Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Sometimes, Things Don't Go According to Plan

I am no stranger to professional twists and turns, from the rollercoaster start of my A-100 class to the cancellation of my Baghdad assignment and reassignment to Seoul. Still, this latest development took me by surprise. After years of successfully dodging COVID-19, including across multiple international transits, the virus finally caught up to me.

First, I tested positive and then M and S soon followed. Each day we're getting a bit better and seem to have avoided the worst symptoms - probably in part thanks to getting fully vaccinated and boosted. Unfortunately, the timing was terrible. I tested positive literally the day before I was scheduled to depart for the 9-day summit in Aspen, Colorado that is the hallmark and the highlight of the International Career Advancement Program (ICAP).

I hustled to submit my ICAP application materials early before going on maternity leave, had mentors review my application, and collected recommendation letters from some outstanding people. I was honored to be selected for one of only 20 spots in the program funded by the Department of State this year. Yet it's hard not to feel that that investment of time and energy and the Department's resources were not at least partially wasted due to my regrettably timed sickness. When I developed a fever, I was reluctant to admit I was sick at first. I think I knew deep down that I probably had COVID-19 but didn't want to consider what that would mean. As my symptoms worsened, I could deny it no longer and finally took a home test. I've taken so many tests throughout the course of the pandemic that it felt second nature at this point... But this was the first one that returned the second dreaded line.

Once I called off work sick, I spent the next day frantically working to cancel my flights and other travel bookings, return the coolers and shipping labels I'd purchased to transport milk for the baby while I was gone, and notify the Department of State ICAP contacts, the ICAP director in Colorado, and the person who was supposed to pick me up from the airport in Aspen. I also learned that I would not be considered a fellow anymore and would not be eligible for a spot in next year's cohort (as one of the requirements is to stay in DC for the following year and I am not bidding on DC jobs).

Then came the next wave of logistical challenges. As M and S tested positive later, we had to cancel and postpone a number of planned appointments including doctor's visits, registering our car, and more so we could do our part to keep others safe. We still signed on a condo (we told them about our infection and they agreed to proceed anyway) and moved from our hotel in DC to our new place in Virginia and received our first shipment of belongings from South Korea all while sick out of necessity.

Thankfully, we benefited from the kindness of family and friends and coworkers and made it in one piece to our new home. Now all we have to do is rest and recover and get over both the virus and the disappointment of roads not taken. As much as it stings in the moment, I'm sure we'll all make it out the other end just fine.

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