I always loved that song by The Clash. It’s so peppy and full of fun little rhymes:
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
I’m stealing from the Clash’s eloquence to refer to a decision I have to make in the next two weeks. Volunteering for the Obama campaign the month before the election confirmed my long-term interest in the political process and made me want to finally stop stalling and get involved. I decided once and for all to pursue a career in politics, specifically in strategic communications: something I like and am good at. I put out feelers in Washington DC and started to get in touch with all my old contacts there about a possible job on the Hill or in the Administration.
I’ve already rustled up a few good leads and a lot of great advice from people who know the city and the system. But my job hunt there is in its earliest stages. In the meantime, I got an offer. It’s for a fantastic job–strategic communications for a USAID consultant, exactly the kind of work I want to do, with a great team of people, working towards powerful initiatives, in a challenging, stimulating environment.
In Pakistan. Yeah, the job’s in Islamabad. Is this a huge plus or a huge minus? Depends on who you ask. On one hand there’s being apart from everyone I love for a year. On the other hand, there’s being involved in interesting work that makes a difference in people’s lives. On one hand, there’s leaving most of my favorite clothes behind so I can shroud myself in drapery every time I walk outside. On the other, there’s a life-changing opportunity to see South Asia intimately and up-close. On one hand, ripping myself away from the energy and excitement that is Washington DC at this moment in history. On the other, intense training that would only make me more qualified for a great job upon my return.
As you can see, the see-saw of tradeoffs is endless. Humidity and no social life vs. an easy flight to Thailand for the weekend. The real threat of bombings and parasites vs. living in my own house (included with the job) rent-free. Getting hazard pay…but working in a place that necessitates hazard pay. It’s not like I would be totally gone for the whole year; there would be plenty of visits home and of course an open invitation to anyone brave enough to visit me in Islamabad. A big minus would be telling my family, including my 88-year-old grandpa who I’m very close to, that I would be living in a country recently called “the most dangerous place in the world.” Another would be the almost certain dearth of things like good cheeseburgers.
I don’t even eat cheeseburgers very often. I don’t eat that much meat at all anymore, in fact. But every so often I want a juicy, charbroiled cheeseburger with a nicely grilled bun and a skinny dill pickle on the side. I’ve never lived anywhere that I couldn’t get one practically any time I had the hankering. California, Arizona, DC, Boston–the burbs, the city, even on my European semester abroad, I was never too far away from a take-out counter or a local pub that could satisfy that craving. Moving to Pakistan would mean giving up those comforts of home that I’m used to: yoga classes, vodka tonics, my lovely CSA, good cheeseburgers. I’m sure these would be replaced by other things: I’ve heard about barrels of freshly ground spices in the marketplace, the beauty of the mountains that surround the city, the pleasure of picking up a crispy pakora from a street vendor. Could I make that transition? Settle on short-term replacements for my favorite things, trade in cheeseburgers for chapatis, find those necessary moments of familiarity in a foreign culture? You can do anything for a year, right?
I have a few more days to decide. It’s sort of an open-comment period where I’m listening to all the people in my life and their opinions one way or the other (make sure to leave your mark on the super high-tech poll below). My favorite piece of advice so far came from someone who said that I can’t really make a bad decision here–stay or go, there are benefits to be gained and opportunities to be had. The Clash preach trouble or even double either way. I hope my source is right instead.