Monday, January 18, 2010

The Old Sun Just Keeps On Rising

Editors note: I have often wondered what it is like to grow up as a young person these days. So much has changed since I was that age that I can't imagine what pressures people in their twenties and thirties endure now. Consider this economy, the technology, and the changing standards and mores over that past 40 years. Life was so much simpler then.

I received the following submission from one of my most loyal blog readers. It's a review of a decade in her life as she travels through her thirties. She reveals her own challenges, joys and sorrows, sometimes stated obviously and sometimes between the lines. There is much said in this to indicate to me that maybe the moral, technological changes haven't altered growing upp as I have imagined. We all have looked for ourselves through the decades. And I think each of us continues that quest throughout much of our lives.

A Decade of Reflections by Kris

December 31, 2009

It's the the end of a decade. And, as it’s New Year’s Eve as well, it’s fitting to review the year, as well as the last ten years. Oh my, how much my life has changed as I think back to the beginning of the last decade, which was the end of the previous one – December 31st, 1999.

I was 28 years old and had just gotten out of the Army on December 2, after serving nearly 7 years of Active service, essentially ending my officer’s career that began at West Point, in 1989, which in fact, had been another 10 years earlier. As a quick review of the 1990s, my 20’s had been consumed primarily by Army operations, field exercises, and assignments in Georgia, North Carolina, California, Korea, and Egypt and the beginning of my first long-term relationship.

The decade also marked the receipt of one of the greatest gifts I have had in my life – my first dog, Murphy, a determined, anxiety-filled, but playful schnauzer, who was my most reliable and steadfast companion through most of the 90s and the 00s. In my career in the Army, I had been an ambitious officer, full of persistence and drive, while less in touch with the emotional side of things. I threw myself into succeeding and had done fairly well at that.

Back then, on December 31st, 1999, I had really no clue what was in store for me in the next decade. It began with a short stint with Siemens manufacturing company in a little town outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. I started in customer service but quickly found myself being called to help on the manufacturing line, which had all for all intents and purposes completely stopped shipping switchgear and circuit breakers due to a huge information technology upgrade.

Soon after a new production manager took over, he hired me to be responsible for one of the largest lines in the plant. This is where, as a supervisor of 40 individuals, I began my transition from an officer, where I had relied mostly on issuing orders and the punitive effects of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to supervising individuals who cared less about following commands and management who relied less on disciplinary measures. This was a significant shift for me, and I began to create a new view of myself as a leader, one that continues to grow even today.

After my two-year gig with Siemens and primarily due to the horrific events that occurred on September 11, 2001, the FBI started hiring, and in January, 2002, I began New Agent Training at the FBI Academy and officially started my career as a Special Agent, reporting to my first assignment in Los Angeles, CA. I remember receiving my orders during New Agents’ class - my heart literally dropped when I saw “Los Angeles” in bold font on the piece of paper, as I had been hoping to see “Washington DC.” In fact my Dad thought there had been a bad cell phone connection when I told him I was going to LA.

While it had been terribly upsetting to move my entire life from the East Coast to the West Coast and be so far away from family, make terms with the ending of my first long-term relationship that had lasted eight years, and finally start therapy to deal with a great deal of unattended emotions that had been left over after my Mom died in 1989, Los Angeles turned out to be a spiritual reawakening.

I learned meditation, yoga, and fell in love with a beautiful woman and the adventures of being in a wild, untamed California, all of which helped me to find the old philosopher my friends back in high school had known so well. We moved to Topanga, a magical and religious experience in itself, and I put in for and was awarded an assignment as the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordinator in LA, which ended up to be another blessing.

When I left LA in 2007, I had achieved some of my most proudest life moments, as I had directly impacted the welfare of the communities I had served and had received an LA County official scroll in a ceremony presided by the LA County Public Health Officer and one of the LA Board of Supervisors.

The 00s also marked me coming out to my entire family, including my grandfather (who received the news rather positively), bringing my girlfriend to my brother’s wedding in Richmond, Virginia and meeting my terrific new sister-in law Stacey, and, most notably, my father marrying Rita, who has become a second mom to me. With the marriage, I also inherited a new sister and brother, who I could not imagine loving any more than I do today. But this is not all – I got a promotion as a Supervisory Special Agent with an assignment to the FBI’s Bioterrorism Prevention Program at Headquarters in Washington DC. The new job has brought some amazing experiences – advancing and formulating national policy at the White House, debriefing the Amerithrax (2001 anthrax letters) investigators and developing lessons learned to improve biosecurity at US labs, and conducting bioterrorism response training throughout the world.

In the US, I have trained local responders in Washington DC, Florida, California, Indianapolis, and Texas. On the international front, I have conducted training in the United Kingdom, the Philippines, India, Paraguay, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates. Additionally, I have traveled to and participated in international and bilateral meetings in Lyon, France and Berlin, Germany.

This decade ends quietly for me. I have dealt with some significant losses in the 00s: my second long-term relationship, a life-changing experience for me, ended after three years; I lost Tosca, an incredibly free-spirited cat during a road trip across the continent; Murphy died in October 2007, only three months after moving into my new home in Takoma Park, Maryland; and on Thanksgiving Day this year, an 11-month relationship with my most recent girlfriend ended.

Once being most proud of my drive to succeed, my life as a “thinker,” and my taking command and providing results to tough projects at work, now I am much more appreciative of my emotional side: I cry more easily, listen more deeply, and love more intensely. With these losses and with all of my life experiences that have led up to me welcoming this New Year of 2010 as a 38-year old woman, I know I have a great deal for which to be grateful. I have two awesome cats, Jasper and Tarzan, both of which are in good health.

I live in the amazingly liberal and community-oriented town of Takoma Park, Maryland, right across from Sligo Creek; the closest I can come to living in place that resembles Topanga. I have the most wonderful friends and family I could ever hope for and have recently become an aunt of cute, adorable, little baby Aubrey (good job Dave and Stacey!). My job is enormously rewarding as I am able to impact emergency response planning both within the United States and internationally, and this gives me a sense I am contributing to a larger life purpose. I am able to enjoy my favorite activities such as meditation, yoga, hiking, and running, on a regular basis.

And, I have traveled to some of the most incredible places in the world and experienced a variety of different cultures and sights while not paying a dime of my own money! With all that said, here’s to hoping 2010 brings good things to my family, friends, and to our planet and its sentient beings; and for me, I really have no clue what’s around the corner.


  1. Beautifully said, Kris!! Life is a journey, and yours has been challenging, exciting and wonderful... Here's hoping you continue to find peace and happiness!

  2. I've long thought that our experiences in life - wheter great or not so great - bring us to exactly where we are supposed to be. Here's to the next decade! By the way, I really enjoyed the are a great writer. -sb

  3. I've long thought that our experiences - whether great or not so great - bring us to exactly where we should be in life. Here's to the last and next decade! I really enjoyed your story; beautifully written. -sb