And now, we wait

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So, as of 8/8, my file has been sitting in the Final Review Panel.  Since the rest of my hiring actions took place at breakneck speeds, I perhaps naively thought that this part would be a breeze too.  Alas, the bureaucracy of working for the man has caught up with me, and no update is available on my particular file.  Many phone calls and emails have given me one frustrating answer: “We don’t know what’s taking so long.”  I honestly have a squeaky clean past so I can’t really think of anything they’d need to investigate.

I mean look at her.  How could you NOT want to send her abroad?  She's so WORLDLY!

I mean look at her. How could you NOT want to send her abroad? She’s so WORLDLY!

The 2014 Fiscal Year begins 1 October, so the last training class for Foreign Service Specialists begins on 9 September, and at this point it look like I am not going to make that cutoff.  While it’s hard to sit around and be patient to get this show on the road, really this is a blessing.  Since the next class will likely start in January, I’ll get to put in plenty of time at work getting my ducks in a row, save some money (the summer was spend furloughed so I was being frugal), I’ll get to take a trip to the Dominican Republic (NOT MEXICO) over Thanksgiving, and will get to spend another Christmas at home with my family.  Hard to be mad at that, amiright?

One huge issue I’m dealing with is handing over my dance coach responsibilities.  I took over the McKendree University Dance Team in summer 2009, and they have been a huge part of my life ever since.  I am tremendously proud of the group of young women I got to coach, and the thought of walking away just about breaks my heart.  I know it’s the right choice, quite honestly I was feeling like I had taken the team about as far as I could personally, so it’s time for new, fresh talent to come in and experience the same joy and pride that I got to experience for the past 4 years.  I so look forward to seeing these ladies and what they will accomplish down the road, and I have every intention of jetting down to Florida for NDA Nationals to cheer them on!

Looking forward to the next few months, some quality time spent with family and friends sounds like just what I need!

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Clearances

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So, here’s the update for ya!  I received a conditional offer of employment with the DoS on July 11th (the day of my interview), but I was handed a list of hoops to jump through before I would ACTUALLY get an honest-to-goodness job.

1.  I have to get a Top Secret Security clearance – now the cool thing here is that I already had this from my job with the Dept of Defense.  So all I had to do was fill out the additional changes since the last time I was investigated, and they’d be able to transfer it right over.  I received the good news this week that it was done in late July, so that’s a HUGE step forward.  Those starting this process without a clearance stay in this stage for a year or more, I don’t envy them.

2.  I need a Worldwide medical clearance, called a Class 1 clearance.  Since this job could send me to the artic, to the desert, to a war zone or to a place without an emergency room, they needed me to get a VERY thorough health screening.  This involved multiple trips to the doctor for blood draws (10 vials!!), x-rays, urine tests (I’m a pro at these as the DoD has tested me yearly….do I look like a druggie?), a vision test, and a physical exam.  I wasn’t really anticipating any problems here, so the only thing I was worried about is if my blood work would come back and show that I had some crazy disease I never knew about.  Happily I got my results yesterday and I am 100% cleared for worldwide availability.  I do have a disease called hypothyroidism that I’ve been treated for since High School, but as it isn’t life threatening when treated well, my doctor had no problem signing my release forms.
-Side note, it had been a year since I did any bloodwork for my thyroid, and last year I got a pretty bad report when it came to my lipid profile.  I was pretty unhealthy, and it was starting to affect my liver.  So after a loss of 25 pounds and totally turning my diet around, I’m happy to report that my levels were GREAT, what an amazing feeling!  (Turns out, if you eat healthier, you will get healthy…who knew?)

3.  The final hurdle will be something called a Final Review Panel.  This group will check out my clearance paperwork and see if there any glaring gaps in judgement that would make me unfit to represent the US abroad.  For instance, you can get a security clearance if you’ve had prior drug use or a DUI, but does the DoS REALLY want you if those are on your record?  Are you an alcoholic, is your boyfriend a drug dealer?  Again, I’m not anticipating any problems here, unless they decide my fear of spiders would make me a bad fit.  (Is it bad that I’m already wondering how I’ll react if they send me to a place with massive poisonous spiders?)  Less concerned about bombs, more concerned about spiders.  Glad I’ve got my priorities in check.

Once ALLLLLLLL of the right people review my file and give me the stamp of approval, that’s when I OFFICIALLY get put on the “Register.”  This is a ranked listing of alllllll candidates within a specialty, and your rank on the list is completely dependent on how you did at the interview.  (For your reference I got a 5.8, which is on the higher side but it goes up to a 7, so I won’t be the highest I’m sure.)  As openings come up for my specialty (IT Support) I will get orders to pack up my life and head off to DC for 4-5 months for orientation and training.  A few weeks into the training, they tell me what country I’ll be going to.  I get to tell them my preferences, but ultimately the DoS dictates where I go for the first two tours, so I’m kind of at their mercy.  People keep asking me what I will do if they decide to send me somewhere I don’t want to go, and the answer is pretty simple:  I’ll go.

I didn’t sign up for this job thinking I’d end up in Western Europe the whole time, I know I’ll have to endure some danger and hardship posts, and I know it will be difficult and scary, but that’s what I signed up for when I made this my goal.  (I know my family hates hearing this, and I don’t blame them.)

I’m getting a TON of questions on when I will leave, and I realize how maddening this is, but I truly have no idea at this point.  I do know there is a training class for my specialty that begins in September.  My gut feeling is that I won’t be far enough through the process to be invited to that class, but I am not ruling it out, as the rest of my application has moved faster than I ever anticipated.  I promise I’ll tell you the instant I know anything!

In the meantime I’m in the process of hiring a replacement for my dance team (SUPER DEPRESSING, ugh I’m going to miss them so much) and starting to simplify my belongings, and throw out and donate the things that I just don’t NEED.  For now I’m not selling my place, as the market on my street isn’t ideal for 1br units right now, so that’s kind of up in the air.  Hoping I’ll be able to rent it out instead!

As always, I’ll keep you posted, but that’s how things are going right now.  Full of uncertainty!!

And hell yes, before I leave I promise we’ll have a badass going away party, and keep in mind I’ll be in DC for several months so while I will leave STL I won’t be out of the country for a loooooooooooooong time.  In the meantime I’ve invested in the following map to keep track of my world travels.  It’s a scratch-off world map…how cool!

http://www.amazon.com/Luckies-London-Scratch-Map-LUSCR/dp/B003NCIPS6

(can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Luckies-London-Scratch-Map-LUSCR/dp/B003NCIPS6)