By Taylor Ward
Growing up as a military brat had its ups and downs. My dad served in the United States Air Force for 22 years before retiring, and 16 of those years I was a part of. As far back as I can remember, my dad’s Permanent Change of Station (PCS) schedule always fell during the middle of the school year.
I was born in Jacksonville, Arkansas where we lived for about one year until my dad received orders for his next PCS. We then moved to Reykjavic, Iceland where we lived for two years. This was my first move in the middle of a school year, but I was too young to remember that one. After Iceland, we PCS’d to Dyess Air Force Base in Taylor County, Texas. We lived on base for a while and I have a few memories of concrete playgrounds, but pretty soon after we got there, my parents bought a house in Abilene and my dad commuted to work. We lived in Abilene for six years before he received another PCS order.
This next one I remember.
It was halfway through my fourth-grade year and I was nine years old when we moved across the world to Vogelweh, Germany. EUROPE! I was old enough to feel a little strange coming into a new classroom with new kids and a new teacher, but thankfully still young enough to find friends easily. Fourth graders weren’t old enough to start forming cliques yet, so I managed to find kids who liked me enough to hang out with me. I spent the rest of elementary school in Germany and started middle school with those kids.
I remember being friends with everyone in my grade. I would walk through the halls and say hi to all I encountered. I felt comfortable and safe – which is why our next PCS was the hardest.
Halfway through eighth-grade my dad got orders to Oahu, Hawaii. Paradise, right? Technically, yes. Mentally? Not even close. But I needed to be strong for my parents. My sister was having a hard time adjusting as well, and I had to be the rock my family could count on — the one who was excited for the move.
But it was hard. Moving to a state that predominantly consisted of Pacific Islanders, I was suddenly the odd girl out. Especially in my middle school, as everyone had already found their friend groups. I was lonely and exhausted. Eventually, I made some friends and joined a competitive swim team. Things were looking up.
Then we moved again.
Halfway through my 11th grade year, my dad retired from the military and they moved us to Cibolo, Texas where my mom and dad decided they wanted to live. So, my junior year of high school, I stumbled into a new place halfway through the school year. With no friends. Again.
I didn’t form relationships with people until the beginning of my senior year when everyone had finally gotten used to my presence. This move was particularly hard on me because my entire academic career up until that point was focused on graduating my high school as valedictorian. Only, now that wasn’t possible. The new school I transferred into averaged my 98s and 100s from the classes in my old school down to 95s across the board. I dropped from third in my class to somewhere in the 70s. And on top of all that, my counselor told us that I would have had to attend the school for all four years in order for me to be eligible for valedictory honor at graduation.
I was devastated.
But momma didn’t raise no quitter. I put my nose to the grindstone and worked my way to the top. I clawed my way out of the 70s into the top tenth percentile of my class. I graduated 26th in my class and with over a 4.0 GPA.
Baylor has been my first real experience staying at a school for its entire allotted amount of time. It’s strange, and I’m starting to get the moving bug. It’s something about growing up and moving every three or four years that wires your brain a certain way. You get used to it and really just come to expect it. So, finishing out my fourth and last year at Baylor has been a bit of a contradictory experience. I’m both happy to have been able to stay the entire time and anxious to move on to my next chapter.
How I grew up was hard, but I’m thankful for every moment because it prepared me for those difficult moments in life. I adjust really well to new and stressful situations, and I’m a stronger, more independent and capable person. I wouldn’t trade how I grew up for anything.