10 Things I learned about myself while living on Guam

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Photocredit: Myrna Loy Photography

With only a few days left on Guam before we head to Whidbey Island, I can not help but reminisce on our time here.

I will miss a lot of things about living here, the gorgeous beaches and blue waters, the amazing food and culture, the diving, our friends who became family and so much more. I’ll also be sad to be leaving Guam because in the past 3.5 years here, I grew and figured out things about myself and life I never thought I could. Without coming overseas, I wonder if I would have had these same realizations. I came here as a “baby adult” at the sweet age of 23, newly married and not a clue about what the next few years here would bring my way.

I have learned a lot about myself during my time here, and since I am feeling sentimental, I shall share it with you all. Guam will forever be a home in my heart.

1. I learned that the friendships you make while overseas are some that will last forever.

This is probably the most important thing I learned. These friendships are so strong because we create our own family here. They relate to you on almost every level, more than your own family because they experience MOST all the same trials of living overseas. You need them just like they need you. Without them, it is harder. I should also mention that you will make most of your friends within your last year, making it harder to leave when that time comes. But don’t let the fear of saying goodbye to friends every few years stop you from making those friendships. The military is a small world, you’re bound to cross paths again.

2. I learned that your marriage either breaks here, or gets stronger.

When I first moved here someone told me, “people either leave Guam divorced or with a baby”… I, my friends, am leaving with neither. I came out here as a newly wed, and my husband and I never lived together before. We battled a lot, and up until this past June, we had not spent a consecutive year together. Despite all that, my marriage is the strongest it could possibly be because of Guam. Thats after two six month deployments, homecomings and readjusting to living together after being apart, many fights trying to figure each other out, and just living with someone who is just as hardheaded as you. Our good times absolutely outweigh the bad, but my point is living overseas can be hard on your marriage. You can’t drive off the island, I mean you could, but you would go over a cliff into water. Plane tickets home are close to $2,000, so we were forced to communicate to make it work.  Whether it was in the 4 walls of our house, or with limited communication from deployments, we talked it out. We survived, and we are leaving here hand in hand ready to kick ass in the states, taking on new hobbies together and enjoying the Pacific North West.

3. I learned what I wanted to be when I grow up.

Surprise, it’s not a photographer. It’s not a teacher or a marine biologist either, although those were once dreams of mine. No, instead I switched it up one final time and changed my major to Social Science, and decided I would work towards being a counselor one day. It was a decision that I thought about for a long time. When moving to Guam, I was on the path to be a marine biologist, that DOES seem ideal moving to a tropical island. However, I knew I didn’t want to attend UOG, and I couldn’t find any online programs. I started looking more into different majors that “spoke to me”, then Social Science struck an interest. Once that decision was made, I realized it was the best one yet. It FELT right, nothing had ever really spoke to me, but this did. So Ive already been looking at entry-level jobs so I can begin working on my Masters Degree when we get to Whidbey Island. Sometimes big life events, like moving across the world, is perfect when reevaluating your life 🙂 I think had I not moved to Guam, I might still be trying to figure out what career path I wanted to take.

4. I learned its ok to not be strong all the time.

I think people expect this way too much from military spouses, because we “knew what we were getting into”, yet when we show signs of weakness to other people who are not a military spouse or have never dealt with some of the same things, we are looked at in a sense of “poor me, things are so hard” or “poor me, I have no support”. There are times when this will happen, we will be weak and we will get upset and lash out because its hard over here sometimes. We will deal with deployments, have things break, need to make decisions that you need to ask your spouse about but can’t because they are gone. We will spend holidays alone, overwhelm ourselves trying to “stay busy” and then when it rain, it pours. (this is why it’s so important to accept help from friends when they offer it, don’t be stubborn.. if they want to get together and have wine, drink that wine) It is never ok for anyone to place judgement nor should they ever say you have issues because of these feelings on being alone, and unsupported. Feelings are feelings, and if they dont try to understand why you feel this way, cut them off.. they clearly are not capable of extending their mind further to understand.  Normally people with this trait are incapable of opening up their mind, and you as a military spouse dont need this in your life. This happened to me. You’ll thank me for this piece of advise later. No one can be strong all the time, not even Wonder Woman, she has moments of weakness too. Break down, let your feelings out, cry and cuss. Its ok. You’ll clean it up and move on because thats what we do. I am now stronger because of these experiences of feeling alone and weak, and I probably wouldn’t have learned this sense of strength had I not been so far away from home.

5. I learned the value of culture and traveling.

I love people. I love learning. I love exploring. Most people dream of seeing new places, I was fortunate enough to see some of side of the world. Of course I wish I could have traveled more, but with a deployed husband and trying to pay for school, time and money were often limited. Living on Guam has taught me how to understand different cultures and respect them. Coming from a small town, most people do not get this opportunity. Their perception of cultures from around the world are only what they see on TV or briefly learn in school. Our friends and family back home have lived through our pictures and through our stories, and its important for me to educate them on these cultures so when they think of the places and the cultures they have accurate information. It is also important to me, because I think its important to keep an open mind, see different views and perspectives. Learning different cultures gives you this opportunity. While my husband saw different parts of the world than me while he was on deployments, we saw together Japan, South Korea, Saipan, and Bali.. oh and of course Guam. It truly opens up your eyes to the rest of the world, how people live and how it is so different from America. This is just the beginning of our traveling experiences.

6. I learned to care less about others’ opinions, and let materialist items take the back seat. 

It is no secret that Guam lacks a lot of shopping options. This alone conditions you to living with what you have and making due… oh and appreciating when an item you order online comes in less than 6 weeks and doesn’t cost more than the item itself to ship. I quickly learned that getting all cute to go out in public was overrated here. Makeup sweats off your face, and your hair that you spent 30 min curling goes up in a bun. No one here cares if your purse is name brand, if your makeup is or isnt contoured or if your highlights are growing out. Talk about a big change from being stateside where if someone see’s you at the grocery store looking a hot mess, its gossiped about. But really, none of that matters here, it really honestly shouldnt matter anywhere you go.. however it does, and especially back stateside people are very materialistic, this is something I am not looking forward to going back to.

7. I learned that I am ok with living far from family. 

I think this is something I’ve always known, but realized it here. It is very hard at times being far away from home, but I have learned I can’t feel guilty for being gone when I cant be there for things. That was something my husband asked me before we got married, would I be able to handle being from my family, missing big events and not being able to go home on a moments notice. Not everyone is ok with this, but I am. It is what I have to do, and this is the life I want to live.  I love my family, but I also love living a life that is my own.  Being far away also makes going home that much sweeter. You don’t always appreciate the moments you have with people until you are far away.

8. I learned I am not a summer all year type of person. 

Guam is beautiful, but I appreciate a change in seasons. I might regret this statement when we move to Whidbey Island. But after living without seasons for 6 years after moving from North Carolina its been rough, and hot. I am overdue for some fall weather, boots and pumpkin spice, basically everything that classifies me as a basic white girl.

9. I learned that I really can do almost anything I can put my mind to.

Move overseas- Check//Survive two deployments-Check//Take over 15 credit hours per semester-Check//Graduate college-Check//Start a photography business from stratch- Check//Help start an FRG with my husbands squadron- Check//Nanny part time- Check//Get Dive Certified-Check//Be a wife to my husband-Check// I really don’t give myself enough credit sometimes. And I am sure most people would say, I didn’t need Guam to prove I am determined to succeed in life. I am a pretty selfless person (although some people seem to think I am all about Me Me Me). I rarely say no to people, which is probably my worst flaw. I would rather put all my time into giving to others or building my business than putting time into myself. This is probably where I learned the hard lesson of its ok to not be strong all the time. But really, any time I ever doubted myself, I proved myself wrong. I often wonder if all the things I had done here would have been the same if I were stateside. Guam has had a way of challenging me in a good way in order for me to grow mentally.

10. Finally, I learned that home is truly where you make it. Guam is what you make of it. 

This could not be more true. Home is a place that you create. Whether it is with family or half way around the world. As long as you are happy with where you are, that is what matters most. Guam will forever hold such a special place in my heart because before coming out here, as I said in the beginning, I was a “baby adult”. I came to Guam during a stage in my life where I needed Guam, even though I didnt even know where it was if I am being honest. Guam quickly became our home that we loved. I would list out the things I will miss about Guam, but I am so thankful for the time we have had here and the growth I have had inside. I in a sense “grew up” mentally here. Life became less about caring about what others thought, and more about building a life worth living. If you find the positive aspects in any place you live, you’ll love calling it home. I know for some its hard to love living on Guam, its hard to see the positive in living here. I’ve always said that if you look for positive things, you’ll live a happier life. Life is what you make it. If you have the opportunity to live on Guam, let Guam be what you make it, appreciate you’re time here and know that home is a place you create.

5 thoughts on “10 Things I learned about myself while living on Guam

  1. Love you, Anni. Amazing blog post. You were such an amazing person to have in my life during our time there on island and I’m so blessed to have been able to know you my entire time there. I am wishing you well on your travels and settling back into the states. You will always have a huge cheering section here from the Schauder family. Love and Light. <3

  2. This is all so true Anni!! I hope you the best of luck with everything you do. You are an amazing person and I will cherish my photos from you for forever. The photos and videos you took for me was how I shared the big events in my life with my family. 😘

  3. I loved reading this. We were stationed on Guam for four years straight from Oct 2007 to October 2011. My son had Pre-K to the first month of Second grade at the McCool school. Now he’s about to start 8th grade at the end of the month back here in the states. I experienced a lot of Island fever there, and his grandparents didn’t see him from age 3 and a half to age 7, but that last six months on the island really hit me how all of a sudden, I was terrified to leave. I didn’t WANT to go anymore. It finally hit me i’d never experience the Rota walk at Christmas anymore on the AFB. I’d never go to Gab Gab again. I’d not get to drive by the Mccool school years from now and say “wow, that’s where my son started his school career” and have a nostalgic moment. I’d never step foot in Tumon again or Underwater World Aquarium. Never eat another Siopao from a convenient store. Never see that friendly lady at the mini mart on base that always loved talking to my son. We had already extended a year, and we’re approaching the four year mark. We weren’t allowed to stay any longer. Fast forward to now, with this coming October being the 6 year mark since we stepped onto that plane, I can truely say that I am always thinking about Guam. Always. Almost daily a Facebook memory of mine or a friends pops up reminding us of times in Guam. I get sad when I get curious and check the McCool facebook page. Nostalgia floods in. Is it for sure we’ll never get back? no. The odds i’m afraid aren’t in our favor though and it gives a dull ache.

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