19 July 2012


I'm currently updating/revising our Wikipedia page at work. As one might imagine, learning Wikipedia's pseudo-HTML and applying it to five bazillion links is not particularly enthralling. Still, I flew through the content once I got to the national security section of the page, despite the fact that it was one of the most involved given the amount of weapons systems we investigate. It was fascinating to me to learn the complete names of aircraft we make a point of disliking. (The F-35, for instance, sometimes referred to as the Joint Strike Fighter or just the JSF, is actually the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. You can garner so much from that name: that Lockheed makes the plane, which brings with it a whole host of connotations and associations; that it's likely descended from or at least least related to the X-35, which is true; and that it's probably fast, which is also true. Beyond this, there are three variations of the F-35--A, B, and C--which all have slightly different functions.) 

From a young age, I've been drawn to weapons, action movies, ninja animes, and the like. There is no clear reason for this, aside from an innate disposition towards reacting violently. (A boy in 5th grade called my construction paper Viking ship ugly. I punched him in the arm. I have a great punch.) Both of my grandfathers served in the Navy, and I have a cousin in the FBI, but I did not know these things until much later. But more on this soon. First, another work story.

Earlier this week, Ben was back in the office with documents from a meeting with a whistleblower. This is a rather sensitive operation, and it's always exciting to be sitting on a great piece of news, so there was an urgency on the 5th floor that I hadn't felt before. It was reminiscent of a newsroom, but without the madly ringing phones and the pressure of a print deadline. (All deadlines here are self-imposed.) As I sped down the hallway, taking documents to David for analysis, I welcomed the familiar adrenaline rush minus the fear of  a source not coming through and a subpar product being sent to press. It was a good feeling. 

I suppose I mention this because I am attracted to haste. The world moves quickly, and I move quickly within it. Much like the pull I feel towards defense and security issues, I cannot explain this entirely either. Perhaps it is because I am naturally competitive but also rather introverted, so I became rather good at competing with myself. How many pages can I read in an hour? As a teenager, I introduced a risk factor: how fast can I take this turn without spinning out? 

Suppose, then, that I like risk. I am also very much a fan of comfort. There is something deeply relaxing about sinking into a piece of creative writing and emerging cleansed. I am not always in the best frame of mind when I start writing (it is, in fact, usually a prerequisite), but I always feel better afterwards. I like taking leisurely hours to explore new cities, to wander with an end vaguely in mind. I suppose there is a risk here as well: I may end up horribly lost, and I have. I may vomit wordshit onto the page, and I have. But I may also find something beautiful within myself, and that is worth that first unsure step.

These are two different types of risk--danger and uncertainty--and I think I need both. As a college freshman, I tried to convince myself that Georgetown's Masters in Security Studies was right for me, and the degree's focus was on exactly what I wanted to do (and, it is worth mentioning, what I still want to do). But the uncertainty there is missing; having lived here for a little over a month now, D.C. is constantly shifting, but Georgetown holds fast to the hold world of wannabe-Southern debutantes mixed with northern pretention. There is only monotony there. Then I turned to Tufts' Masters in Law and Diplomacy, which is a comprehensive, close-knit program with an academic spin and a friendly feel, but here, I worry that it might be too broad. I worry about being in Boston, where I would fail to escape the problem that has plagued me for my entire life: there are very few opportunities in what I want to do in most places. There is very little danger for a whole lot of uncertainty.

Then there is the Marshall Scholarship at King's College London, where one can get an entire degree in terrorism studies. I've wavered on this, but I've learned that wavering is good. I wavered on Berlin. I wavered on changing my major. I've wavered on every large decision I've ever made--and I've never regretted any of them (save one, but I didn't make it wisely). King's is an entirely new, entirely uncertain environment, and the degree topic is very, very dangerous. It draws me in, and I am enamored.

I am also fickle, and my likes and dislikes are fleeting. Whatever I say otherwise, I am terrified of the future.

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