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Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Best Laid Plans

Friday morning I got a phone call from Brandon.  "Bad news," he started the conversation out cheerfully, "I just got an email tell me that my language waiver got denied."

Way back in November of last year, Brandon got his assignment to Tashkent.  Since we were out-year bidding, this meant that Brandon had to know Russian already to get the job.  The State Department scores language ability on a five point scale, assessing both speaking and reading skills.  For most languages, the department requires a 3/3 proficiency.  Brandon retested here at post and got a 2+/2+, which is not quite a 3, but pretty darn close.  When we were bidding, Brandon let Tashkent know that he didn't have the 3/3 and they, after hearing that he's been using Russian at the last two posts, decided that a 2+/2+ was good enough for them and they extended a job offer to Brandon.

As part of completing all the formalities required to get paneled, or formally assigned, Brandon had to fill out an application for language waiver.  This stated that he understood that there would be financial penalties and other bad things if he didn't have the required score, but he signed it anyway.  The plan was always to get his score up before going to Tashkent because he gets paid extra money to have his Russian at a 3/3.  And I like money.

We assumed everything was just fine - after all Tashkent was fine with his score and the regional bureau were fine with his score - until Friday.  Then I guess somebody else (I honestly have no idea who decided to deny the waiver.  There are levels of bureaucracy I have no desire to understand) decided that it wasn't fine and he'd have to get his score up - or else (I'm not sure what 'or else' means either).

After some time on the phone and an appeal for advice on Facebook (sometimes it's very useful), Brandon and I came up with plans A,B,C, and D.  Plan A involves taking an online course offered by State's language institute and retesting while in Dushanbe, but the rest of the plans involve spending more time in DC getting the required training.  The plans have a variety of inconvenience - one has us leaving early and throwing our school situation into havoc, leaving our current post in the lurch, and losing $13,500; one has us showing up to post six months late and once again throwing the school schedule to the dogs, while squeezing into tiny housing - and none are that great, mostly because we had expressly tried to avoid going back to DC.

Three or four years ago would have seen me breathing into my favorite paper bag (just retired after pouch service was reestablished).  I am a Planner and any time the plan goes wrong is a cause for great anguish.  I invest a lot of time and emotional energy into making sure everything works out just right and I am subjected to a minimum of disruption while saving and/or making the most possible money.

And on Friday I gave that paper bag a long, hard look.  After all, my carefully planned plans with the perfectly executed timing were just making some serious noise that presaged everything falling apart.  I've been looking forward to having a seamless post-to-post transition for literally years.  And let's not even talk about the possibility that Brandon would actually lose his handshake and have to start the bidding process all over again.  Everything was all bad.

But, after considering the freak out for a bit, I decided to skip it.  It was just too much trouble.  After all, what I felt about the situation wouldn't actually change anything, and I had other things to think about.  I even found myself, while discussing that large sum of money that we may be kissing goodbye, telling Brandon that it was just money after all.  And I really meant it.

I think that I have been completely broken down by this lifestyle.  It has taken me, the type-A perfectionist planner who works out airline seating charts months before the plane takes off, and made me into someone who just doesn't care any more.  Sure, I'm happy to get my plane tickets bought six months in advance.  That's nice.  But if I still don't have those tickets 2 1/2 weeks before we leave (which I don't), it's really not that big of a deal.  If we aren't seated together, we will be.  And if we don't get seated together, we'll still arrive at the same destination.  After all, it's just a day(ish) of traveling, right?  Not worth getting worked up about.

Sometimes I'm proud of my flexibility.  I can take a situation that would have sent me into panic spirals and just laugh at it now.  That's good.  It saves me (and Brandon) a lot of emotional turbulence.

But sometimes I wonder if I'm pretending that my uncomplaining (mostly) acceptance is resiliency when really it's just... giving up.  That's not good, right?  I don't think Uncle Winston would be very proud of me giving up.

But either way, it still doesn't change our present situation.  Hopefully Brandon will get things worked out and we can stick to our original schedule.  Or we won't.  And then we'll just make a new schedule.  Because what else can you do?

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