With Under Secretary McHale announcing she’ll be leaving State in June, and my A-100 colleagues discussing the logistics of resigning mid-tour, talk of quitting seems to be all around.
No, I’m not planning to quit. A year and a half in I still can’t imagine a better career for me. It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of my A-100 colleagues feel the same way. Not a single one of us has resigned so far, and I’d be surprised if anyone does soon. There are a lot of great things about this career, which is why the State Department is consistently ranked among the country’s top employers.
Nonetheless, these days I find myself thinking for the first time about life after the Foreign Service. Mostly because of Flynn. Sure, I’d heard the stories and read the articles (like this recent one) about the stresses of this lifestyle on family members. But fortunately Andy passed the Oral Assessment, solving the question of what he’d do in the long-term, and luckily he got a job at the Embassy in Benin, solving the question of what he’d do in the short-term. Now, though, there’s this other tiny person to worry about. For the time being all he needs to be happy is a pacifier or a bouncer, but I’m sure things will get dicier soon enough.
There are certainly some amazing advantages to an international upbringing, but there are sacrifices too. Already I’m worrying about how Flynn will adapt to a nomadic existence. Will he feel like he has a home? Will he consider himself an American? Mostly, though, I’m feeling guilty for moving him far from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — not just for their sake, but for his too.
The Foreign Service still excites and makes sense for us now, but for the first time I can imagine a future in which it doesn’t. I hope that isn’t ever the case, but it might be. And what if it is? What then?
Going places. But where?
Under Secretary McHale surely has a number of rewarding (and lucrative) private sector options. Many of my A-100 colleagues could return to former careers in law or finance. But what about those of us who don’t have another profession to fall back on (me), or who do but don’t want to return to it (Andy)? “Diplomat” isn’t a job title you find in the classifieds, so where do people like us go if one day down the road the Foreign Service life isn’t working out?
(That’s not a rhetorical question.)