I'm fond of the opening scene from Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise has a moral epiphany late one night and transcribes his noble vision for cut throat sports agents. I wasn't particularly moved by what he had to say but instead liked his idea of writing a mission statement ("not a memo," as he emphasizes) to lay out a set of guiding principles. Coming up on the halfway point of my training period in DC, it's probably a good time as any for me to do the same.
First of all, this ain't your typical laundry list of New Year's resolutions. I'm not going to talk about my new diet or goal of learning a foreign language (at least I can say I'm already doing that). The contents of this mission statement also weren't hatched over a holiday fruit cake. I've had plenty of time to reflect on them. And note that I'm putting them in my blog for the whole world (okay, maybe a few dozen followers) to see may actually help make them stick.
Okay, enough talk. It's time to show you the money! Here are four points to my 2012 mission statement:
1) Don't get complacent. I've grumbled about learning Hebrew but I have to admit that it is a pretty sweet gig. Besides getting paid to do it, I don't have to achieve the same level of fluency as some of my Foreign Service colleagues. I also get the impression that a working proficiency isn't necessarily essential for my job. That being said, I don't want to coast through the next five months of class. I need to identify the ways in which Hebrew can best serve me during my two-year tour in Tel Aviv and beyond. I'm thinking that I should focus on reading comprehension so that I can follow events in the newspapers with the eventual goal of understanding Israeli commentary on important affairs in the region.
2) Keep writing. It's been a while since I blogged. I confess that I often just don't feel like doing it but other other times I feel there's not that much to say. Gone is the anticipation associated with the call to A-100 and the first assignment on Flag Day. In its place is the ho-hum of every day life. Language training has settled into a routine and my social life mostly revolves around the Oakwood activities calendar (is it "donut Sunday" yet?). Although my literary luminosity has probably dimmed somewhat, I need to resist letting my blog "go dark" and should instead continue to use it as an outlet for my writing. This has been and will continue to be the single most important skill of my career.
3) Family quality time. As it is now, I get to spend a good amount of time with my family. My wife and I are co-eds at FSI and our classrooms are a mere corridor apart. My schedule also allows me to be with my two boys each afternoon after school. Unfortunately, I will not have these luxuries when I begin my job in Tel Aviv this July. I know the work at post will be very demanding with long hours. Even though I won't see my family as much, I need to find ways to make the time I do have with them worthwhile. Whether it is carving out time on weekends for special activities, indulging my son in some fantasy play or just talking with my wife, I need to make a concerted effort for my family.
4) Good goodbyes. I just returned from a weeklong visit to Colorado during which time I saw most family members and friends. A frequent question that came up was whether I would see them again before shipping out in the summer. This reality of life in the Foreign Service made me realize how important goodbyes will be over the coming months. I've learned from past experiences of going and returning from abroad that send offs go a long way in forming lasting impressions of people and places. For this reason, I need to make goodbye opportunities count, not only for loved ones but also also for many of my A-100 classmates who are heading out to posts soon.