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On the FSOT and my life

October 12, 2009

So, I took the Foreign Service Officer’s Test (“FSOT”) this past Friday.1

Like most of my major life choices, I decided to sign up for the exam on impulse during a stressful time (when my life gets stressful, I take action, even when that action is not directly related to the cause of my stress). It wasn’t a whim – I’ve thought about working for the state department on and off again for years and have done plenty of research on it – but the decision to go for the October FSOT was a little last minute, I registered only a month before I ended up taking the exam itself, after it just kind of clicked. In that, hey. I should do this kind of way.

The FSOT is step one of forty bajillion in a hoop-jumping process to work for the State Department. If I passed, I will have to take a day long “Orals” section – somewhere between oral tests and a job interview – and then there’s a few more steps that I haven’t allowed myself to really think about yet because I’m a one-step-at-a-time kind of girl.

Here’s the thing: I find myself wondering if I actually want to pass this exam.

Working for the state department is something that I am confident that I would be good at. It is a career that I would enjoy and grow with and an environment that I would thrive in. I had fun taking that exam. I had fun reading up on the field before I took the exam. The career itself is not the problem. The problem is just how important my friends and family are to me. How much I rely on the support network I’ve developed to keep me sane. How much I would miss the life that I have here in DC. I want to own a house. I want a long term, primary partner. I want a cat. Kids, eventually. How much of that is really possible if every two years I’m shipped off to some random country? I’m fucking terrified that if I follow this career path I’m shutting the door on all of those things and loosing everything that I have and love here. That I’ll end up completely alone in another country without the solid groundings that I currently have.

I know I can do it. I’ve done it. And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yet I’m still drawn to it. I still think that this has the potential to be a very fulfilling career for me.

Which would be perfect if I was the type to think that a career is everything.

Plan “A.2” (Plan A.1 being the foreign service) is to work my way into the event planning field. Start taking courses at GW for the certificate, start sending out resumes, building up a savings, networking… The problem is, I’m impatient. I’m restless with my current job and I want to get moving on this career thing now.

It will be six weeks before I know if I’ve passed the FSOT or not. If I passed it, it will be goddess knows how long before I take the Orals and know if I’ve passed those. The whole process takes eight months to two years depending on various factors. Do I even have the patience for that? Do I want it badly enough to sit on my hands for the next few months? What do I want? Is a fulfilling career more important to me right now than family and friends? What good does a fulfilling career do me if I’m miserable in other ways? Who will I be if I put this above my friends and family? Who will I be if I am halfway around the world for funerals, weddings, graduations? There’s a lot of those coming up in my life and I want to be there for them.

Is it possible to do both? To have all of the things I want in the realm of family and friends and still be a foreign service officer?

I wish I knew. I wish there was a way to know.

1 I think I did well? I don’t know, finishing first is usually enough to make a person nervous. I didn’t feel drained though, I felt energized and generally feel more positive about this than I did with the GRE. Which is good, because I did not particularly do well on the GRE.

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