The Dandalion

By Jaychelle Milani  |   From : Pembroke Pines, Florida  |   School : Everglades High School

Have you ever had a moment in your life where everything seems to be going faster than you can comprehend? Your surroundings are changing, the people around you are changing, everything is changing. That’s the simplified version of my life the past two years. Almost everything was temporary and nothing felt like it would stay, not my friends, not where I was living, not even me. It was like being in a corn maze for two years until all the corn died and I finally found somewhat of a way out, albeit not in the traditional way.

I was born into a military family, because of that I never really know what to answer when someone asks me, “Where’d you grow up?”. Being a part of a military family means that you move around a lot. Its formal name is a “PCS”, which stands for “Permanent change of station”. The longest I’ve lived in a city is seven years, and that city was Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas, there’s an air force base named “Nellis”. I was born on Nellis Air Force Base, in Las Vegas Nevada. By then my father had been in the air force for sixteen years. With my arrival, our family went from four to five. Three girls, Monique being the oldest, Jaidyn the middle child, and me. My parents had no kids after me, making me the youngest. Seven years after I was born my parents were thinking about retiring and were even looking at houses to move into. However, my father came back with news one day saying that we were moving to Japan, and we had three months to report to the new duty station.

The school year wasn’t over yet and me and my two sisters had to finish it. So, while my sisters and I finished school my parents were frantically trying to pack up our house. What needed to go into storage? What did we need immediately when we got there? What wasn’t necessary anymore and could be thrown out or donated? On top of all that my parents currently had custody of my cousin, Angela. They wanted to take her with us to Okinawa. My parents would’ve had to adopt Angela for her to move with us. They didn’t have time to argue with my grandfather, who protested against us taking Angela, so we had to leave Angela in the U.S. while we were in Japan.

On our way to Okinawa, we took a detour and stayed in Hawaii for two weeks to visit my family. It was summer break after all. I got to meet relatives that I never knew existed and experience my Hawaiian culture first hand. The two weeks were spent at luaus, (Hawaiian parties/gatherings) beaches, and relatives’ houses trying new dishes. It was an experience I won’t forget and I plan on going back to Maui sometime in my life to visit my family and experience my culture.

After the two weeks passed, we flew into Honolulu to catch our next flight. However, there was a bit of a problem. Okinawa is a small island and even though there’s a population of around 1.3 million, flights there are hard to get. When we arrived at the airport some people also needed to fly back to Okinawa, and they all had been on standby for days to weeks.

However, we landed late into the night and entered a lounge that’s exclusive to military families only called the USO. Everyone in the room was asleep, and there was little room to fit our family of five. My dad was too exhausted from traveling so he decided to just spend the night in the airport’s USO; which resulted in all of us sleeping on the floor. We spent the next day at the airport waiting for a flight, but nothing came up. My parents didn’t want to spend another night on the USO floor, so we left and got two hotel rooms so everyone could sleep somewhat comfortably that night.

The cycle of spending the entire day in the airport’s USO and going back to a hotel room at night went on for three days until finally, we got a flight. My family took priority in receiving a flight to Okinawa since we were moving. The other people in the USO were on vacation and waiting for a flight back. So even though we got dirty looks when we boarded, we were all happy to finally leave.

The plane we rode on had one flight attendant and was a cargo plane. The only people on it were my family and another. I don’t remember how long the flight was exactly, but it was around eighteen hours. The plane ride is kind of a blur to remember; the only thing I do remember is that my father was asleep the entire time.

We landed directly into the airforce base’s airport. I remember being disappointed when there weren’t cherry blossoms falling, like in the movies. However, there were other things to worry about; like the nineteen-hour time difference I was experiencing. My entire family was jet-lagged, tired, and hungry. All I remember from that day was that we landed and got off the plane around four pm.

For the next four years, I lived on Okinawa. I made tons of friends and watched as they came and left. Most military families on Okinawa only stayed for about four years. This resulted in everyone on Okinawa having a mutual understanding of “We probably won’t see each other again.” after they moved away.

My dad wanted to retire from the airforce before we left Okinawa, so that’s exactly what he did. On Friday. April 13, 2018, my dad held his retirement ceremony and retired from the airforce after 23 years in the military. By May of 2018, we were back in the U.S.

Moving to Japan wasn’t hard, but moving back was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. When we were moving to Japan, I was young and didn’t make connections with people that I truly cared about. But moving back to America was such a culture shock and I didn’t realize how different things were here compared to Japan.

We didn’t have a house to stay at when we came back to the states, so we had to stay with my grandparents on my father’s side in California. Normally, I would’ve been fine with staying with my grandparents if it was just them and me and my family; but it wasn’t just the six of us. (My older sister Monique had already moved out because she was in college.) My older cousin Charolette and her son were also living there, and my Aunt Desiree and my cousin Angela visited the house and had dinner with us every day.

This was my father’s side of the family and not even all of it. They were all Italian, and Italians are LOUD. An argument between two people sounds like an argument between four. There was never anywhere quiet to go, and my grandfather

was making my dad pay rent, knowing he just got out of the military and was actively searching for a job.

We only lived in that situation for a month, but it felt like three. My dad received a job for Georgia Pacific, and we moved to Tallahassee. There, my father promised that both my older sister Jaidyn and I would graduate from the same high school and we wouldn’t move again. So, I relaxed and I believed my father. While we lived in Tallahassee, my grandparents moved from California to Palm Coast, Florida. I made friends quickly and explained to them that before I’d moved to Tallahassee I moved around a lot. Whenever I’d tell that story they’d always ask the same question, “Are you gonna move away again?”. I thought I wouldn’t so I’d say no, and reassure them that my father said so. Low and behold two years after I’d promised my friends I wouldn’t move, I did.

Off we went to Kansas City, Missouri during the fall of 2020. I was upset with my father because he promised we wouldn’t move again, but there was nothing I could do about it other than accept him saying: “We go where the money takes us.” He promised me and my sister again that we wouldn’t move again after this and that we’ll stay here until I graduate. Skeptically, I took his word for it and believed him.

Some things are bound to change though. The day before Halloween, my father had complications with his job and it resulted in him losing his job. He told my mother, but they decided to wait to tell me and my sister. They had every right to. I had a friend who lived in Missouri who I’d known since the third grade. We were starting to spend a lot of time together and had a lot of fun finally meeting up with each other after so long.

We weren’t too distraught about it and just let it happen. I mean all we could do is provide our best support to our father and endure the change. That’s all we’d known for the past two years after all. We packed up our stuff from the temporary apartment we were staying in and began the drive back to Florida to live with my grandparents. My dad began searching for a job again while my sister and I were still doing online school.

That was the lowest point in my life by far. Everything was changing and nothing was permanent. Everything felt temporary, even myself. My mental health was so bad that it caused my grades to drop dramatically. I was stressed out from school and everything changing. My parents were demanding I get my grades up, only putting more stress on me. I could barely handle anything anymore. At one point I was so over it all that I stayed in my room for three days straight and didn’t eat anything. I didn’t want to see my parents, my grandparents, or even my sister. I just wanted to be alone and for the world to stop spinning for a moment so I could catch up with it. It was a constant cycle of having multiple dramatic changes in my life, causing my grades to drop, which turned into my parents yelling at me to get them back up. I so wanted to yell at them and ask “Have you ever moved three times in one year, while there’s a pandemic, and while doing school online?”, but I didn’t. Instead of taking my stress out on other people, I kept it to myself.

My mental health was so bad that my teachers, who taught me online noticed and reported me to my guidance counselor. She asked to speak with me on the phone and left her number in my inbox. I never called her in fear of stressing my parents out even more or upsetting them. Although, the school had already called my parents and told them that I needed to seek professional help of some sort. I just didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.

Christmas came around and my dad had secured a job for The Home Depot. He told us we were moving to Miami and we’d leave on the 27th. I was somewhat relieved that I didn’t have to live with my grandparents anymore, and I’d get to be alone but I still wasn’t one hundred percent happy with everything going on.

Finally, we arrived in Miami. We stayed in an apartment temporarily while we looked for a house. Around a month after looking, we found a house and moved in. I attended school in person and went from failing all my classes to straight A’s. My only focus was school, I didn’t care about making friends or social life.

Now, I’m a freshman attending Everglades Highschool. I dropped down the barriers I put up last year and allowed people into my life. Every time I meet someone new, I simplify this story. They always ask, “Will you move away again?”

I just shrug and say that I hope I will. The world is still spinning around, but this time I can keep up. I may trip a few times and lose track, but for now, I’m content with the pace it’s going. The dandelion is the official flower of the military child. Its seeds can be scattered by the wind and roots itself anywhere. It adapts among other plants and can survive in just about any location. I await the next strong wind and see where it will take me. 

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