The JoyPop Effect
When we found out we were moving to Okinawa way back in 2011 we heard from other friends and acquaintenances that it is an experience like no other duty station in that your friends literally become your family and it’s the hardest place to say goodbye to when it’s time to leave the island. I remember thinking “sure I know what it’s like – that’s exactly what happened to us all in Pendleton when our husbands were gone to Iraq.” Uh, similar, but totally not the same. It’s been so much more.
PCSing to a new place is hard not just for the kiddos, but hard for the mamas too. You do that dating dance to find who you mesh with, who will just be a nice acquaintance and who will be those lifelong friends. It’s a delicate dance too. Someone you think you might be great friends with ends up being an acquaintance because you end up just being too opposite; and that person you think at first doesn’t like you at all ends up being one of your very dearest friends in just 2 short years. I find it especially difficult because quite frankly my sense of humor is quite inappropriate and at the ripe old age of 40(ish) there are many who just don’t appreciate that very much! These days I don’t have time to be someone I’m not. I’ve been fortunate enough to have awesome friends in my life along the way in this life – Kacey, Nikki, Paige, Amy, Michelle – I’m talking to you!
JoyPop actually started just after we moved here and I attended my first NIOSC field trip. We were headed to Murasaki Mura and although Chris and I signed up for the shuttle to go there, I was easily influenced by my neighbor to just ride in the van with the car sick ladies. And Chris being as easily influenced as myself, chose to ride with us too, but being the newbies we were banished to the back of the van – haha! We came up behind a van with the model name “JOYPOP” and if I remember correctly had an intense conversation about the origin of said model name for the van… And henceforth said inappropriate conversation merged a beautiful friendship and nickname that will live on!
This is where it all began (pardon the bad photo!):
I find it amazing to have 1 friend who I can jive with, laugh with, cry with and ultimately be myself with, but 6 friends like that?! It’s nearly impossible and I just cannot even express my gratitude to these ladies for making Okinawa a real home for us for 2 years. If we haven’t seen each other in a few days we hug as if it’s been years. We pick up conversations from weeks ago as if we were just talking about it, and to our husbands’ amazement we engage in about 6 different conversations at one time. We can tell when something is wrong and have figured out when to give some space and when to give a silent hug.
And boy oh boy do we have fun together! From simple after workout coffees, to inpromptu happy hours on the front steps, to full on planned out affairs to celebrate each other, it is never, ever, ever a dull moment with this group! I have never laughed as hard as I do with these ladies and believe me it’s normally over something inappropriate or somehow making fun of ourselves and our quirky ways. Sometimes all it takes is a cheap set of mustaches that puts us into fits and makes us all pee our pants with laughter. Definitely many, many “you had to be there” moments that leave our husbands looking at us as if we are from another planet. And that is exactly why I love them so much – they make me laugh like no other.
It’s not just the inappropriate jokes and laughing, but the influence of these ladies. Not only do they make me laugh like no other, but I come away from time with each of them individually, and all of them collectively, feeling good about myself. And at this age isn’t that what great friends are all about? I have had those friends in the past from EVERY duty station that make me feel disgruntled and just negative in general. I made it a point to keep those kinds of folks at arms length this duty station/tour and I feel so much better in doing so. Being around women who have made me feel disgruntled and negative is certainly not a new phenomenon in Okinawa – we all know them in every part and location of our lives. It is so worth any conflict or issues to keep positive women in my life. These ladies are uplifting, yet not “yes men” either. I learn from them, I see other sides because of them and I am a better person after having them in my life.
The JoyPop Effect has seen me through a difficult period as well while we were here and helped me along the way. Circumstances personally required us as a family to take a step away from church activity and collect our thoughts on our journey forward. My JoyPop friends that are devout Christians not only gave us this space, but had conversations with me about my thoughts and feelings that were absolutely positively free of judgement and instead full of understanding and insight. This is totally different from my experiences in the past and it quite frankly astounded me and made me appreciate and respect them even more than I already did. We will begin this journey again after we move and believe me these ladies will be the first ones I look to for encouragement along the way.
I find myself randomly in tears these days not because we’re leaving this island home, but because I’m just not sure I’ll experience this kind of phenomenon again in our military and/or retirement life. These are my family members. They are my people and accept me in all my weirdness and love me in spite of my faults. And if they don’t keep in touch with me they know I’ll hunt them down like a dog and hurt them!
The JoyPop Effect has been an amazing part of my life and I cherish my short time with them. It’s not the end, but the beginning of lifelong friendships, global gatherings together and marathon texting sessions.
And through it all – we danced it out…