Friday, September 28, 2007

Maybe I'll Stay

I've been giving a lot of thought to not leaving the State Department. I know that sounds weird. I was even asked at a job interview why I was considering leaving, when it was such a plum job.

There are no two ways about it. I was miserable in Jerusalem. And I spent a great deal of time searching USAjobs trying to find a job back in archaeology. But finding a job in archaeology that pays what I make now is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

But I realized the other day that I was thinking about how content I am right now. Okay, I am not wild about the shifts, but I am already 1/4 of the way through this assignment. And I do like my job. The work, especially when I am the Watch Officer and not the Current Intelligence Officer (that is more like being a copy clerk), is really interesting. I am learning A LOT. And as I am bidding and talking to people about jobs I am bidding for, I am realizing how happy people in my bureau, Intelligence and Research (INR), are. Many have done multiple tours there, some even converted to civil service so they could stay in INR permanently. And with the higher clearance I now have, I could also go work for other agencies if I chose.

I have also realized that I would enjoy any of the six core bids, or bids on jobs that are at cone, in grade (meaning in our career track (cone) and at our rank), that I have picked. Plus, there are a least another six jobs I am bidding on that are not core, that I think I would like. I am bidding on four desk officer positions for the Balkans and one for Germany, plus a press officer position for the Balkans, a consular press officer position, a job teaching the public diplomacy course, a job working with the legislature, two political analyst positions and one press analyst position. There is a staff aide position in INR I may bid on as well. And any of these jobs would be interesting.

Which is to say there is are a lot of places I can go in the Department and find interesting work. And the supervisors for all of these places seem pretty good.

So I have a good job with great benefits and interesting potential for the future. Add to all this that I love our condo, I love being in the states, and I love being here with M. Really I have a lot to be thankful for. We don't have to worry about bills. I can go to the dog park with Noostie. We are developing a network of friends here, including some of our best friends from Jerusalem. I am thrilled that outside of that pressure cooker, we all still like each other.

All of which is to say maybe I will stick with the State Department.

Which of course means I am milli-seconds away from being offered the perfect job in archaeology. But even if that happened, it is not a bad position to be in.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I am feeling a bit better about the whole bidding situation, but it is still a major pain. It is hard to meet with so many people about so many different jobs and to keep track of it all.

I had two interviews of a sort today. Both went extremely well and I think I have a good shot at the job I want. But it is technically two ranks higher than me (hopefully only one once the promotion list comes out), which means they can want me but can't tell me with certainty that I will have the job for quite a while. And if someone of the right rank decides at the last minute that they didn't get the job they wanted and want this one instead, I would be screwed. Even if I am the one the office wants. Fortunately, I also think I have a good shot at my second and third choices, which would also be decent jobs. And one of them is at my rank.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


When I got home from Jerusalem, I was desperate to find a different job. I had been miserable there and I really wanted to go back into archaeology.

I still want to go back into archaeology. I don't love what I am doing now like I loved archaeology. But that said, I am not miserable anymore. I like my job. I can foresee getting other jobs within the department that I would also like, and I think I have a good shot at them. And I am tenured, so not only do I have a really good salary and great benefits, I have job security. So I am not desperate to leave.

But I put in a number of applications when I first got here. And today I had an interview with a job I think would be fabulous - archaeologist for Mt. Vernon. It is a permanent position with good benefits. I'd get to teach classes, be out in the field...the folks there seem great. The area is gorgeous. Problem? Huge salary cut. Not as big as some of the contract positions I have seen, but close. They said upper 40s. I make a good bit more than that. I could take a salary cut, but how much and at what cost? I put a good bit into my TSP and IRA to plan for my retirement. I couldn't do that with that kind of salary cut. Well, not and keep our condo. But we wouldn't find a place around here all that much cheaper. And hell, I'm not sure we'd have enough to keep the condo even cutting out saving for retirement (which at my age is an admitted dumb idea if I plan to actually retire).

But my conundrum is, where do I draw the line? At what point do I say that being happy now is more important than the money. It isn't a simple question. On one hand, I am SO much less stressed than I was before I got this job because I don't have to worry about my bills. But on the other, I love archaeology and I feel like I have something to offer there. I don't feel special in the State Department. And because my mother died at 48, I know living to retirement is not a sure thing.

I probably won't take this job if it is offered to me. But as the amounts get a little higher, I have to think more and more. And I don't know where line is.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Were You?

I was in Chapel Hill, NC, sitting in a graduate anthropology class on chiefdoms six years ago today. We took a short break to go across the hall to our office and Theresa told us all the news. One friend's father was working at the Pentagon. Others knew people in NY. All of us were stunned.

I taught class that day and we mostly sat with the tv on and talked about the attack. In the days and weeks to come, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it all meant and wondering if archaeology was the best way for me to serve my country.

My first impulse was to join the military, but I shouldn't have to lie about who I am in order to serve. They shouldn't make me a security risk by forcing me to be closeted.

So I joined the State Department instead, where I could be open about who I am, and for the last three years I have served my country as a diplomat. I am proud of my service even when I am not proud of my country. But for all its flaws, it is still the best deal going, and having been overseas, I still think America does most things better than anyone else. I still think America is the best country on the planet.

But now, and maybe this is partly a function of turning 40, I wonder if I might better serve my country by going back into archaeology. By teaching people that our country's history did not begin with the landing of the Mayflower or even the various explorers before that. Maybe teaching people about my history, as an American Indian, is also service. Maybe reaching out to other Indians is a good way to serve as well, because we are part of the tapestry of this country and part of what makes this country strong.

I don't know what I will do. I like my job and I continue to be proud to serve. But I love archaeology. It is important to me to serve. I am just not sure how.