I had some difficulty paring down the many, many resources I have been looking at, which is why I decided to design a checklist for my literature – so I could manage but not print out, the over 300 pieces of literature I discovered – very little of it “on the nose” of what I wanted to discover, which was the experience of military spouses in online education and professionalization.
I am overall, pretty happy with where I am leaving the final project. While I had moments of feeling stressed, I was able to pace myself overall, in terms of how I worked on the project, and get necessary time to rest my mind, and also to let it “wander” over where I was going, so that I could go back again to a more structured, legato kind of process. Part of this I think was that I have been looking at this topic from different angles over multiple months. When I began to read Brewer and Hewstone’s collection on self and social identity literature, I had a strong sense of flow, and that some of the ways I was putting together what is often presented as very separate groups within this greater community, actually did make sense.
It’s also very stressful to read about some of the experiences in the military community, so it was really important for me to take my time. I certainly want to do a series of studies, but I will want to work on other projects throughout, not only because of my interests being broad, but also to maintain an equilibrium. Reading about secondary trauma theory, for example, I considered the many stressful experiences I had in chronicling the experience of veterans (while doing corporate documentaries and oral history videos), and the experience of clinicians and military spouses who hear those stories every day. As I read through different narratives and studies, it would give me pause to think about people I had worked with (as colleagues or as students who I was supporting) who had served in the DOD armed forces, several dear friends who are military brats, and my and my husband’s experiences with our educations, our respective careers, and the transition experiences we had, together and alone. For instance, I think that I have a much stronger sense now of having been a military spouse than I ever did when I actually was a military spouse, because I spent my husband’s sea duty throwing myself into my work, but the opposite is true for my husband.
Overall, there’s not an easy way to describe the balance of heart and toughness that is needed for success in any part of the military community – and it’s especially hard to find that balance when so many people are stretched to the breaking point. Some of the highly analytical research by the RAND corporation is rather refreshing to read in comparison, after some of the highly theoretical work on identity, and especially some of the more painful recollections and comments that pop up in some of the qualitative research. I would argue that some of this is simply because of the devaluation of the identity some members hold in the community, but I think that the transition process is not given its true due, including that it can take months or even years – that it can even be traumatic to exit the community, while still belonging in other ways… The excellent commercial for IAVA explains this cognitive dissonance so well. which is why Bill’s work is so exciting to me.
I’ve made many enjoyable discoveries. One of the things I wish I had more time to look into was post-traumatic growth experiences, and why some trauma can have a life-affirming, positive side to it. Another thing I discovered very late, was the conceptualization of the military and academia as being “greedy” institutions – I couldn’t seem to access the pivotal article, but I am sure there are some gems there.