The Foreign Service Journal, April 2012
A P R I L 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 35 F OCUS ON FS F AMI LY M EMBER E MPLOYMENT M Y S O -C ALLED C AREER s newlyweds, my hus- band and I had a plan. He would finish his Ph.D. and be- come a Russian professor, and I would work in college administration and sing professionally. But it was the 1980s, and academic jobs were few and far between. Plan B was this little thing called the Foreign Service exam that he figured he might as well take. You can guess the rest. When the packet arrived, he started jumping up and down in the lobby of our Columbia University apartment building. He finally had a real job with a future, and we were actually going to be paid to learn languages and travel the world. I was excited, too, because singing seemed about as portable a career as could be—all I had to do was take my voice with me. I quit my job at the Manhattan School of Music and followed him to Washington, D.C. At first it was good not to work for a while, and just attend A-100 classes, meet other new spouses and walk along the canal towpath with my dog, wondering what adventures we would have. Then I got pregnant. And we moved — a lot. Five years later, we had moved no fewer than seven times and had two toddlers in tow. Within another three years, we had moved four more times and added two more kids. Singing career? What singing career? Somehow, little by little, I figured out a way to squeeze professional activities into my life, both overseas and on our stateside postings. Those professional activities often started as one thing and led to another. Now, 28 years have passed since we began our Foreign Service lifestyle. Over that time my “portable career” didn’t so much charge ahead like a thoroughbred as move like one of those zigzagging Southwestern snakes called a sidewinder. A Look at How Things Evolved Singing . Making new contacts and getting embedded in the local music world takes a couple of years. But there we were, leaving again before we had even finished un- packing. Did I find singing opportunities? Yes, everywhere we’ve ever lived. I’ve sung at women’s clubs, school fund- raisers and churches. As the sole American singer at post, I’ve also done more versions of “The Star-Spangled Ban- T HE CAREER YOU START WITH PROBABLY WON ’ T BE THE CAREER YOU END WITH , ONE FS SPOUSE EXPLAINS . B Y F RANCESCA K ELLY Francesca Kelly, a Foreign Service spouse since 1985, cur- rently resides in Vienna, Austria, with her husband, Ian, who is the U.S. representative to the Organization for Se- curity and Cooperation in Europe with the rank of am- bassador. She was AFSA News editor for the Foreign Service Journal from 2008 to 2010.
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