Career: Never Say Never
When I first joined the U.S. Department of State over seven years ago, I knew my life had changed in some amazing and unforeseen way. I could feel it, and I knew I would never be the same. And it was true--it did and I'm not. The specific day that changed my life forever, and undoubtably thousands of other Foreign Service members' lives forever -- was Flag Day. This is the day when, in front of all your friends, family and new Foreign Service colleagues, your first tour is announced, you rise and walk to the front of the crowded room, and you are handed the flag for that country to which you are assigned. This day and this assignment set your life on a trajectory into the unknown. Depending on your bid list, or 'wish list,' it can be really exciting, or really devastating, but ultimately, just as in life I think 'things happen for a reason,' I think 'each tour happens for a reason,' and will undoubtably teach us something about ourselves not yet known.
My Flag Day assignment was U.S. Embassy Bucharest, Romania. To be completely honest, I'm ashamed to say, but I didn't know where this was. And now, this beautiful Romanian country and its incredibly welcoming Romanian people are ingrained into my soul, and now, into my bloodline. And it's true, this tour and every tour after taught me so much about myself not yet known. But going into that first tour, there were a lot of things I said I'd never do. First, I said I'd never get married on my first tour, mainly because with the world at my fingertips, I wanted to globe trot and roam wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Fast forward two years, and I married the hilariously funny, but romantically challenged, Romanian-born U.S. Army Officer who walked into my section to have his embassy badge made--at my first post. Then, I said I'd never serve in a hardship post, mainly because my skill code offered an abundance of choice assignments anywhere in the world. Fast forward through the most challenging year of my life, and I look back on my Kabul tour as one of my best assignments--in a hardship post. I said I'd never curtail, mainly for the fact that you are serving your country, and anyone can complete a two- or three-year assignment--it's not that long. Fast forward two years into a long distance relationship, 4,000 miles apart, a 12-hour time difference, one Justice of the Peace wedding, and I left my Bangkok tour early--on a curtailment. I also said I'd never work in D.C., mainly for the fact that there are over 200 posts at which to serve world-wide, so why choose to stay domestic? Fast forward after that aforementioned marriage to the hilariously funny, but romantically challenged, Romanian-born U.S. Army Officer and that curtailment from Bangkok, and I completed working for the best Principal State has to offer, learning more than I ever thought possible--in D.C. And finally, I said I'd never resign from my career with State, mainly for the fact that it just has so much to offer. Fast forward one birth of a beautiful baby boy on September 27, 2017, and now, exactly 7 1/2 years after taking my oath of service for the U.S. Department of State, I have submitted my voluntary resignation.
While I'll probably always wonder to which amazing places across the world my career would've taken me, and with whose amazing lives I would've intersected across that career, I know, with quite a bit of assuredness and serene comfort, that I've made the right decision. But, it was certainly not an easy decision. It came on the heels on sleepless nights, ruminating thoughts, mentor phone calls, and ultimately, one, long, introspective look into my beautiful son's eyes. And then I knew, it was the right one. It's not to say that working for State, having children, and being one-half of a non-State tandem couple cannot be done, because it's done all the time, but the beauty of life is that we each have our own, and are each able to make our own decisions that will be best for us. In the end, I've decided to put faith in myself, my experiences, and my dreams for the future, and to take full advantage of other opportunities that have come my way. I live each day grasping at handfuls of beautiful, granular moments with Teddy while they slip right through my fingers and into the past so quickly it makes my head spin--and I wouldn't trade it for anywhere or anything. Each tour with State taught me my unknown--that life happens, and when it does, you adjust accordingly. Ultimately, work will come and go, but my son will only be young once. And I'll be honest, working full-time as a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM for you acronym-thirsty DOS readers) to Teddy is ultimately harder than working for (almost) any Ambassador.
The finality of this decision cannot be overlooked. If you applied to work for State, or had the opportunity to be a member of the Foreign Service, you know that it is an incredibly difficult selection process to withstand, and if you are lucky enough to even pass the initial application submission alone, you still have to then pass the notoriously difficult Board of Examiners (BEX), and additional security and medical clearance background checks. I used the word lucky specifically because in my opinion, while passing undoubtably requires intelligence, varied life experiences, and a desire to serve your country, among a host of other traits or '13 dimensions', it also has a lot to do with luck. However, in the end, if you are accepted, it's so worth it. I will 100% swear by the fact that it will change your life in incredible ways. You will travel the world, you will meet amazing people from diplomatic and political spheres of influence, you will work, play and travel with host-nation nationals who treat you like family, and you will meet random people on the side of the road in random cities, that will touch your life forever.
After all, State introduced me to so much. To the most unbelievable experiences, the most beautiful countries and cultures, the most incredible opportunities, the most amazing people, to my husband, and ultimately to a family--in both the literal and physical sense of the word. I could mention all the countries I've been able to visit, all the experiences I've seen and felt, and all the people who have changed my life forever, but these all would be too numerous to list. And while there are a number of trivial points about which I could choose to complain (ahem promotion rate), in the words of the late American hero Senator John McCain, "What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I've led. I prefer to give thanks for those blessings, and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me. Leaving this career is like leaving a family, and there is a large part of me that is sad to say goodbye to that." While not quite that dramatic-, I do have to agree that leaving this career is in fact like leaving a family and there is a large part of me that is in fact sad to say goodbye to that. But, I have firm belief and faith that better things await. I have to know that I have more to offer the world and more to offer myself beyond State, and I'm excited to see what the future holds. And so, I look back on those moments speeding through the night markets of Ho Chi Minh, sipping cocktails high above the Singapore skyline, and sleeping in an ice hotel in the mountains of Romania, with gratitude, appreciation and awe. What an amzaing, unforseen ride it was.