I have always been the center of attention.
Sometimes for good reason and sometimes not (Harrah’s Casino, New Orleans, 2013).
When I was four-years-old, I’d make up songs in my bedroom and demand everyone in my house to watch me perform them in the living room on our shag carpet that was various shades of brown.
I’d sing and dance and make up songs about hacky sacks and everyone would applaud me and say, “Great job, Kaitlyn!” And we’d laugh.
I tend to precisely place myself in situations where I know I’ll thrive. Where eyes will be on me and people will laugh at my jokes and I’ll feel special and worthy.
From my living room in the 1990’s to stages all over New Orleans and beyond.
And then a lot changed.
Since my move from New Orleans to DC in June, my role as an upfront and center leading lady has taken a back seat to someone else’s breakout performance.
It’s show business.
This casting change, if you will, is not to say I don’t feel special or worthy or even funny (let’s be real, I’m the funniest person in the room ALWAYS), but lately I’ve been feeling like I’m failing in my part as a “milso,” which stands for Military Significant Other according to Google and every single military blog I’ve ever read ever.
When you’re a military spouse (a “milspouse”), you get benefits, and I’m not just talking bomb.com health insurance. You become a part of the military family. People view you as strong and independent and selfless. You can speak up and it’ll be heard. You can get on base without your significant other escorting you. There are literal awards given out to husbands and wives who have married in the military.
When you’re a girlfriend, it doesn’t always feel like you get this… and I really like awards.
As “just a girlfriend,” I don’t always necessarily feel like I’m a part of a military family. I’m dating someone who’s in the military, and that’s it. Just dating. Just here. Oftentimes, I feel like an outsider with one connection, and that connection is Felix.
It’s like when your more-popular-than-you best friend gets invited to a party and she really wants you to come because, even though she was invited, your familiar presence there will ease her nerves and set her up to be the most flawless social butterfly.
She’ll have the time of her life mingling the night away while you sit on the front steps, reading your book and wondering why you’re there.
Let me say that at every event I’ve been to, I have felt welcome and appreciated and accepted and a part of the group.
Military life has been good to me.
I’ve experienced things I never would have experienced if it weren’t for the military.
I have been enlightened on what it’s truly like to live a life of sacrifice, but it’s not just those serving who are sacrificing.
I have met countless people who have quickly wiggled their way into my heart, and for those who know me, you know how high my heart’s barricades are. Don’t even get me started on the barbed wire thing I’ve got goin’ on.
But at times, it can be hard, and I feel like even more of an outsider than Ponyboy.
There are milspouse groups that I can’t join, because I’m not a milspouse. Did you know that? There are groups for Military Spouses, clubs if you will, and I can’t join! AND I WANT TO. It’s like living my youth all over again when I really wanted to play football in school but I couldn’t because I have boobs.
There are events that take place on base that I can’t attend, because I can’t get on base without someone in the military escorting me. Sometimes it feels like you have a chauffeur.
And sometimes it feels like you have a babysitter.
There is a line that separates civilians from military members, and I am on the other side of the line, while everyone else I know is not.
I’m an island.
A muggle, as I’ve jokingly called myself.
A muggle in a land of wizards.
Holding down the civilian fort with my wit and charm (which is top notch at mil-events, P.S.).
This new role that I’m tackling might be my most difficult one yet, and learning all of those lines for Katherine in Shrew was not easy.
Some days I feel like I’m never going to nail it.
I’m never going to be the best mil-person and there’s a mil-someone out there who can mil-do it better than mil-me.
I’m not used to sitting on the sidelines or cheering someone on from the stand.
Or being a supporting character to someone else’s story.
Or having someone hold my hand and walk me in somewhere that I can’t get into myself.
The truth is, here and now, I’m not the center of attention anymore.
Felix isn’t even the center of attention.
The Air Force is.
And it’s… different.
And it hurts a bit.
To have to take a step back and let someone else have their moment.
To watch the spotlight land on another person while you’re standing backstage in the dark.
Sometimes I miss making up a song and having someone watch me perform and tell me great job.
Because it was my song.
But the truth is, here and now, I’m no longer just an I.
I’m a we.
And that’s kind of sort of mil-okay with me.
One of my favorite characters in TV is the role of Sookie in Gilmore Girls.
A supporting role.
On the sidelines to Lorelai’s shining star moments quite often.
A sitting-on-the-front-steps kind of gal.
But the thing about Sookie is that even though she was standing backstage watching Lorelai flit around her town of Stars Hollow like a social butterfly in her mini skirts and hyped up on caffeine and wasn’t always seen herself, she makes it in the end.
She has everything she wanted.
She finds it.
It finds her.
A loving husband, a thriving career, beautiful kids, and the ability to bake a dozen flawless cakes in the tiniest of inn kitchens.
She’s funny and witty and charming and always has the best shade of lipstick.
Lorelai wouldn’t be Lorelai without Sookie. The Dragonfly Inn wouldn’t exist without Sookie. We wouldn’t all still be fantasizing about eating a basket made from a pretzel with a goat cheese filling without Sookie…
She is important.
She is so important to the story, to the main characters, to the world of Stars Hollow, even if she sometimes feels like she’s on the other side of the invisible divide.
I am saying all of this to also state that sometimes in a world of mil-Lorelai’s, it’s okay to be a mil-Sookie.
Because sometimes you may have less lines…
Sometimes you might not be in as many scenes…
Sometimes it might not be your song and dance that people are watching…
But you are a character in this story. You are equally as loved. And it wouldn’t be Stars Hollow without you.
P.S. Melissa McCarthy totally wins in the end.
For Felix, who I love more than iced coffee that I brew at home myself. Thank you for making a spot for me in your world, lifting me up and showing me off, and always, always, always sitting down, letting me sing my songs, and applauding me.
And even though that was a metaphor, thank you for literally listening to me sing show tunes at the top of my lungs and not running away.