Inspired by Music

He was a diplomat’s son 
It was eighty-wah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ahhh-ooooone

Lyrics from Vampire Weekend‘s, “Diplomat’s Son”


“Where do you come up with this stuff?”

My dad has a specific friend of his, or, I suppose more accurately would be the wife of his friend, that frequently likes to ask me, “where do you come up with this stuff?” What she really means is “how in the world do you come up with ideas on your own and not just follow the path everyone else ‘should’ and work in a cubicle potentially aiming for a management role but otherwise not doing much with your life besides the occasional bowling league?”

I’m never quite sure how to answer that question because, well, it’s a deeply philosophical answer and I could then launch into a giant tirade about wanting to make a difference with my life. But lingering in the back of my mind is the frequent but persistant stereotype that the young folks always want to change the world then someday they will grow up, get over it, and realize they need to give up these silly dreams and fall in line like everyone else. I knew that if I tried to explain to this woman standing in front of me sloshing beer on her plastic pumps with pink flowers on the toes and cork heels that I’d receive nothing in return – no dialogue about the way society is headed nor intelligent conversation about what we should be doing to improve the world around us. None of that. I’d get a condescending head shake and maybe an attempt at patting me on the head even though I’m taller than her and an adult in my late 20s.

But I had to give her some answer because she was staring at me expectingly and I didn’t want to be rude to her: “well you know that song by Vampire Weekend? ‘Diplomat’s Son?’ I was listening to that song and it just inspired me!”

Inspired by Vampire Weekend?

It wasn’t the real answer, per say, but the song did kickstart the process a little bit.

In the early days of my return from Antarctica I was collecting unemployment benefits, eating ice cream in my mother’s basement, and binging Netflix shows. Well, okay, I was playing Netflix shows in the background while I searched online for jobs – especially ones that would allow me to travel and experience othe cultures.

For about two hours I played with the idea of being a flight attendant. That idea got tossed in the recycling bin the moment I realized I’d have to adhere to someone else’s standard of beauty as every flight attendant job I could find wouldn’t allow someone with blue hair and facial piercings. I looked into jobs working from home so I could just do my own traveling but they were at two extremes: beginner jobs for those with no experience or advanced jobs for those that had tons of experience. Finding one for which I qualified that would also allow me to pay my bills was rough.

During that search, diplomat appeared on a list – probably somewhere on Buzzfeed – and I added it to my mental clipboard but didn’t explore it further. I became distracted by the promiss of this super neat job at a company doing advocacy work for car dealerships on their digital marketing/website… and I took that opportunity instead.

It wasn’t until the following spring that the travel job idea became a reality in my life again. I’ve finally removed all of my debts except for student loans and a small car payment. I could be free to accept jobs that paid less in order to find something I love! Woo! It was in this moment of clarity that I turned on the radio.

The Shuffle Game

In high school, my friend Myra and I used to play a game she taught me where we would ask my iPod a question then hit “Shuffle”. Whichever song came on would be the answer to our question. Because of this background, I’ve always paid close attention to the first song that comes on when I’m in such moods.

As my brain was focusing on what kind of travel job I should look into, I turned on the radio and, well, I think you can guess what song was on. I quickly Googled I waited until I wasn’t driving then Googled “what does a diplomat do?”

I loved what I saw.

What I loved even more was that the path to becoming a diplomat wasn’t some convulted path through political offices and positions like I’d execpted. Naw, you just have to pass a rigourous examination process!

It’s important to know here that I adore my current office job. It offers me enough flexibility to still enjoy life, the work is well within my skillset so I feel confident in it, and it mixes itself up just often enough to keep me feeling creative and challenged. Every single blog and reference I could find says that entering the foreign service should be plan D: not plan A. You should continue your life while you apply – don’t quit your job, etc until you are given your moving date, etc. It can take years to get into the system and that’s if you pass the first time. Per some random numbers on the internet I found:

20,000 people attempt it each year!

20% of people pass the first exam!

1.8% of Foreign Service applicants make it through the rest of the process!

Anyone who read through my Antarctica posts knows that number like those don’t scare me away.

Sold.

(featured image source)

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