I opened my eyes on the morning of Friday, August 8. A big smile spread across my face as I thought, “Today is the day!”
Our last day had arrived, the day when we would get up and officially swear in as diplomats during a formal ceremony. For months and even years I’d wished to join an A-100 class. Now I was smiling because, incredibly, not only had I made it in, but I’d made it through. Those six weeks of A-100 were finally about to end. A-100: I’d laughed, I’d cried, I’d graduated.
I almost jumped out of bed and headed for the shower.
My mom had flown out from California two days prior, and I was so grateful to know that she and my husband would be in the audience to witness the ceremony. But before we could get to that, first we had a couple of hours of class left that morning – we turned in our State Department-issued laptops, had a feedback session, and most importantly, we heard final words of wisdom from our wonderful deputy class coordinators who had facilitated our class training over the preceding six weeks. I grinned that I wore a turquoise skirt suit in a sea of black and gray suits – I guess I missed the memo! I just hoped I wouldn’t stand out in the group photo like the wedding guest in red.
Once our session concluded, I walked outside to eat a hard-boiled egg and smooth the wrinkles from my skirt in the warm, humid morning air. As I was standing there, I took some quiet time to ponder what achieving this honor meant to me. I gazed across the green campus of the Foreign Service Institute and reflected upon what I’d learned during A-100: about diplomacy, about other people, and about myself.
I have to also say that during a few sad minutes, some of my thoughts that morning turned to those people in my life with whom I’ve had conflicts. Over the course of my adult life, I have had my share of frustrating interpersonal situations that I was never able to resolve to my own satisfaction, despite my best efforts. I am still sometimes conflicted when I think of those people, with whom I experienced some of the highest highs and the lowest lows.
Some aspects of those situations were my fault, and some of them were truly not. But they usually end the same way – abandonment, silence, and disdain, as I sit and think and think and think about how to fix it, as if my very worth as a human being were predicated upon the ability to find a solution. What would those people think now? Did I deserve the honor that was about to be bestowed upon me?
Those perceived failures haunt me. I considered that I was about to walk into a room and swear to do my job as a diplomat faithfully on behalf of my country. How could I do this? What if I’m actually a person who can’t even resolve simple misunderstandings with other reasonably intelligent adults in my own life?
I closed my eyes and summoned all of my powers in order that I might hold myself to a higher standard without turning myself inside-out. That I might rely upon the logic that has served me so well in the past in order to determine the truth of a situation and to act accordingly. That I might continue to have the compassion and courage to extend basic trust to others, while trusting myself to not become cynical when they disappoint me.
I thought of the people that were close to me for a moment in time, and who later dried up and blew away like autumn leaves. I wished them safe travels.
If you’re not brave enough, alive enough to face the lowest lows, I guess you don’t deserve to feel or appreciate the highest highs. Resilience.
And so when I walked back inside I felt the highest high, and I was ready to promise I would try even if I failed. Gratitude.
We sat in the auditorium in reverse alphabetical order. And then we raised our right hands and said, “I, (name), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
I walked into A-100 on the first day knowing two people. I walked out of A-100 with my family, feeling like I’d gotten to know many more, but also that I’d really let people know me, too.
Here’s to what’s next – I’m currently already undertaking two weeks of area studies on Eurasia and Russia, and I will make that the topic of my next post.