Two Points for Honesty

The theme for this round of the bi-weekly Foreign Service Blog Round-Up is “honesty”. It’s a tough one, but perhaps a good opportunity for me to make a shocking announcement: ladies and gentlemen, this blog is a fraud! Well, kind of. While no actual facts were harmed in the making of this blog, it hardly represents the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about who I am and what my life is like.

There a lot of things I don’t say on this blog. My opinions on foreign affairs are strictly off-limits – one of the conditions of the job is that we publicly support and defend whatever official U.S. foreign policy is at the time, no matter what, so my thoughts on what’s going on in Whereverstan are never going to show up here. Domestic policy is theoretically okay, but as a lot of the more interesting policy debates in the U.S. also have international implications that can still be a little tricky. For example, as an FSO and especially as a consular-officer-to-be I’m not touching immigration policy with a 10-foot pole.

The things I can say about work are somewhat circumscribed by a combination of restrictions on sensitive information and common sense. You’re not going to get the deep details on what I do with my workdays, though I try to get in some of the more general stuff.  Likewise, you’re never going to hear any complaints about my boss or coworkers or the latest office gossip, because sharing those things would just be stupid. My colleagues, past, present, and future, read this, and in a tight community like the FS fake names and other such ham-fisted attempts at anonymity don’t go very far.

So what’s left? Personal honesty, I suppose, but that’s tough too. For style purposes I try to keep my more miserable moments off the blog, or at least wait until the tempering effect of hindsight allows me to recast them in a wittier and more entertaining light. Constant whining is annoying as hell; everyone has that one Facebook friend who’s always complaining about something, and I don’t want to be That Guy. I keep a personal journal in hard copy for that sort of venting, and having gone back and reread some of the more verklempt entries from my high school and college years I am even more convinced of the wisdom of this policy.

Need more evidence of my literary fraud? Simply run my blog through this handy Myers-Briggs type anaylzer. Or save yourself the trouble: the blog gives the impression that I am an ESFJ, a warm, caring, generous people person who wants everyone to like them and is always doing nice things for people. In real life I am an INTJ (or perhaps an ISTJ), a judgmental perfectionist who doesn’t really understand how other people work exactly, and gets tired trying to figure it out. If you’ve ever read the blog and thought, “she sounds like a fun, friendly person I’d like to hang out with in real life,” you may want to downgrade your expectations.

All of this…let’s call it nonesty, shall we?…can be kind of draining. There’s a lot of self-editing involved to make sure I’m not saying things I shouldn’t say or that could be construed in a way I don’t want. And sometimes I want to put something in the blog SO BADLY even though I know it’s a bad idea, because I’m excited about it, and then I have to talk myself down. But sometimes it’s also kind of nice. I can be – in text, on the internet – closer to the kind of person I want to be. I can be the kind of person who can go straight from difficult moments to thoughtful introspection and lessons learned without the emotional meltdown in between. I can be the kind of person who handles a solo hardship tour with grace and aplomb and never (what, never? …well, hardly ever) cries herself to sleep at night. I can be the kind of person who, if she can’t say something nice, doesn’t say anything at all. I can be me, but better.

Consider this a disclaimer. I’d put it on the bottom of the blog, but it’s maybe a tad long for that.