On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Hohenfels Spouse Leadership Conference. This was a two-day event, but I was unable to attend the first day on Tuesday due to my ongoing commitment with PWOC. I was glad that I could attend the second day to hear the keynote speakers, Kathie Hightower and Holly Scherer. They are the coauthors of Help! I’m a Military Spouse – I Get a Life Too! How to Craft a Life for YOU as You Move With the Military. I received a free copy of this book from ACS and was anxious to hear these ladies speak after reading their book.
The conference was held off-post, so bus transportation was provided from ACS. The day started at Gut Matheshof in Kreuth (about 20 minutes from post). There we had a breakfast and had a short presentation from the Health Clinic. Then the buses took us to the Ostbayernhalle for the workshop presentation. Kathie and Holly’s message focused on five key findings from research that affect our sense of satisfaction/happiness in life. These include (1) Support/Relationships, (2) Faith, Hope & Gratitude, (3) Simple Joys, (4) Know What You Want, (5) Service/Meaning. I believe I have a good grasp on the first three key findings. I am extremely grateful for deep relationships with family & friends; I have a strong faith and am thankful for the many blessings in my life; I enjoy many simple things in life (just ask Brandon how happy I get about new office supplies!); and I generally have a positive attitude.
Key finding #4 is the one that I currently need to work on. Since moving to Germany, I have been having a bit of a purpose-crisis. In NC, I had a job I enjoyed that combined my passions for music and business, and I was involved in a wonderful church. In TN, I was able to continue working and found additional purpose in my new role as the FRG leader for B TRP. However, I haven’t really figured out what I’m supposed to do here in Germany when we aren’t traveling. Should I try to pursue music? Or is it time to “give up” on that dream to pursue something more practical, like accounting? At first glance, both options seem almost impossible to do in Germany. I can’t audition for professional orchestras because I don’t play the “right” clarinet. (Note for non-clarinetists: In the U.S., we play the French Boehm system, while Germans play the Oehler system. The differences could probably be an entirely separate blog post, but basically the keys and fingerings are completely different. It’s not very practical to buy a new instrument and learn a brand new system for three years.) I can’t pursue accounting since I don’t have any accounting credentials and even if I did, German Accountings Standards are different from U.S. Accounting Standards. It would be easy for me to get frustrated and bitter being here in Germany if I assumed that I couldn’t pursue my career while we are here.
Kathie and Holly encouraged us to create a vision for our ideal life, to start with the end in mind and leave out all “shoulds” and comparisons to others. Then we should ask “What can I do here? What is available here? What steps can I take now?” I had already started working through some of this before the conference on Wednesday. I have found a Masters of Accountancy program and I am completing prerequisites online in order to enroll. My goal is to be able to sit for the CPA exam before we move back to the U.S. I am also looking into a potential job at the tax center on post to get some experience. For my desire to play my clarinet professionally, I might just be lucky to be able to perform for free while I’m here. I recently joined the Parsberg Community Band in order to play with a group again. I’m also going to teach clarinet lessons for the first time in my life. Kathie and Holly emphasized that obtaining the final goal is not what brings happiness to life, happiness comes from taking steps towards your goals/dreams. One of the steps they suggested was creating a “Dare to Dream” team of 5-6 people to help each member figure out how to go for his or her dreams, providing support, accountability, resources, and general encouragement.
I gained a lot from attending the conference on Wednesday, and I feel more confident that the steps I am taking while we are stationed here will further my career goals even if I’m not currently in a paid position. I highly recommend Holly & Kathie’s book to other military spouses and encourage you to go hear them speak if you ever have the opportunity!