Tif Marcelo, author of the Journey to the Heart series, is often inspired by her own life experiences when it comes to writing her books. In this post, Tif talks about some of the hard realities of what it’s like being an army wife: and why she always says “see you later,” and never “goodbye.” Volume 1 in the series, NORTH TO YOU, is available now!

Last month, my Army family crossed over the twenty-year active duty milestone. That’s twenty years of pride and purpose; of a life of adventure; of flexibility and change. It’s twenty years of establishing friendships and creating communities despite most of those years bwing under the pressure of conflict and war.

That’s also two decades of See You Laters.

(AKA Goodbye—but that’s a bad word)

See You Laters are inevitable and happen frequently in military life. They are necessary. Through my spouse’s deployments and temporary assignments, our moves, our different homes, my own career changes, compounded with friends moving, deploying, and taking off to temporary assignments, I’ve said See You Later more times than I wish I had to. When I meet doctors and dentists, veterinarians and dry cleaners, to the people who take care of me intimately, like my current hair stylist who keeps me in his chair longer because he knows it’s my only time alone, to my neighbor who I run into every morning as I walk my dog, I know I’ll have to tell them See You Later in the future. When the movers load our things onto a truck yet another time, I have to turn my eyes away and make myself believe that it’s all “just stuff.” When I attend farewells or funerals, retirements or changes of command ceremonies, or watch a friend’s moving truck drive off, I know I must face a future without these people in my immediate life.

How do I cope?

I don’t say the G word, and it’s for these two reasons:

Saying See You Later instead of the G word acknowledges the great moments as well as struggle. It allows for the hope and celebration of Hello.

There’s hope paths will cross again, that in this day and age of social media, updates are simply a click away. The longer one stays in the military community, the circles get smaller, and meeting common friends becomes a blessing in itself.  For those times when I’ve had to say See You Later to someone who’s passed, I celebrate their spirit in the lives they’ve touched. And the stuff that has been lost and damage, I’ve learned, is really “just stuff.”

Two decades of See You Later have helped me endure this journey to publication and my debut year. It’s taught me to harness what I can control and let go of what I can’t. It’s given me a heavy dose of perspective: Saying See You Later to people—and helping my children through this process—puts my passion and work in its rightful place. Finally, the hopeful nature of Hello? The possibility the stories I write has worth and meaning—it’s the light that brings me through the tough moments and doubt.

See You Later is a daily practice—and it’s tough to tackle alone. Just as I cling to my family and my milspouse brothers and sisters near and far, writers should find their tribe. Online or in person, critique partners become pillars to lean on. Writer groups can enrich your life through shared experience. They make the triumph of achieving milestones, the Hello, that much sweeter.

And they made celebrating our family’s twenty-year Army-versary and NORTH TO YOU’s debut book birthday the cherry on top.

So, See You Later!