Eight weeks ago, I walked onto a plane not knowing to expect – of Syria, of the State Department, of US foreign policy, and of myself. I only knew that I had stumbled into an opportunity – rare and golden and sparkling in the distance. Up close, it was something more. Yes, from the outside it’s shiny and hard to describe – like a nebulous mass of abstract power and potential, but inside it is something much more intricate and interesting. And real. There are real decisions being made that affect real lives, and these are the people that are carrying them out. It is kind of overwhelming to think that I have made some kind of small impact on that, too.
Today was my last full day at the Embassy. I tried my best to wrap up everything that I was working on, hoping that I made some kind of good impression during my short time here. And to mark it, my boss – giving me a serious case of the blushes – gave me a fancy Certificate of Appreciation, describing the impact that I had made, and her hopes that I will one day join the Foreign Service to continue that kind of impact.
After recovering from my awkward blushings and finishing up my chain of emails and thank yous and submissions, I thought about it a lot. Joining the Foreign Service. I mean, the thought is not new to my jumbled little brain-box and it’s been increasingly on my mind in the past few weeks.
The Foreign Service, in my opinion, is a like big, awkward family of incredible and intelligent misfits – my boss once said that you have to be a little bit crazy to work in the Foreign Service – and I don’t doubt it. But I have been lucky to work with some really extraordinary people here who, despite their slight craziness, are immensely intelligent, compassionate, and have the capability to do inconceivable and amazing things. I think their view of crazy might be heavily skewed by the “normal American dream”. Sure, these people want happy families and white picket fences, but in places like Ulan Bator, Tripoli, or Lomé. They want success and a rewarding career, but instead of delivering a product, they are delivering policy and protection and positive images of America and its people. I have to admit, it’s nice to be a part of a group of people that doesn’t find that strange. They are career nomads, and a lot of them pull it off with a style and a swagger that I have yet to nail down.
Of course, there are pieces that I don’t agree with, things that I wish would improve, and all of that, too. It’s an imperfect machine, the State Department, but they will be the first to tell you so. Working here has been eye-opening in many ways and, perhaps for the best, has tempered my rampant idealism. I’m not saying that it has stamped it into the ground, mind you, but I feel that it has made me more realistic, and in some ways, more determined. Like any job, it has had its highs and lows. Often, its frustrations out measured its sense of success. It was a challenge, and that is exactly what I was looking for.
So, I’ll pack up my shiny, fancy Certificate of Appreciation, an overabundance of gratitude, and an experience that I am ready to take to the next level, whatever that may be.