Yesterday was my birthday – my 34th. I share it with John Lennon – I pretty much believe that sharing a birthday with John Lennon is fabulously awesome. Maybe because John’s life was ended so tragically and because I sometimes wonder what he would be doing (and thinking) today if he hadn’t been killed, I frequently find myself reflecting on my birthday.
Being in the FS lends itself to a high degree of reflection. There are lots of anniversaries in the Foreign Service – the day you took the written exam, the day you took the oral exam, the day you got the call, your first flag day, your first day at your first post, etc. etc. Even as the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, I feel a large part of my life revolves around these dates – because, of course, we’re in the Foreign Service. It’s a family affair. Oh, and as far as reflection goes, birthdays are just good times to reflect.
My birthday neatly coincides with our first week here. We left DC last year on October 14th and arrived in Santo Domingo on October 17th (no, it wasn’t a three day flight, my husband had consultations in San Juan).
So, yesterday I was doing some thinking about how we ended up here. What we thought when we first arrived. What our next (and final) year in Santo Domingo will be like. I was wondering, if I could go back five years and tell myself this is where I’d be, would I believe myself? Yes. Ten years? Absolutely. Fifteen. Probably…although I would have had a lot of questions about how (being nineteen was a rough time for me). Twenty years ago? No question. Honestly, I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t envision myself traveling the world. When we were home this summer the boys discovered the book below on my mom’s shelf. This was my favorite book as a child. It’s about a boy who ties a rubber band to his bedpost and travels around the world and beyond.The book makes me think about the places we go and the ties we create. We have seen many friends arrive here after us and already hugged a few goodbye. We’ve gone home and seen friends and family and come back here, happy to return to our new friends. With all the possibilities laid out before us the world seems so big. With all the connections we’ve made, it also seems small.
Hmmmm…admittedly, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this. Perhaps just to this point, to note some things I believe now that I may not have known last year (or maybe knew, but didn’t take much time to think about). Things like:
- Be yourself and be kind. Have good intentions. They rest will fall into place. Don’t worry if someone doesn’t want to hang out with you. Focus on the people with whom you share a mutual interest.
- There’s not really a place in the Foreign Service for contempt. You’re in a foreign country. It’s different. Remember that and move on.
- Have good days and bad days. It’s no big deal. It’s normal.
- Don’t worry so much about your kids. They’ll be fine. Kids are amazing. Be present with them. A loving home is a loving home, no matter where you are.
- Skype. Facebook.
- Dance. Listen to new music. Meet new people. Throw parties. Do simple things. Realize you’re free (or can be) from the American burden of having to “have.”
- Laugh at yourself and the crazy things you see (or eat…or hear). This really is tremendous blessing that will pass before you know it.
- You had this dream. Now live it.
- Hope all of the above for the people you encounter. Despite the perks, the Foreign Service life is not always perfectly easy (although I’d never trade it). Give people a break. Smile.
And, you know, remember a little John Lennon for good measure – “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”