Wasting Time on Theoreticals

I took the FSOT, finally!

After 11 months of piddle-farting around I took the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) in February. I am currently totally patiently awaiting my results. Folks in the Reddit Foreign Service forum are expecting Pearson to release the results around 28 February 2019.

I’m not sitting around on my laurel… at least, not as much as I could be. The next step, should I miraculously pass*, is to complete six personal narratives. I’m not going to post my narratives on this blog until I successfully become an FSO, but if you want to read them, feel free to reach out! I would love to send them around to friends to help edit and provide some insight.

Why not post them now? The panel doesn’t just give a pass/fail at this stage: they actively rank you against the others. In fact, some people have reporting passing one year and using the same narratives the next year and then failing. We can assume that the essays were just as good, but their rank against the others probably changed. Therefore, until my A-100 offer, my narratives are in competition and will be kept off the internet.

That being said, I’m also joyfully procrastinating writing the essays and throughly enjoying consuming media again that is not just FSOT studying fodder. AKA I can watch “The Orville” and “Married at First Sight” on Hulu instead of just “Drunk History” and documentaries without feeling guilty!

* The practice test on the State Department website told me I had a 42% chance of passing so my hopes aren’t high!

Don’t worry Gerardo, if you’re reading this. Even if I miraculously pass every single stage, on average, it’ll be a minimum of two years before I make it through and would actually quit my 9-5!



Anyways, in full procrastination mode, I found a lovely diplomat blog today while digging through Reddit. I’ve been absorbing as much of it as possible. In one post she talks about criticisms she receives from family and friends. Some I’ve heard already from family when I told them I was moving to Ireland and especially when I was moving to Antarctica.

Some from her list I’d like to take a second to address:

When are you going to settle down, you think?

One of my favorite quotes (and it’s actually written on the white board next to my desk, is by Alan Keightly, “Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world the way they’ve been told to.”

I guess the best way to answer is, “Why the [explicative] would I want to settle down?”

My sister and I were in disagreement about this very topic before I left for Antarctica. As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I was scheduled to be away from the US for over a year (10 months on the ice + some traveling after). She told me I was almost 30 (*gasp*) and was wasting my prime time for finding a husband and starting a family. I understand her concerns come from a place of love – but I still disagree with them. She is a super loving woman who has a focus on having a family to care for. My priorities aren’t the same as hers. I don’t have the same goals for my life. I guess, simply put, we define success in life differently. And that’s okay. I would never want to challenge or look down on her choices nor am I rejecting them as a valid path.

What does settling down even mean? Buying a house? Having stable finances and possibly popping out a few children? Entering into some kind of long-term routine where my life doesn’t constantly change? In essence, removing variety from your life and adding familiarity or routine? While these things aren’t bad on their own, they just aren’t for me.

I have some nice insurance policies. I have a (albeit tiny) savings account. I dump a large percentage of my paychecks into my 401(k) and my Roth accounts. I am working on preparing myself for the days when I want to stop working. But even that doesn’t necessarily mean “settling down”. I don’t know what I will prioritize in my life in the future, but right now, it’s not familiarity and removing variety from my life.

The unknown doesn’t scare me: at least, not as much as it does others, it seems. I welcome change into my life.

The words “settle-down” drip with restrictive finality, and ooze hints of a submissive and obedient member of society. I’ve never been one to allow those things in my life. At least, not outside of the bedroom.

I don’t even want to settle down when I’m dead. Seriously. Let my ashes dance with the wind.

You’re keeping our grandchildren away/you’re not here for your family / you’re missing our family milestones / what about us?

See the argument with my sister above? This was wrapped into it too. It’s said with love, it’s said with desire to have me around, and it’s said with perhaps a twinge of anger and sadness at feeling like perhaps I just don’t care.

I think my flippant answer to my sister two years ago was “I don’t mind being that cool-ass aunt that Skypes with the kids once a month and sends home the best penguin stuffed animals at birthdays!”

Before I left for Antarctica I visited my grandparents in Florida. They are in their mid-80s. While they are still decently active people golfing, bowling, and going to the bingo multiple times a week, they are realists and understand that life has many unknowns. Afterall, the average life expectancy for males in the US is 76 and for females is 81. Both of them are past that – my grandpa by almost a decade.

During breakfast the night before my flight home, my grandma, out of nowhere stated (and oh I wish I remembered this verbatim, but I don’t) “Now, if something happens to us while you’re gone – you don’t worry yourself getting back here. You here? You stay there. We understand. If we pass away, there’s nothing you can do by coming back to the US and throwing away your dream. Our angels will come visit you no matter where you are.” We both teared up at the thought and through our futher discussion of the topic. Grandpa stayed quiet, but nodded his agreement. I won’t lie… it released so much stress I’d been holding. The hypothetical “what if” had lingered in my mind up to that point.

My grandparents were fine while I was off-continent, but not everyone in my family was. Early in July, my uncle passed away. It was hard. I wrote a post about missing these moments.

But, you know, in this aspect of my life, I am okay with being selfish. I am okay with living my life to my own immediacy. Especially considering that I would only want my friends and family to do the same. I would never consider asking my sister “ooo well, now’s just not a good time in my life for you to have that baby” so why should I put my life on hold for her? It goes both ways.

Is it safe?

I am not going to lie to you: this is a vague concern of mine too. It is highly likely that as a single person with no children or family of my own just yet that I will end up in a “Danger” posting. Heck, given the right one, I might even volunteer to go; after all, they come with a sweet pay raise.

Not to be morbid here, but the worst-case scenario is that I die, right? There’s a whole book called “America’s Other Army: The U.S. Foreign Service and 21st Century Diplomacy”. If I die in service of my country, at least I can say I died making a difference in the world and fighting for my country.

Are you ever going to come home?

I was born in greater Cincinnati. I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio’s various neighborhoods consecutively for more than 21 years. Unlike most, I lived on both the east side and the west side of the city! In fact, I currently live in Park Hills, KY which is even considered a neighborhood of greater Cincinnati. But is Cincinnati home? Not necessarily.

What is “Home?”

“Home is where your family is.” Okay, so home is Cincinnati, Ohio… but then it’s also Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Chipley, Florida; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and a myriad of other cities. If you count friends that have become family then we go even more global. Where does one draw the line? Is it just where your parents live? My dad talks all the time about moving to a beach somewhere. If he moves to Alabama, does that make my home suddenly Alabama? What if I move to another city and live there for 45 years. Is that not home because my family still lives elsewhere? This is too confusing. I reject the notion that home can be defined simply by where your family lives.

“Home is a place of comfort and familiarity.” Cincinnati is such a place. But so is Cork, Ireland. If I stepped off a plane tomorrow in Cork I am sure I would get that wave of joy at seeing the familiar sites and the sounds of “Echo!” from the corner news salesman. I could easily walk you to the nearest Tesco, give you recommendations on the best place to buy new shoes, and where not to get your fringe cut.

Antarctica was home to me. In many ways, it felt more a home than anywhere else I’ve been. I’ve struggled this first year being back in Ohio simply because I feel like I was ripped from that home too soon. I knew I wouldn’t stay forever, but I had friends, I had a mother figure, I had hobbies and I had a home there.

Home is a fluid concept. Any traveler can tell you that.

Your home is not necassarily mine.

I’ll go into more another day as my boss is starting to give me sideways-looks for sitting here typing on my computer for so long.

Ahhhhh I had a poem in mind to add to this post but now I can’t find it! That dang janitor hung it on a bulletin board in McMurdo and I took a picture of it… but now I can’t find the picture nor can I find it on Google. Oh well.

(post image source)

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