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Liminal June 27, 2012

Posted by KG in FS Life, State.

A month ago, I finished my tour on the Desk and moved on towards my next assignment.  Towards, not to, because I have a year at the Foreign Service Institute — FSI — in between.  The move from an extremely busy desk to FSI gave me cognitive whiplash, from which I am still recovering.

Reflecting back on the last two years seems odd, both because it feels so premature and because the “issue of the day” culture at the Department makes such reflection unnatural.  Inclined towards grand pronouncements as I am, I’ve taken to touting the benefits of a Desk job to many of my fellow FSI students.  The recommendations are heartfelt:  the foreign policy machine is utterly inscrutable from a distance, and the small glimmers of insight into the sausage-making from the Desk level are invaluable.  Not that those insights don’t come with costs.  You’ll work your butt off, and lose many battles.  The bureaucracy can be soul-sucking.  And the adventure aspect of the Foreign Service will be notably absent.  Bottom line: I loved it, and I cannot wait to go back overseas.

For now, however: FSI.  I feel the “in betweenness” of the place, as if the campus is a giant airport departure lounge.  Though training is an essential part of our careers, FSI is awash with a constant feeling of waiting to leave, or relishing in having down time and nothing to do.  Your life is your own (give or take).  Imagine shifting suddenly to that sort of life after a year of living from short deadline to short deadline.  Periodically I am still nagged by the feeling of a phantom Blackberry, blinking red light reminding me of tasks undone and emails unanswered.  After a month, the feeling is fading, but occasionally still nags.

In the spirit of adjustment, I am searching for new ways to fill the days.  The wife has been particularly pleased with the fact I’ve chosen to start taking care of more household chores, but those can’t fit all of the new hours in the day suddenly open to me.  I’ll probably up my running mileage to the extent the heat allows — and start a renewed search for more hobbies.



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