Pollyanna versus Debbie Downer
I am a realist with a wicked pragmatic streak running right up my core. I do my best to see things as they are, not as I want them to be and not through rose-colored glasses. Occasionally my cynicism creeps out but I try to keep that under control, though Korea makes that difficult much of the time. So my approach to life usually lands me smack in the middle of two pretty annoying groups of people: the Pollyannas and the Debbie Downers.
Living in Korea is a challenge. That's why they call it a 'hardship tour' and they have this thing called 'command sponsorship'. The American military infrastructure here is limited. It's growing and improving (as best it can with everything handled by the lowest bidder...the lowest KOREAN bidder which brings with it its own issues) but it's still limited. Our commissary is small. Our PX is stocked by someone who apparently used to work at Family Dollar and doesn't understand that if you're going to stock bikini tops, maybe you should stock BIKINI BOTTOMS. I am pretty sure that was covered in Buying 101 but, apparently, they failed that course. Thankfully there is online shopping and APO addresses, but I digress.
My point is that living here is an adventure and that adventure brings challenges. When those challenges arise, most people look for solutions and often the solutions come from raising the concern in the first place. The main forum for those concerns here is Facebook. Most on-post programs/organizations have a Facebook page in addition to the local spouses' page and that is the avenue most used to address shortcomings and problems. There is also ICE (Interactive Customer Evaluation) but I think that avenue is broken...but that's a different rant. Usually a solution is presented and implemented and life goes on. However, in reference to the two annoying groups of people I mentioned earlier, sometimes someone goes overboard. There's always that person (or people) that do nothing but whine: it's too hot, it's too cold, there are only 27 varieties of cereal at the commissary and not 28, the command is being mean to me by not granting my 2nd car exception to policy waiver, I couldn't get in to see the doctor for my child's well-child visit on the exact day I wanted, etc. Debbie Downers drag everyone down if you let them. I'm not saying there is never reason to gripe - trust me, this place is rife with reasons - but when that's ALL you do day in and day out, it might be time to re-evaluate your outlook on life. I'd blame the location but I suspect this is more of a feature and not a bug.
The flip side of this is the Pollyanna Brigade: that group of people that, no matter what happens consistently and annoyingly remind us all that we should 'be grateful for what we have not focus on what we don't have'.
Yeah, I'm going to need you to take your sunshine elsewhere. There was one Mary Poppins and she didn't live in Korea and she wasn't a military spouse.
I get that family members should be grateful that they (we) are allowed to accompany the servicemember here to Korea. In the past, this was truly a hardship tour and it was rare that spouses were granted command sponsorship so the majority stayed back in the states while their loved one lived over here alone for the year. And I get that family members should be grateful that there IS infrastructure here to support them (and it's getting better - new hospital, commissary, PX, and other supporting facilities are currently under construction) because relying on the economy alone is challenging at best. But to stick your head in the sand and ignore short-comings because 'we should be grateful they LET us be here at all' is not only annoying, it's lazy.
I have always maintained the mantra that, if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. Those that refuse to work to improve these circumstances not only do a disservice to themselves but to the spouses headed this way in the future. The improvements we've seen here - the increases in services and programs for families with children, the opportunities for single soldiers in terms of recreation and leisure, the fitness and health-improvement opportunities...none of those came about because the military just up and decided one day that it needed to offer these things to its community. They came about because spouses and servicemembers highlighted short-comings and demanded improvement.
On a larger scale, one can simply point to the Post 9/11 GI Bill as a shining example of the power of constructive criticism. Were it not for the incessant requests of servicemembers and their families for portability in terms of the GI Bill benefit, we would have never seen that change. The outcomes of the annual Army Family Action Planning conference are other examples of the power of constructive criticism - many programs and services have been created or improved and many obstacles removed because of recommendations from this conference.
If the Pollyanna Brigade had its way, there would be no AFAP because 'we should all be grateful for what we have'.
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