State of Residency: Texas
State of your current driver’s license: Arizona
State in which your vehicles are titled: North Carolina
State in which your vehicles are currently registered: Hawaii
State where you currently live: California
This really speaks to our military life. It wasn’t until we gathered all our documents together to register the cars in our current state, California, that I realized just how much of our lives have been spread across the states. Soon these will all merge, but at the present I find myself still in awe at all the California license plates around; by contrast growing up here I always found it exciting to see out of state plates. My life has made a geographic full circle.
In my thoughts of exiting the Army life, I didn’t really know what to expect and I never asked anyone immediately after they retired out to find the most notable differences. Although, the hubs is still dwindling down his terminal leave, we’ve been reintroduced to civilian life the past three weeks. Complete with our boys starting school and this mom going back to office life. We have experienced Culture Shock in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Granted, if we had retired near a military installation, the change likely wouldn’t be as apparent. But with the closest base three HOURS away, the divide is great and the locals extremely patriotic.
Groceries: Although I didn’t know it at the time, Brendon said it best before we left, “No commissary? But where will we get our groceries?!” I thought it would be easy to figure out. Not so. I find if I talk to anyone longer than 5 minutes, I inevitably ask them where they buy groceries. I took for granted the ease the commissary brings. Costco, Safeway, Trader Joes, Raley’s, Winco, Food Maxx, strong cautionary tales again Walmart…. Not to mention the two closest grocery stores want me to be a super saving “member”. What?! No. I just want groceries.
Beards: I made a comment about beards on Facebook last week. Really and truly, beards are very BIG here. Maybe it’s a National phenomenon? I have no idea, but beards are so foreign in the land of service members. Even mustaches only make an appearance once a year, during Movember.
Identification: I still get my ID ready whenever I get in the car. Years of living behind a gate have made this an ingrained habit. I must have my ID in arms reach. Except I no longer live behind a gate. Nor do I shop where they need to see my ID at the door AND when I’m at the register (Costco being the only exception). It is strange how infrequently you show your ID in the civilian world. Except in the case of purchasing alcohol. I possibly was carded TWICE in two years at the Class Six for an alcohol purchase. Here, I have been carded each and every time. I am no spring chicken, but I appreciate the ever so slight ego boost.
Being New: I have been new many times. It is an expected side effect of the military lifestyle. “When did you PCS?” followed by “When DO you PCS?” are common conversation starters. I am new here too, except people constantly ask: “Are you new to the area?”; most often following a question that garners a look of confusion. Or best put by the employee at the DMV: “You aren’t the typical Redding customers.” That we are not.
Local Culture: If you haven’t been around a military installation – it is the true melting pot. But for all its racial diversity, the military community is homogenous in its behavior, culture, and general appearance. Even those living in the near vicinity of military installations, somehow fall in line, for the most part, with the same “regs”. Now surrounded by civilians, I notice almost the exact opposite is true. In Northern California, the diversity is widely expressed in every way, outside of race, and the appearance of general American diversity almost disconcerting. (See above mentioned Beards)
The other factor here in the North State, is the palpable undercurrent of negativity. In recent years, the area has become overrun with homeless. Not the kind of homeless that roll around under bridges, keeping to themselves (this is what I envision I would do in triple digit heat, with no job or family), but instead homeless riddled with drug and alcohol addiction; blatant and belligerent. I think the lack of eradication by local law enforcement is breeding discord of an exponential level. Way beyond the level of disgruntled dependents I’ve been used to experiencing.
However, the biggest cultural change for the McNultys is the proximity to family and childhood friends. So far, it has proven to be a real blessing. Say when one is camping in their house for an undetermined amount of weeks or needing a quick sit for Back to School night. Life within the 50 mile buffer, so famously suggested by retired military, is going well. As for living in Redding long term? I’m not sure at this point. If I had to predict where we’ll be in 5 years, I’d guess we’d be off to Cottonwood for a little space and a whole lot of view. That is the dream.
*I haven’t figured out exactly what State of Jefferson is all about, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon.