Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vote for Me!

Hello, lovely Foreign Service bloggers and readers. I've come to ask for your help. I was picked out of a few hundred entries as one of Sprouts most inspiring stories. Being short on cash, some extra grocery money would be VERY much appreciated. If you could please take a few seconds out of your day to vote for me, that would be wonderful.

I'm at the bottom (Brandee)! You can vote multiple times with different email addresses. You're not signing up for anything, just helping me win some sorely needed groceries. Thank you in advance!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bitten by the Entrepreneurial Bug

This is a shameless plug for my new business. M and I have joined forces and now co-own G 'n' R PC Repair in Austin, TX.

If you know of anyone in the city who needs computer repair or maintenance, feel free to direct them to our Facebook page. We will diagnose the issue for free (it costs $129 at Best Buy's Geek Squad!), and then make sure the problem is fixed the first time. Our prices are really low ($35 to clean your system of any malware, spyware, or viruses!), and we guarantee success or you don't pay a dime. We're good, honest techs who won't upsell or take advantage of our customers. Tell your friends!

Reach us here:

We promise a response within 24 hours!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hello Old Friend(s)

I left for a while, but I'm (sort of) back. I needed time to separate from the Foreign Service world and get my feet back under me. Will I test again next year? Of course. Is this career Plan A anymore? Not a chance.

It was hard to accept that the Foreign Service wasn't a guarantee after having hurdled every obstacle thrown at me the first time around, but I've swallowed that difficult notion and can even stomach it now. I was beyond disappointed to get rejected at the QEP stage this year, but it comes with the territory. I'm preparing myself to go in another direction while I wait for my time to enter the Foreign Service. It's not so bad.

I'm working on several certifications that will lead me to a job in network administration. I'm picking up on it quickly; the work is interesting; and I'm nearly guaranteed to land a job when I'm finished. If the traditional FSO route doesn't work for me, this new path may open up doors for an FSS position instead. It's taking me longer to get where I intend to go, and I'm working on being okay with that. The job I'm looking to take in the indeterminate meantime is pretty engaging, so it makes things a little easier.

My friends and boyfriend have all been incredibly helpful and supportive these last couple of months. I couldn't ask for more help if I wanted to. I'm so grateful to be surrounded by the caliber of people in my "circle." I don't know what I did to deserve such wonderful individuals, but I'm thanking my lucky stars. Austin is definitely beginning to feel a lot more like home these days.

Monday, May 16, 2011

F is for Failure

I'm gutted to report that my candidacy has been terminated at the QEP stage. I was somehow qualified enough two years ago, but not this time around. I can't/won't understand it. All I know is that I'm absolutely crushed, as my candidacy will expire in October, and I have to start all over in February. What seemed like a guarantee when I passed in August of 2009 is all but an impossibility now. There have already been a lot of tears shed this morning over this news, and I know there are more to come.

I'm obviously going to keep trying until I get in, but I can't help but feel cheated. With all of the other negative things that have been going on in my personal life, I thought this would be a bright spot. It didn't turn out that way. I don't quite know how to process this latest failure, but what I do know is I am going to crawl into the fetal position on the couch and cry.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Keeping Resolutions

Last year I set a few goals for myself. I'm happy to say that I've followed through on most of them. M and I are on our way to being healthier versions of ourselves. In the last six weeks, I've lost just under 21 lbs, and he has lost just over 33 lbs. I'm very proud of him (and myself, for that matter), but we're going to keep up the good work.

I've really enjoyed living in Austin. I'm making great friends, having new experiences, and making an actual life here. It feels like home. And this summer, with my new classes in CS/CIT, I'll be taking language classes. Things are coming together slowly but surely. That's really all I can ask for right now.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

On Starting Over

For me, the last year has been a journey in starting over. I moved to Texas in January 2010 to get away from a very toxic family situation in Massachusetts. I had a couple of friends, but was really starting over and living a new life down here. I split from my boyfriend of four years, and met someone new and wonderful. I began and got laid off from my job. The government cut back on hiring and DS cleared hundreds of new names for the register; I had to start over with the Foreign Service.

Tens of thousands of dollars into my bachelor's degree later, I have realized that I have no real, feasible Plan B for if the Foreign Service doesn't come through. So here I am, making what I hope is the adult decision to start over one more time. Because I was laid off due to outsourcing, I'm eligible for a program that falls under the Trade Adjustment Act. This allows me to attend training for a new career full-time while collecting unemployment benefits. I have up to two years to complete said training. This means I have the opportunity to bid the soul-sucking world of customer service and call centers adieu.

After a week of being completely overwhelmed with information and emotions--mostly regarding the possibility of ending my Foreign Service candidacy for another year at least--I took a deep breath, spoke to some of my friends, and decided to look into computer science and information technology. While this is completely subject to change, it's likely that I will start school this summer to gain a degree and/or certifications in programming. It's not a field I ever would have imagined for myself, but it makes sense. I live in a technology hub, so a career in computer science is a natural shift. There are a lot of positions available for an entry-level programmer, and they make enough for me to pay my bills (an all-important trait, really), so I'm going to go for it. A new skill-set can't hurt me, and I'm ready to look for a secondary career, not another job to occupy for the next however many months.

I'm nervous and scared that this might not work out for me, but it feels like a step in the right direction. I still want the Foreign Service more than anything else in this world, but I'm willing to consider reality for once.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Deviation from the Norm

Last night I was faced with a situation that really got under my skin. I'm not aggravated about it anymore, but there are still things I feel need to be said about what happened.

Every Friday night my boyfriend has a get-together at his place to unwind and play drinking games. M used to be in a fraternity here in Austin, and some of his friends from those days still drop by. I am well aware of who the stereotypical frat boys and sorority girls are, and I will say that while there are plenty of these types around, he associates with many others who have broken the mold. He, himself, does just that. However, there are a few who fall into that cliché casting: over-privileged, entitled, loud-mouthed, opinionated, sheltered (generally white) kids who know nothing of life beyond their segregated hometowns, college campuses, and good-ol'-boy ways.

I try not to associate with these people. I am civil, polite, and sometimes even friendly, but I choose not to seek them out for a reason. They are not the company I wish to keep. Because of the intimate setting of last night's gathering, and the attendance of just six people (myself included), it was nearly impossible to escape association with a couple for whom I don't much care.

This couple on multiple occasions has said things I flat-out disagree with and, at times, find offensive and/or repugnant. Things such as, "I'm more okay with black people than Hispanic people; she's the opposite. She really doesn't like black people that much." and "I only think blue-eyed, blonde-haired babies are cute. You know, Nazi babies." and "This girl showed up, and she was poor, but trying to dress like she wasn't. I mean, come on! You're poor! Stop pretending!" and many instances of the well-known "I'm not _______, but [insert offensive stereotype or assumption here]."

As a woman of mixed heritage who grew up with a lot of racism in my own family (white side making derogatory remarks about my black side), I get especially angry when I'm subjected to idiotic comments like the ones above. I realize I'm in the South now, but hasn't my generation started to move past this ridiculousness? Is my generation really not any more enlightened than their parents? How are we still failing this badly? We, as a society, have to do better. These two people are going to mate and eventually pop out children. Are these kids going to be just as narrow-minded and bigoted as their elitist parents? How can we fix this awful mess?

These two have a history of running their mouths unchecked because people don't want to cause a scene or make waves in an otherwise okay friendship. Not me. I have a very low tolerance for this kind of behavior. I spoke up yesterday from a place of emotion and anger after I had had enough of their self-indulgent and myopic musings. Naturally, it didn't go over well. These two are the types where calm and logic wouldn't haven't been effective anyway, but I'm disappointed in myself and my own reaction to the situation. I let my own past and baggage dictate how I responded. I'm not sorry for what I said (essentially that they were sheltered, arrogant, obnoxiously opinionated, and often said racist or borderline racist things), but I wish I had handled it better. I'm a better person than how I acted yesterday, and I want to admit my mistake.

I believe that speaking up is and always will be the right thing to do. I'm not sorry I said how I felt, but I wish I could have conducted myself with a little more class because I don't think I accomplished anything last night but to make them defensive. What good did I do for myself, their views, or anyone other minority they come across? None.

For now I'll let bygones be bygones, but in the future I hope I remember this lesson. And I hope you will, too.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Results Are In

I haven't been obsessively checking my email and waiting for my FSOT results letter, so I was surprised when a former study-buddy of mine back in Boston sent me a Facebook message to ask me how I did. I logged into my email account and, sure enough, there were the results for our tests. I was nervous opening my results letter. When I saw that I passed I was relieved, but I didn't feel the overwhelming happiness and joy I did the first time. In 2009, I literally screamed so loud I scared my dogs. This time I just accepted that I have a lot more hurdles that I must overcome before I can truly be excited.

I'm going to spend the next week or so crafting my PNQs. I may reuse one or two, but I need to make sure I stand out from the rest. After all, if I blow it here, I'm done for another year.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Tomorrow's Test is Different

I'm taking the FSOT for the second time tomorrow. It's different this go around. I'm much more nervous than I was two years ago, even though I know what to expect. What has changed?

When I signed up to take this exam in February 2009, all I knew was that I wanted to be a diplomat someday. I didn't have a college degree, I was unemployed, and I didn't expect to pass. I hoped to pass, of course, but I thought my chances were slim to none. I didn't know what lay ahead of me. This time, I still don't have a college degree, I'm yet again unemployed, but I know I can pass. I've been through the entire gauntlet, and I know that State thinks I'd be able to hack it in their world. However, the candidate pool is significantly larger than two years ago; it is much more competitive; and State isn't hiring as many people. I could get the exact same questions right, and I could write the same killer essay, and there's no guarantee that I am going to pass. If I don't pass, I can kiss my candidacy goodbye until next year, because I'm set to expire in October. There's so much more riding on this test.

I'm taking a deep breath and trying to calm my nerves. On to tomorrow.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Biting the Bullet

I submitted my registration/application for the FSOT. It's been two years since I last registered for the test. I feel like that timespan would be more acceptable if I hadn't made it all the way through the first attempt (or two!), but I succeeded on my first attempt! I made it all the way through! Yet, I'm still languishing on the register.

I was successful at putting the Foreign Service out of my mind, or at least toward the back, for a while, but that familiar obsession is coming back with a vengeance. I want so badly to get that call in 2011. I'd do almost anything for it.