By Elyse Delano |

I was six years old and my beloved stuffed pink unicorn was nowhere to be found. The cars had been thoroughly searched and the house was completely empty, so there was only one place left it could be: in the boxes. It was probably around midnight and my parents and I were ripping tape off the containers labeled “Elyse’s room” and searching blindly with our hands looking for my “Uni”. It was day three of what would be my third move and I was just beginning to learn what life was like as a Navy brat. I wasn’t sure I liked it much, even after we found my stuffed animal buried in moving paper.

I’ve never known what life is like for “normal” kids. Planning my graduation party was weird. I’d lived in Fairfax Station, Virginia for four years, the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere, but I still felt like my guest list was so low. My friends were inviting neighbors, church mentors, family friends and people who’d known them for the majority of their lives. I’d only known these people since 9th grade, which felt like an eternity to me. Moving wasn’t something I resented at first; it was all I knew. I couldn’t see that other kids were staying in the same schools for all of elementary school, while I was moving out of one before I even finished Kindergarten.

Photo courtesy of Elyse Delano

The first time I really realized I hated moving was the year I started 7th grade. Middle school itself is hard, but add moving to a new place and trying to penetrate circles of old friends and it feels impossible. I’d left my favorite place and my best friends, and for the first time I felt truly alone. I realized that everyone didn’t move constantly or restart their lives every two years. I realized, I guess for the first time, that moving really sucked.

My 7th and 8th grade years were the worst of my life. I was the definition of an overdramatic teen; everything was happening to me and no one could fix it. I had reached a point where I was so desperate to make friends that I picked the first people who talked to me and latched onto their group. Those relationships weren’t healthy, but I didn’t care because I had friends.

I resented everything that had to do with the Navy, with moving, even sometimes with my own Dad, because to me, those were the sources of the pain and negativity in my world.

Photo courtesy of Elyse Delano

It wasn’t until years later that I actually stood back and looked at my life and let go of all the bitterness I was desperately holding onto. I let go of the “what ifs” and finally noticed everything I had been given. I had the opportunity, from the moment I was born, to immerse myself in cultures within the United States that so many people go their whole lives without seeing; I lived the island life in Hawaii, rode horses and raised kittens on farms in Oklahoma and even went to high school minutes away from the United States Capitol building—I was so lucky and didn’t even realize it.

Moving around so much when I was young was never easy, but I wouldn’t go back and change any part of it. It took a lot to get over myself and realize I was privileged, and I feel guilty about all the times I took my life for granted. Sure, I wouldn’t do it again, and I did sometimes laugh when people asked me if I was going to “follow in my Father’s footsteps” and join the military, but it’s an experience I would trade for no other. I got to try a life of moving, of new schools, different people and of always going somewhere. I’m excited for the next part of my life— one where I stay somewhere instead of go. But I will always cherish the times when I put up tree swings in our new front yard, or got to decorate my latest room, or met more best friends. Those are days I’ll never forget.