Being a Military Kid Taught Me About Money…and Loneliness (But Not in the Way You’d Expect)

As the child of a military officer, I moved…A LOT. I went to three different high schools, three different elementary schools and two different middle schools. Life was constantly in flux.

It’s a weird existence. And weirdly enough, it’s something that most military families don’t really talk about; it’s simply part of the job.

My sisters and I understood that “home” was a fleeting term, something used to describe your current address, but nothing more.

When the time came for us to pack our bags and leave yet another place, there was never a big talk or announcement from my parents about where we were moving next. Instead, there was a simple conversation.

As the list of where we had lived continued to grow, my sisters and I continued to grow too.

While most kids were excited about entering third grade, we were excited about exploring castle ruins in our German backyard.

We hunted for Easter eggs at this castle!
We hunted for Easter eggs at this castle!

It was an unusual way to live, but the strangest part is something that seems so obvious: I lived so many different lives.

In Alabama, I rode four-wheelers with friends and felt confined by the square footage of a small southern town. In Japan, I posed for pictures with Harajuku girls and laughed when the toilet spoke to me. In Arizona, I rode my bike around our suburban neighborhood and swam with our Golden Retriever in the backyard pool. Each place we lived in provided a snapshot of what life could be like, of what it was like for so many different families across the world. In many ways, it felt like I was only a visitor—observing the customs of a strange land, but never actually a local.

 Small town living in Alabama
Small town living in Alabama

In some places we lived, I made friends easily. In other places, the process of finding friends felt endless. But eventually, I would trade my skater shoes for Sperry’s or my Japanese sushi for In N’ Out burgers and adjust to my surroundings. However, the friendless in between still haunted me.

When I was seven years old, I found myself reacting to the painfulness of adjusting in a weird way: I kept wishing for the weekend. Each day that I rode the bus home, I would mentally write an “X” on the day and celebrate that I was one day closer to freedom.

But I quickly realized that there was a problem with my plan. “Freedom” never lasted.

I would spend the weekend in bliss, surrounded by my family, but no matter what I did, Monday always came.

This cycle continued for a few weeks before I realized what was happening.

Five days out of seven were spent waiting for the other two.

My seven-year-old brain imploded. So many days were spent unhappy and only two were spent in contentment. As I walked home that afternoon, I started crying.

Eventually, friends were made. The weekdays became more enjoyable. I joined the other kids on the playground during lunch. The school days slowly became filled with laugher. Without noticing, I abandoned my mental log.

But even though the log was abandoned, I’ve never forgotten that feeling. The fear of wasting my life still lingers. In many ways, it has pulled me in unexpected directions. The fear drew me into personal finance, and it allowed me to approach my debt repayment with a level of aggression that is usually reserved for NFL sports.

The fear of wasting of my life on things that make me unhappy is very much still alive. And so far, there’s only one way I’ve found to silence the fear: the pursuit of financial freedom.

Sometimes I think about my 7-year old self and wonder what she would think of my answer to her unspoken question.

I like to think that she would be proud.


Have any childhood realizations changed your life?

2 thoughts on “Being a Military Kid Taught Me About Money…and Loneliness (But Not in the Way You’d Expect)

  1. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies says:

    The biggest realization for me from my childhood was that failure isn’t permanent…and neither is success. I spent so much time chasing As that I missed out on a lot of positive risks. Great lesson about wishing for the weekend. My mom always said, “Don’t wish your life away.”


  2. ZJ Thorne says:

    I was a military brat, too. I still don’t feel like home is place. My home is scattered in the hearts of people I love all over the world. I still don’t decorate spaces. They are too impermanent.

    The ability to adapt and take nothing for granted were really powerful lessons I had surrounding me as a child. Everyone thinks that their lives are normal. Everyone is making big assumptions.


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