LSS: Taking it for granted

During the months I spent in employment limbo earlier this year, I
explored many possibilities. When the time came to get creative and
figure out how to make a living, my mind went in a lot of directions.
One of the areas I considered was the Foreign Service. Becoming a
Foreign Service Officer is not easy. The initial qualifying exam is a
bear. Jobs with the State Department working in an embassy somewhere
in this wide world are difficult to get.
Long, long ago, when I was much younger, I took the Foreign Service
Officer Exam and it blew my mind. What I remember from that experience
focuses on questions about the World Bank and my realization of how
little I knew about the way the world works.
The process of registering for the exam is comprehensive. I was
pleased to learn I had qualified to take the test.
Then I got a job teaching and have not had time to give thought the
rigors I knew to expect.
But it was too late to cancel and, besides, I really wanted to give it
a try. While some people go to Georgetown University to prepare for
the Foreign Service exam, I spent the weekend with a book on my sofa.
The preparation nearly overwhelmed me.
My study guide confirmed my worst memories of the test. The subject
matter was broad, detailed and varied. Study topics ranged from:
— What happens if the president is disabled and refuses to step
aside? (Does the Senate suspend him from office by a two-thirds vote
or does Congress pass a resolution adopted by a two-thirds vote to do
the same?)
— What was President Chester A. Arthur’s most significant achievement
while in office back in 1883?
— In traditional Chinese political thinking, when can the Mandate of
Heaven be lost? (Is it if the emperor lacks virtue or dies without a
legitimate male heir?)
— Which of these is not a social variable of consumer buying behavior?
And they go on to include math, grammar and computers.
Plus, there’s a writing section. I wasn’t as concerned about the
writing section since I write as often as I do. I thought I’d be ready
and could handle what they threw in front of me on the essay section
of the exam.
That was the error of my ways.
I had 30 minutes to write an essay. My opinion on the political and
economical topic didn’t matter, but the presentation of my argument
did. I wrote a so-so piece as the timer ticked down. With a minute and
a half to go, I decided to edit the first sentence.
You can probably guess what happened next.
A clock counting backwards is not flexible.
The editing didn’t go as planned.  The timer stopped with me in the
middle of a word.  I’m quite certain I will not pass. And the moral of
this story is: Never take personal strengths for granted.

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