Finding Life Lessons in Lost Belongings and Burdensome Boxes


Missing items are unfortunately regarded as an inevitable part of military life.
Toby Keathley Photography

By Stacy Swearengen, owner of Portable Career Planning

“Honey, have you seen the (insert the name of any tool necessary for putting together virtually all disassembled items)?”

“How will I ever find (insert your favorite piece of clothing) in all of these boxes?”

“I know I saw a box labeled (insert any item that you just have to have right now), but I can’t find it now.”

These questions have become rather commonplace in my home over the past month. It seems much more normal for things to be misplaced or altogether M.I.A. than in a logical place these days. I have found that in the midst of a PCS, chaos is pretty standard. In fact, my kitchen table is now doubling as a makeshift workspace for all things “Portable Career Planning” while I search for all of the lost items I need for my actual office. With over 300 odd items moved, I expected that some things would get misplaced, or dare I say, lost. My acceptance of this fact doesn’t mean it’s been without setbacks, and I’ve learned some valuable life lessons in the process.

In life, you need either inspiration or desperation

– Anthony Robbins

Day 1 of unpacking was filled with inspiration! I had a new house and was ready to adorn it with my special touch. Plus, our household goods had been delayed, and I was antsy to get unpacked. By the end of my first week, I felt like I had been working nonstop. Yet, it looked like no progress had been made! I was frustrated and I wanted to give up. It was at this point that I seriously wondered if I could swing leaving the boxes just as they were until the next, inevitable PCS. It felt like a weight was weighing on me, and I had no idea how to make progress when all of the work I had done seemed to be so futile.

I find the same type of thing also happens to many military spouses when trying to develop their careers. We start off in this journey inspired and ready to take on the world. We are energized and passionate. Too often though, we become frustrated by what seems to be a never-ending struggle. Just like the moving boxes that were always in my way regardless of where I went in my house, there is no shortage of obstacles to obstruct our career path. We can become tempted to give up, and sometimes it seems like the only option.

The majority of the military spouses I coach have expressed getting to a point when they knew something had to change—often as a result of frustration or desperation. They had been working so hard, yet still feeling like those stubborn boxes were immovable. They needed someone to help move them. For me, the help I got came from my husband—but I had to be willing to ask. Though I was determined initially to get everything done myself, I had to learn (the hard way of course) that sometimes a little help is necessary.

Had I chosen the option of giving up on unpacking instead of finding help when I needed it, the chances are good that I would end up losing track of my possessions or forgetting I ever owned them until I needed them. If, as military spouses, we choose to give up on the unique qualities and career goals we possess, the same thing can happen. Slowly, over time, we forget what’s inside, making it harder and harder to access when the day comes that we actually need to find or use it.

It may seem like the boxes will never get unpacked, like the military challenges will never allow you to have a career and like it’s just better to give up on your aspirations. I challenge you to keep going and ask for help when needed. In turn, I will keep unpacking the last few boxes that seemed to be taunting me the entire time I was writing.

Does your career need a jump start? Contact Stacy for career counseling at or visit

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