I am now a blogger!
It seems fitting to start this blog at the same time we are starting our new lives in the Foreign Service. Many people have asked us why we are doing this crazy thing, so I’ll just start at the beginning.
When I was a little girl I was completely fascinated with the life of my cousin Kristen who lived overseas. When I was 15 my parents and I spent a month with Kristen and her family in Holland and other European cities. From that first trip abroad I developed a desire to live overseas. In college I met a girl who’s father was in the Foreign Service and who’s family was living in Greece. I was so jealous! I knew that that was the kind of life I wanted.
Years later, I married a man who also loved to travel. Jason and I met as Mormon missionaries in northern Italy. When we were engaged we went to my brother-in-law for some financial advice. He told us that we needed to decide if we wanted to be “doers” or “havers” because most people can’t be both. Jason and I both knew immediately that we wanted to be “doers”. And most of the “doing” that we wanted was travel. Through the years we have been able to travel a good amount with Jason’s work, mainly to Europe. And we have traveled as a family in the US a lot, but it hasn’t been enough.
Early in our marriage, I told Jason that he should check out the Foreign Service and he thought that I was crazy. We had hoped that we would have opportunities to move overseas in the private sector, but that just never happened.
Then about four years ago, Jason checked out the Foreign Service and realized that there were jobs he qualified for with his background in computers. In September, 2008 the State Department announced that they were accepting applications for Information Management Specialists (IMS). Jason spent the next two months preparing his application and submitted it at the end of November. At that point, this was all a bit of a pipe dream until early April, 2009 when Jason was contacted by the State Department and asked to go to Washington, DC for an interview. In late April he flew to DC for his oral interview. When he called at the end of the three hour interview and told me he had passed I began to think that this dream of entering the Foreign Service might actually become a reality. Our family spent much of the summer of 2009 having extensive medical evaluations. Then Jason’s background check began. Jason has lived what most would consider a squeaky clean life. We have lived in the same town for 12 years and Jason has worked for the same company for 11 years, so the background check went smoothly. Our claim to fame is that the gentleman who was doing Jason’s background check was doing then-governor Jon Huntsman’s (current US Embassador to China) at the same time.
On August 15, 2009 we were informed that Jason passed the final suitability review and had been added to the IMS registry. This marked the beginning of the excruciating waiting period. When a FS candidate is added to the registry, he is basically in limbo. He has been deemed qualified for the position, but he hasn’t been accepted unless he receives an actual invitation to join a training class. Jason had, at this point, done everything he could do. It was all in the hands of the State Department. We had great hopes that he would be called off the registry and offered a position. However, we had to go on with our regular lives. Unfortunately, we never felt that we could plan our lives out more than a month or two, just in case he received an invitation. Frankly, neither Jason or I function very well in an environment where we feel our lives are in limbo. (I’m beginning to believe, though, that FS lives are full of limbo and we had better get used to it.) After 10 long months of waiting, on June 14, 2010, Jason received the email with an invitation to join the August 2, 2010 class. Needless to say, we are overjoyed!
One week from today, on July 25th, Jason and our two boys are leaving for the long drive from Utah to DC. Our two daughters and I will join them on July 31st. We’ll spend three weeks in DC together, after which the kids and I will fly back to Utah to start school here. We’ll then begin the long period of seperation while Jason receives training. We expect to be sent overseas sometime between November and February.
Since we started telling people about our impending changes in life, we have received many questions. The most common are:
Q: What will be your first post?
A: We don’t know. We could literally go anywhere in the world, from Tijauna to Santiago to Johannesburg to Hong Kong and everywhere in between. If there is an embassy or consulate there we could go there. And honestly, we love the idea of going wherever the government wants to send us. Wherever we are assigned to, we will be thrilled to go.
Q: When will you know where you are going?
A: We should receive our first assignment on August 17th.
Q: Since you have both lived in Italy and you both speak Italian, do you think that you will end up there?
A: No. It would be a dream come true for us to return to Italy, but chances are, we will never be stationed there. We’re not doing this to get back to Italy. And we are very excited with the prospects of learning to love new cultures and new languages.
Q: How do your kids feel about this?
A: It depends on who you ask. Our 14 year old is excited. She loves to travel and is quite adventurous. However, she wishes she could finish the upcoming school year in Utah and then move. That’s not going to happen. Our 12 year old is not happy that we are doing this. Our 10 year old and 6 year old are fairly oblivious to what this is going to mean to them. However, we have done a lot of research on the effects of expat lives on kids and the information is overwhelmingly positive. Kids tend to do very well in this environment and anyone we have ever talked to that grew up overseas would not trade it for anything. We know this is going to be hard, but we are thoroughly convinced that it will be really good for our family in the long-run.
Q: What are you doing with your house in Utah?
A: For the time-being, we are keeping it and renting it out. If the housing market in Utah picks up, we may sell it in the future. Or we may just keep it.
Q: How long is each post?
A: The first two posts are two years each. After that they are generally 3-4 years.
Q: How long are you going to do this?
A: At this point, our plan is to do it for at least 20 years. We gotta get that government pension baby!
Q: How do your parents feel about you doing this?
A: They would rather we didn’t do it. They would rather we stayed in Utah forever so they were never far from their grandchildren. However, Jason’s parents spent 3 years in Japan as newly-weds and my parents lived in Rome for 3 years in the mid-90’s, so our parents get it. Even though they aren’t crazy that we are leaving, they understand and are supportive. For that, we feel blessed.
Q: Why on earth would you leave a great job, a great home in a wonderful community and your families to do something so crazy?
A: This one is harder to answer. Part of it goes back to my brother-in-law’s question when we were engaged: Do you want to be “doers” or “havers?” We want to be “doers.” We really aren’t that attached to our house and our things. We want to have experiences. Life is short and at the end of it we want to be able to look back with great satisfaction at our adventures. Jason said that after attending my father’s funeral in 2006 he started thinking about his own funeral and decided that, as things were, it would be pretty boring. Also, we want to give our children the world. We want them to have unique experiences that will make them appreciate the world they live in. We want them to learn new languages and new cultures. We consider this a great gift we are giving them. Furthermore, Jason and I are at our best as a couple when we are out of town. I know that that sounds strange, but we travel together really well. It’s a passion that we both share. Finally, we are excited about giving something back to our country. We’re proud Americans and we are looking forward to representing and serving the United States abroad.
One last note for my first blog. Anyone who knows me very well knows that I am a very spiritual person. I rely heavily on the Spirit to guide me and I believe in the power of personal revelation. I know that this is what we are supposed to be doing. I know that we are being divinely directed on this path. I have had a couple of very spiritual experiences regarding this decision. I also know that with the help of my Father in Heaven, I can do hard things. I know that this change is going to be hard, but I’m completely convinced that this is what we are supposed to be doing. That kind of assurance helps to eliminate doubts and fears. I’m not afraid or even nervous for our future. I’m excited! I can’t wait! And I’m ready for this grand adventure to begin!