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Prompt: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you're choosing that word. Now, imagine it's one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

Emerge.

What a fantastic year.  I knew, as I sat on the precipice of the new year last December, that this year was going to be a Damn Good Year.  And it was.  It was the year I emerged.

This year, I chose to believe in myself.  This year, I chose to be myself.  I finally feel like who I am is just right, as if I've been Goldilocks wandering through my life, tasting all the porridge that the world had to offer, and found that who I was was all I ever needed.  I discovered I didn't want to chase after power.  I discovered I didn't need to sacrifice my health for security.  I discovered that if I follow my own desires, that I'll be just fine. 

I finally feel that I am enough.

Yes.  2010 is the year that I emerged. 

And next year?  Next year will be the year that my little bud will burst open, raining my brilliant colors and heady fragrance on those around me, sharing my own personal beauty with the world. 

It's time to bloom baby.  Bloom.
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I'm having a bit of an existentialist crisis, currently.  I'm feeling a bit lost, to be honest.  All my life I've been focused on who I was going to be when I grow up.  And I have picked up and discarded careers as if they were pebbles on the beach.  Picking each one up, and examining it, and asking "Is this the one?  Is this who I AM?"

Bouncing back and forth on acting.  After all, it was my passion, in a big way.  And then I got into the real world, and realized that it is hard.  And frustrating.  And poor.  And mean.  Well, maybe not mean, but certainly cold.  And it left me feeling a little less.

Then I thought, I need to Do Something Good.  That's it!  If I am to be a Good Person, then I need to have a Good Job.  So I've been frantically picking up stones and turning them over, trying to find the right fit.  I want to Save The World.  So, I'll do something international.  And I began trotting down that path, eventually ending up working with impressive people, even meeting Impressive People.

But I have learned, the closer you get to something, the more complicated it gets.  Conflict, anger, disrespect.  And I wonder, is anything Good being done?  And yes, of course I am sure it is, but it gets all tied up with human beings.  Because we, as human beings, are certainly not perfect.  And even a perfect idea gets pretty messy when humans get involved with it.

I begin to wonder if Doing Good in the world is even really possible.  Or is it just a way to alleviate our own egos?  Yes, you can feed people.  And heal them.  But it seems like the basic problems are still there.  Corruption, conflict, war, power-mongering.  

But yes, I do think that doing something, anything, can help.  I don't want to sound totally bleak here.  Though the help that can be given is slow in creating change, much like the river carving out the Grand Canyon.  Sure, you can make something majestic, if you have a few thousand or million years.

Which really takes me back to, why do I want to have a career where I Do Good?  Is it because I feel drawn to that, that it represents my inner longings?  Because I believe that we should follow our hearts, and what our heart guides us to, is often where we can make the biggest impact, the biggest difference.  And I'm really grateful that there are many hearts out there pulled to make a difference in those far away places.

But the honest truth is, I think I want a job where I Do Good because I'm caught up in this idea that our culture dishes out which is What We Do = Who We Are.  Hi, my name's Joe and I'm a plumber.  My name's Maria and I'm the President.  This is who we ARE.  So, if I have a job that is Good, then it means that I am Good.

But really, when it comes down to the core of our humanity, is there really a difference between the plumber and the president?  I mean, perhaps there is, but it isn't because of the job that they do.  The job they do is just how they spend their time. 

Who they ARE comes out in the details.  How they treat the crazy person that comes up to them muttering on the street, or the way they pause and hold the door open for the person behind them.  It is in these tiny details that who we are, our humanity, comes out.  And how we do our job, the love and care that we put into it, or the anger and resentment, define who we are.  And whether we live our lives in a state of joy, or a state of anger.  That is who we are.  Not our title.

Which is great.  And beautiful.  And all of that.

But back to my crisis.

My entire life, I have looked to My Career to be the focal point of my life, how I make my mark, prove myself, and become loved by millions.  Now that I'm realizing that all of that is pretty much an illusion, that there is no perfection, that anything one pursue's will be filled with drama and conflict if one is focused on Being Someone Important, instead of just doing what makes their heart sing.  

So now, I've lost my compass.  What do I do?  And I mean do, small 'd' not Do.  Or maybe I do mean Do.  Do I try to make a difference?  Do I focus on doing what makes me happy and brings me joy?  Do I focus on spending time with all the wonderful people in my life, while I have them in my life?

If I am not A Career, than what am I?
 
 
In the middle of the night last night, I began to wonder if becoming a Foreign Service Officer was right for me.  I began to  have doubts.

Why, you ask?  Is it that possible threat that you face, bombs exploding, being caught in a war zone, being kidnapped or killed?

Nope.

Is it that you would have little control over your life, down to even what furniture you have, being thrown into the winds on someone else's command?

Not really.

Or, could it possibly be the job itself, having to defend policies you don't agree with, dealing with insane managers, insane employees, and being thrown in to tasks that you have little experience or preparation for.

Not so much.

It is the heat.  Or the possibility of heat.

Siberia I can handle.  Antartica even.  But the Sahara?  I might go insane.

This all comes up because we are having a heatwave in Seattle.  Seattle, where it constantly rains, and so no one has an air conditioner.  Including myself.  I found myself at 1 am, sticking my head in the freezer, returning to my warm bed with two fans propped up to cover me, laying with a ziplock bag of ice cubes in rotating sections of my body.  I checked, and it was 80 degrees.  At one in the morning.

I began to feel like I couldn't breath.  I worried that I was about to pass out.  And I was lying down.  I thought maybe I would die.  The thoughts in my head just made things worse, and I could feel my temperature rising in my panic.  Back to head in freezer.

And I thought, could I really handle Iraq?  The Congo?  Hell, even DC?  This puts all my plans into jeopardy.  Hell, throw a bomb at me, as long as I can sleep in an air conditioned apartment, or walk home in the rain!  But dear god, keep me away from the desert.  And what if I end up in an arid country where I have to wear a headscarf, or dress modestly?  Just the idea makes the thought of becoming a nudist quite tempting.  Even if I did have to look at scary, naked middle aged pot bellies.  And other furry creature appendages.

If Global Warming goes in to full effect, I am SCREWED.   
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Choices, choices.  Depending on what little dot I check off, could affect the rest of my life.  No big deal that my whole life could rest on a dot.

I am continuing with my fascination/obsession/non-stop yapping about becoming a Foreign Service Officer.  Yes, it has held the test of several weeks, which, in and of it self is notable.  But I have yet to actually register for the test.  I've started, but I haven't submitted my application yet, for two reasons.

Reason #1.  What the fuck.  I have to list every single job I have ever had, practically.  And the pay rate, duties, and so on.  Bloody hell.  While I have been a bit stationary in later years (also a shock), I bopped around quite a bit in years gone by.  I became a bit of a temp fiend.  I loved temping.  Lots of variety, you never knew where you would end up, if the job sucked, you knew you'd move on, and you didn't really have to give a crap about that office politics.  Or much else for that matter.  OH!  And if you were halfway functional, they though you were the most amazing thing since Tang.  And who doesn't love a good glass of Tang?

But having to dredge all this up is a real pain in the butt.  I don't know if I can even REMEMBER all the places that I worked.  But, I will persevere.

Reason #2.  Cone, cone, who's got the cone?  This is where the little life-changing dot comes in to the story.  In the foreign service, as I may have mentioned before, you have to pick a job category, or "cone".  The five cones are:  Consular, Economics, Management, Public Diplomacy, and Politics.  You select your choice at the time of your application, and YOU CAN NEVER CHANGE IT.  For the rest of your career, you are dedicated to a particular cone.  Now, to be fair, you can take assignments outside of your cone, but my understanding is that you can't do that too much, or you hurt your chances of promotion.  And, I also believe that you have to be promoted in a certain time frame, or you get kicked out.

So this cone business is nothing to fool around with.

First, I thought, Public Diplomacy.  That sounds like me.  You get to organize cultural programs, you interact with local people/organizations/media, and you get the chance to put a real face to America.  This sounds good.  I like culture.  I like talking, as those who know me can attest.  The issue that I have is that you have to support American policy.  Which is pretty easy for me under the current administration, but what happens if there is something I disagree with?  I would still need to promote it.  Hm.

Second, I thought, Political.  At first, I was like, Oh No, Politicians.  But then I read further, and thought more, and this seems to be more about analyzing the country- social, cultural, political - and then recommending how the US should proceed in this country.  And then I was a like, Oh Yes, Analyzing Society!  And finding solutions!  That really turns me on.  But it is the most competitive cone.  And I don't really have a background in international politics.

Then, I thought, wait a minute, what about Management?  I had originally bypassed Management, because it was all about the internal workings of the embassy, and I wanted to play with the people.  But, I also like playing with finances, and managing people.  And, my background is more fitting this choice (I've done a wide variety of office management type tasks).  Plus, it is one of the least popular cones, so there would be a greater chance of me not only getting the job, but getting the job I want.

Decisions, decisions.


 
 

"Israel has recalled its ambassador to El Salvador after he was found drunk and naked apart from bondage gear.

"Reports say he was able to identify himself to police only after a rubber ball had been removed from his mouth."

No joke.  From BBC News.


 
 
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I've been talking a lot with people about my latest obsession, becoming a Foreign Service Officer, and all the perks and excitement that go along with it.  One friend, in particular got quite excited.

"You will have Diplomatic Immunity!  You can kill people, and not get in trouble!"

Which leads me to wonder if my friend somehow fantasizes about how he can get away with murder.  Which then reminds me of how a few of us had dreams of him being a serial murder when he first started dating my other friend.  And the reported "Kill Women" that he muttered in his sleep.

This is a bit concerning.

But then, on the same note, he got just as excited that I would be able to park anywhere I damn well pleased, and that from then on, I would be the designated driver.  Which, of course, does not seem like quite a deal to me.

Perhaps I need to refer my friend to go live in Israel.  From the latest foreign service officer blog I am reading, Life After Jerusalem, people basically do whatever they want when it comes to driving.  Including stopping in the middle of a fast lane to have sex.  Which I think my friend would prefer much much more over killing some poor person.

I do have to admit, I had never heard of this diplomatic immunity stuff.  I guess I don't watch enough 1940's spy movies.  Personally, I'd rather save lives than take them.  And I would also prefer to bus (yes, even the crowded, stinky, isn't this really a van, bus) than park anywhere, legal or not. 

Although, I do like the idea of just randomly shouting out "Diplomatic immunity!!!"  Hm.  I'll have to give that a thought.

 
 

A ha!  See, you thought I would never return, and yet HERE I AM!  A miracle to be sure.

So, I thought I would write about my latest fascination.  I have decided to take the Foreign Services Officer test.  Wow!  You say.  And then you say, Huh.  What is a Foreign Service Officer?

Well, my friend, a foreign service officer are all those men and women that we lovingly call diplomats, who serve at embassies around the world.  They help you with your visa problems.  They look out for American economic interest abroad.  They manage operations.  They are engaged in political processes of the country they are in.  They help spread the word about how wonderful the US is, and what we are up to.  And they help to inform the American government about the issues in the country they are stationed in.  They are assigned to posts all over the world, typically for two years at a time, with housing and other benefits provided for.

But wait!  Before you can join this illustrious force, you must go through quite a process.  There are many steps along the way before you get accepted.  About 18,000 start the journey each year, and only about  400 make it out alive.  And by alive, of course, I mean get put on the roles to be hired.  But then, not all are hired, so there you go!

It all begins with the Foreign Services Officer Test (FSOT), which is basically a Trivia Pursuit meets the SATs.  It is pretty intense.  Asking everything from questions on treaties, to American culture, to psychology, statistics, and management practices.  So, essentially you have to know EVERYTHING.  Additionally, there is also a part on grammar (pick the best choice for this paragraph), as well as essay questions, and a biographical section (how often, when you go out with your friends, are you the one to make the decision of where to go?). 

So, that is where I begin.  I have requested a long line of books from the library, currently brushing up on economics (oh boy!) and world geography (I actually can point to where Turkmenistan is on a map, and can now tell you that the Central American countries in order from N to S are Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama).

It's kinda sick, but I think this is fun.  Of course, I always liked playing Trivial Pursuit.  Except for the football questions, that I would always just answer with "Refrigerator Perry".  And sometimes, I actually got it right.

Sigh.  Let's just hope the Foreign Service doesn't expect me to know football.  Or else I am screwed.