I have been the new girl since the day I was born, and I have spent the last 45 years perfecting my new girl skills. Being the new girl can be equal parts exhilaration and terror. Or not so equal parts of sucky. Below is my top advice for new girls (and boys) everywhere.
- Three strike rule.
Give your new unit/FRG/coffee group at least three chances. I will never forget my first coffee after we PCS’d to El Paso, Texas. I drove across an unfamiliar city to find a group of unfamiliar faces waiting. Everyone was friendly, but I felt like an outsider and could not connect to save my life. At the end of the night I thanked the hostess, said goodbye and cried my way home. A big deployment was looming, so I decided not to give up; I kept going until I clicked. The third time was a charm, and a nasty 14 month deployment later I was surrounded by strangers who became sisters. I will always be thankful I went back.
- The world won’t come to you.
Get involved in something that gets you out of the house. New neighbors might swing by with cookies, but you have to get out the door and meet them halfway. Any group that shares a common interest is worth a shot. Want to try one of the new restaurants you drove past on your way into town? Do a role reversal and invite a neighbor to join you.
- Start fresh with new décor, new family traditions and a new focus.
Always wanted to try something new? Now is the time. New homes offer endless opportunities for change. Change is not easy, but putting yourself in control of the changes can help. Redecorate, find a new hobby or introduce a new family tradition.
- Don’t put your old duty station on a pedestal.
The way back machine is a dangerous place to reside. The best duty station is your last duty station; don’t fall into that trap. There were crummy times back in the glory days too.
- Give yourself six months to feel normal.
Whether you got the duty station of your dreams or nightmares, it takes a good six months to feel at home in your new surroundings. I wanted Germany for my husband’s entire career, and we finally received our overseas orders after 15 years. I was beyond excited, but it still took time to feel like home.
- Don’t jump too soon.
Bunco? Sure! PTA President? Sign me up! FRG Leader? I’m your girl! Not so fast valiant volunteer. Pace yourself, and get the lay of the land before you raise your hand. Choose wisely, and be committed to what you choose.
- Trust your gut.
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck. Quack, quack!
- First impressions can fool you.
Do not write someone off or make someone your BFF based solely on first impressions. Some people are great the first time you meet them, and others are slow to warm. Everyone has an off day, and some are always off.
- Make family cards on Vista Print.
They are inexpensive, and you can put your family contact info on a cute and convenient little card. I loved receiving those when I met new friendly faces, and they are easier to keep up with than random slips of paper. http://www.vistaprint.com/gallery/EMkCAAABAAMAAAA=/standard-business-cards/mommy-cards.aspx?filter=90%3a10546%7c%7c1%2c9%3a10013%7c%7c1%2c78%3a10467%7c%7c1%2c4%3a10003%7c%7c1&xnav=search&rd=1
- Reach out to friends who have been to your new duty station.
They can give you the skinny on veterinarians, hairdressers, schools, dentists, etc., but be warned that one person’s horrible experience might be completely different for you. Take all information into account, but make your own decision once you arrive. Your kiddos might love a school your friend hated. Taste is relative, but having a list to narrow down options is helpful.
- Social media is a powerful tool.
Google away! Get your Facebook on! There are great spouses groups and blogs out there, but beware that a little information can be a dangerous thing for some. A rumor they hear can quickly become gospel. Join the groups you find, but verify, verify, verify.
- It is OK to miss your old life.
Have a cry, make a call, look at old pictures, but then put away your memories and get out the door to make new ones.
“A simple hello could lead to a million things.” ~ Anonymous