As I sit here at the end of the first week in my new job, I am stunned and amazed at what the week has been like. Here a few quick impressions:
1. Like the military, State has a tried and true process for bringing new hires from normal people into diplomats. If you engage fully and follow directions, they will bring you along;
2. The quality of the people you work with will be stunning, absolutely stunning. I don't know what your life was like before State, but I had a tendency to be the annoying detail guy who knew far too much about international affairs and history for a normal person's conversation. Here I am an ankle-biter as many of my classmates don't just know about, say, the Balkan wars and their aftermath, but can tell you about the time they were in Sarajevo when some famous event happened. In Serbo-Croat if you like. Same with China, Africa, South America, you name it.
3. Because we don't know going forward who we will have to work with, under, or supervise in the future, there is a culture of courtesy and good will amongst everyone here that I have never encountered at work before. We will be sent to strange places with a few colleagues and need to work well together immediately to achieve the mission. Our program and instructors have been drilling networking skills into us in ways both overt and subtle.
4. I used to watch a lot of TV after work. When I get home now my brain is so full that all I want to do is catch up with wife, kids and pets. The TV I watch now is less, later, and mindless. Like the foreign affairs magazines I used to read a lot and now sit untouched on the night stand, I am no longer plugged into BBC World News, etc.
5. I sold insurance for nine years prior to State. It is a field with laws, company rules, and policy provisions that were many and diverse. I knew most of them like the back of my hand. This week, all of that mental space has been re-formatted to store the definitions of all the TLA (three letter acronym) data. We get lots of these, all day, every day. I couldn't tell you a thing about insurance now, and it's only been a week! For those familiar with the Myers Briggs personality types, I am an NT. There aren't very many of us in the real world. Apparently that's because we all came to work at State. From the acronyms to the way the buildings are organized to the pace and content of the coursework, I can tell we are all living in an NT's world. Fascinating and frightening.
6. When they say you need to be Worldwide Available, they mean it! One of the most exciting events of the week was the delivery of the bid list, places where we will all be headed after A-100. Every continent was represented on the list. Many of the between class conversations since delivery of the list have centered around "what's high and low on your list?" Given the diversity of backgrounds and interests of the class, it has surprised me how few of my classmates have the same high slots as I do. Flag Day is going to be a lot of fun. The uncertainty of the days between now and then are going to be pretty stressful for us, and even more so for our families.
7. Every day I come to work, at least once a day I step back, look around, and thank God that I, little old me, somehow made it through the extremely rigorous selection process and get to do this job. In Corinthians Paul tells the church there, "What do you have, that you have not received? Why then do you act as if you had not received it?" He gave me the blessings of life experiences that led me to this place and time, even though I could not and did not recognize many of them as blessings at the time. He gave me the brains to do the job, the heart to step out and seize it, and so many friends and family that helped along the way. For Him, for all of them, for the fantastic people of the 168th A-100, and for the incredible idea that tomorrow I get to keep doing this job, I can only say thank you, thank you, and thank you.