As many of you reading this new entry are probably aware, I received an official offer yesterday to join the next incoming class of Foreign Service Officers beginning on July 18. The "call" actually came in the form of a rather unceremonious email from a HR manager somewhere in the bowels of the State Department. I guess Hillary was too busy to give me a jingle. Hey, I'll take it though!
Yesterday was the culmination of not only a 18-month hiring process but also a lifelong dream of becoming a U.S. diplomat. Based on my coy "pre-announcement" blog nearly one month ago, some of you who don't know me well were probably expecting a more dramatic announcement yesterday. Unfortunately, I couldn't arrange a nationally-televised special to announce my "free-agency" decision: "I'm taking my talents to Foggy Bottom!" I was also tempted to scale my son's school and shout from the rooftop but I fear that the ensuing SWAT team deployment might have jeopardized my security clearance.
In all seriousness, it has been hard to balance the range of swirling emotions of fulfilling this dream. Since I "broke" the big news, a number of friends and family have commented graciously that they knew all my smarts and hard work would pay off (I'm a card-carrying nerd with a competitive streak inside me). I know that I was accepted into this highly coveted career track based on my own merits. I do, however, think that there are many people who enabled this achievement and supported me through all the various twists and turns to this point. While there is a natural tendency for my blogs to be self-centered, I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize some of those people here.
1) My parents first lit the fire in me for international travel and affairs. They took me out of sixth grade for a few weeks to accompany them to an international dog competition in Hungary where I experienced firsthand the Cold War reality of the iron curtain. For spring break of my senior year in high school, my dad handed me the reins to me to plan a side trip to Morocco. My parents would later bankroll my year studying abroad in Egypt and didn't entirely freak out when I told them that I was going to study Arabic in Yemen after graduating from college. Note: back then Yemen was a sleepy backwater of which people had only heard from a random episode of Friends. From that point, I was hopelessly infected with the travel bug but my parents deserve credit for nurturing this sense of curiosity and adventure in me. As an aside, I recently found an old picture of my late mother riding a camel in Morocco during her roaring twenties (I'll try to scan and post it later). I can only think that her spirit remains alive and well in me today.
2) My wife and children have been my most important support network over the past six years. The former endured my month-long sojourns for field research that enabled me to finish my dissertation and present a strong case to stone-faced interviewers why the time was right for me to join the Foreign Service. My two young sons also kept me grounded both literally and figuratively during the long wait for yesterday's offer. As many aspiring diplomats know, the hiring process is an exercise in patience that is laden with moments of acute anxiety along the way. Besides performing the routine tasks of child care every day, they helped me keep things in perspective. Minutes after learning the news yesterday morning, I was building legos and getting them ready to go to school. I confess that my head hasn't always been in the game over the last couple weeks (and particularly around 11:30am yesterday, sorry G!) but my family has been there for me and are now giving up a lot to follow me on this new journey.
There are obviously many others from whom I benefited and deserve my heartfelt appreciation. In the coming months, I will try to tell you personally how you helped make yesterday happen. For inquiring minds that want to know, I'll also share more in my next blog about what comes next, including details about where we will be living and our departure date. In the meantime, it's time to get to back to work and prepare for this new and exciting chapter in my life. Thank you to everyone who helped me turn the proverbial page yesterday!