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If you look at me, I’m the standard UK student. You might find me in an obnoxiously long line at Chick-Fil-A, or maybe trudging around campus on a rainy day. I could be next to you in the eRUPPtion Zone, pouring out my heart and soul into a CATS chant. Physically, you won’t know what sets me apart from the majority of the population at the University of Kentucky until you ask a simple question that will leave me absolutely tongue-tied. “Where are you from?” This standard question usually has a quick and easy answer but the simplest way I can answer this is by saying “everywhere.”
I was born in Fort Polk, Louisiana, but I’m not even close to being Cajun. In fact, I don’t really recall any of my time in that state at all because I moved a little over a year after I was born. This whirlwind of packing and unpacking would repeat 13 times over the next 18 years because I grew up as a military brat. Military brats are the children of those serving full-time in the U.S. Armed Forces. Military brats are a huge part of the U.S. military’s culture and have created an American subculture that is over 200 years old. I’d be very surprised if you’ve never met a military brat because the Department of Defense estimates that there are approximately 15 million former and current military brats in the U.S.
Personally, I’m an “army brat” because I was born and raised as a dependent of the U.S. Army but there are also Navy brats, Air Force Brats, Marine brats and more. Unlike most people, I don’t mind being called a brat at all. I think I speak for most military brats when I say that I find the term extremely endearing and that I love being recognized for having the spunky and independent attitude of a military kid. I’ve had so many experiences that some people will never have, and lived in places that most people only dream of visiting. From Washington State to Alabama, I’ve lived all over the U.S. I was also given the opportunity to see the world when I lived in Germany and South Korea. Although I’ve lived in many different places, an army base is the only place that I have ever truly felt at home. To this day, I am comforted by the consistent and uniform environment that exists on any military base.
Most people ask, “Didn’t you hate moving so much?” I can’t really say that I hated it because I’ve never known anything different. Each move brought it’s own challenges and although there were a lot of tears, military families hold each other together when times get tough. I led a relatively normal and happy childhood and now that I’m in college, I don’t have to move (Although the thought of settling down forever is far more frightening than the idea of being completely up-rooted).
The last move, right before my senior year of high school, was definitely the hardest. It was my first time not living on or attending school on an Army base. On an Army base, the first day at a new school is exciting and fun. Teachers are sensitive to new students and all your classmates are extremely accepting, considering they know firsthand exactly what you’re going through. However, the first day of my senior year was a nightmare. Not knowing anyone was nothing new to me but I was disappointed to discover that everyone had their own clique. I didn’t really fit in anywhere and most people thought that I was weird because they didn’t understand why I moved around so much. I ate lunch in the library everyday and was friends with more teachers than students.
Although I was absolutely miserable, I found solace in the fact that I was headed to a huge university in just a few months. I had chosen the University of Kentucky. I wanted to stay close to my family, who live about an hour away from Lexington, but still far enough away to get a full college experience. I wasn’t too nervous to go to a new place but after the last move, I wasn’t as confident as I usually would have been. I was a little intimidated at the thought of being on my own at the huge university that awaited me.
Throughout my first months at the Big Blue Nation, I was blown away when I met small-town kids who hadn’t even been out of the state and was happy to relate to people who came from the opposite sides of the country. Contrary to before, they thought my lifestyle was interesting, not weird and I was genuinely interested in their lifestyles as well. For the first time in a long time, I somehow felt like I was where I was supposed to be.
I’ve been a Wildcat for three years and have made the University of Kentucky my home. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of amazing people I’ve met and some of the longest friendships I’ve ever had. Not to mention, feeling completely accepted by my peers for the first time in a very long time. Although I’ve found a home in the Bluegrass, I could never turn my back on my Army brat upbringing. Being an Army brat has made me who I am today: strong, adaptable and independent, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.