Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reaching for the Stars...'n Stripes

What does the Battle Book say about applying to prestigious fellowships, oh fellow MilSpousers? I was never that kid in college who was anyone's first pick for a Truman Scholarship or the Pickering Fellowship. I lacked the attention span, the savvy, and likely the grades, too.

No, I was always the kid who found out about the fellowship requirements the day after the winner was announced and thought, "wouldn't that be cool...if only." Can you picture the wistful inner monologue?

I discovered a paid internship opportunity at the Center for Defense Information (CDI) in 2004 the week before it was due. There was no time for bs or obfuscation. I told them who I was and why I wanted to work in security studies. I JUST DID IT. And I got it. And it was great. I learned. I wrote. I researched. I made friends with video news gurus, policy wonks, and supported experts in their research. I sat in on meetings with Fareed Zakaria from TIME Magazine and watched an intern from the American Heritage Institute get crushed in a debate with an intern from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).* I gained confidence and validation along with experience.

Now I have an M.O.. If I come across a professional opportunity or something that makes me go "Wow! Bucket list!" and I catch it before the deadline, I apply. Even if it doesn't line up perfectly with leaving my current situation. It feels lucky.

My current professional life being part-time and tenuous at best, with few better options in the MilSpouse playbook, in December I checked into some opportunities that had never lined up before. Lo and behold- the deadline was looming for an application to the White House Fellows Program. Miracle of miracles, all of my wonderful references submitted their recommendation letters. Great friends stepped up as last-minute essay editors. And I pushed the button with hours to spare before the submission deadline. Why not, right? Reach for the stars...?

*The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) also interviewed me for an internship in that same year. It didn't pay anything, the cheap bastards, and when I told them they'd have to pay me the interview was kinda over. Although initially disappointed, I later realized that we would have had some serious ideological in point: the not paying people for labor.

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