we can and should do professionally. The short version of that long story is this: there is not a defined role for Air Force spouses and there’s no job description. Further, there’s fewer expectations of a military spouse than we believe or assume. In fact, the biggest critic of how I navigate this life exists in my head, not next door. So rather than trying to fit into a mold that didn’t exist, I started asking myself: “what do I believe about the role of an Air Force Spouse? Am I living that or am I believing what I live?”

For nearly every generation of Air Force spouses, our careers have been limited by sacrifices required when constantly relocating around the world. While many of those same barriers exist for spouses today, technology has vastly improved our ability to do a job or keep a job even as we pack up our families and move, repeatedly. (The single hardest part of being a military spouse pursuing a career is sometimes simply getting a job. But that’s another story, too.)

Shortly after that low point in my first year of marriage, I received a call from a former colleague asking if I would write speeches for my former boss who had recently relocated from DC to Dallas. As I shared news of my dream job with my husband, he smiled and said, “I told you so.”

He had. Exactly one day prior he had looked at my tear-streaked face and told me my dreams were not worthless, and that I could do and be whatever I wanted professionally. He pointed to several military spouses, including Jen Avery, as proof being a military spouse didn’t mean ditching my career. He believed before I did.

Ten years later I’ve written speeches from five different states, birthed two kids, stayed home, traveled, called in my Mom to help, and transitioned from working full time to part-time to sometimes not even being paid. What I’ve discovered is that doing what I love (writing) is worth finding a way to make it work – just like marrying the one I love is worth moving (repeatedly) so we can be together.

Today maybe you’re questioning whether you can pursue your dreams AND be a military spouse AND a parent. Yes. You can. Maybe you don’t quite believe it yet. That’s ok. I’ll believe it for you.

I look forward to telling you, “I told you so.”

Watch the video here:

And be sure to check out this one too, about another set of friends who inspire me with their commitment to their marriage alongside their commitment to service: