Ugh, argh, and sigh

Area Studies makes me feel like a complete and total failure, so that’s fun. But on the other hand, it helps me defend my decision to not go to grad school. It also makes me really love management issues even more. Can someone give me a logistics issue to handle? Anyone? Gah, what I wouldn’t do for a terrible customer service problem right about now. Area Studies just makes me realize that policy isn’t my strong point. It doesn’t help that I have absolutely no background whatsoever in this part of the world. It also doesn’t help when people associated with the class let me know that I have no background, because I didn’t already feel like an idiot. I am learning, but I feel like my curve is Mount Everest. But, you know what? Not everyone has to get to the top. I’m happy to just schlep around the bags down at basecamp. I’ll do the dirty work and let someone else tackle the summit. I really do want to learn, but my struggle is the least of anyone’s worries.

Why does this class do such a good job of exposing my insecurities? Some days I hold back tears because I’m so lost, I feel like I’ll never make it in this profession. I spend half the class trying to just understand the words the lecturers are using. At least once I start Arabic classes, I’ll know it is a foreign language.

And then while, Area Studies is beating me to pulp in the corner, I’ve got other crap going on. I’m in a holding pattern, which means I’m still waiting to get my diplomatic passport and visas. I need to extend my stay in DC, which means I need to contact someone, I think, but I still need to figure out who that is. I always feel like I’m forgetting something all the time. But at least I’m keeping up with my TSP!

And then there is the glaring issue of life. A-100 made me question a few of my fundamental beliefs about how I want to live my life. I’ve been clinging on to my self-sufficient, independent attitude for so long. I can’t tell anymore if it was a coping mechanism or if I actually believe it. I feel like a piece of clothing, tumbling in a dryer. I’m just spinning and spinning and I have no clue when I’ll stop spinning. And the more I think about my own internal upheaval, the more I cling to anything I can, perhaps another lost sock in the dryer. So many things in my life feel like they have all flipped upside down and I don’t know how to look at them anymore. Maybe I just need to work on my Ender’s Game attitude – there is no up or down, only a different perspective.

I guess I’m just a little lost in this whole new world. I’ll find my way soon enough, probably right after Area Studies is over.


5 thoughts on “Ugh, argh, and sigh

  1. These are some of the things that I worry about struggling with too, also coming from a management background. It sounds difficult and frustrating, but I assume some days are better than others. I’m rooting for you.

    • I know that if this were another part of the world that I had even the slightest background in, the class would be easier to understand. I guess this is my punishment for getting a business degree, we can’t always win!

  2. Allow me to project my own experience on your post a little here (it may or may not apply, but I hope it helps)…I used to pride myself in my self-sufficiency and independence– but after five years in the FS (all alone until recently) I have learned the hard way that TRUE independence is totally overrated (if not impossible in this lifestyle)! This job is tough on everybody, but uniquely so for people who go through it alone– who have to deal with all of the logistics of uprooting one’s life, working, making new friends, doing all the household management stuff– without anyone to pick them up when they’re feeling tired or stressed! My only advice, short of hiring a personal assistant, is to be gentle on yourself– lower your own expectations, set mini-goals, and regularly schedule some pampering for yourself (you’re not paying rent, you can afford it!)

    If you’re lucky (as I was), you will find that some of your colleagues are the most kind, open-hearted people. I got “adopted” by a couple in my first tour who made sure I never had to eat dinner alone if I didn’t want to. Your colleagues (even the ones who don’t know you, like me!) want you to succeed and thrive. And if you’re looking for a connection in Cairo to ask silly questions about life there, let me know– I know an awesome couple there who I’m sure would be happy to help!

    • Thank you AKB! I am looking forward to being adopted by someone, because I know it won’t be easy being alone. A-100 just made me feel like a ticking time bomb, gotta find someone and get married NOW! And speaking of pampering, I haven’t had gone to a spa since 2011, I need to get on that!

      Also, I think I’ve proved to myself already that I can be independent – Peace Corps does a good job of that! Maybe it is time to start letting go of proving myself and just being myself.

  3. First off, great blog, and also great to see a Management Officer sharing her perspectives and background. (My spouse is one and has enjoyed her career and its challenges.) The Foreign Service isn’t just for wonks, it needs people who can take practical steps to solve operational problems. (Disclosure: I’m more on the wonk side myself.)

    While more knowledge is always better, I think that for your career specialty it’s most important to focus on cultural dynamics and political realities that will affect your job. In other words, learn about how things actually get done in the selected country and culture, especially why and how local hires (LES or FSN staff) and contacts will react in certain ways to your requests and directions. After that, it really doesn’t matter so much to remember all the ins and outs about political dynasties and coups; however, you’d better know why Mr. So-and-So is important and who you should reach out to in order to get things done (and how not to offend them in the process).

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