THE IDEAL SELF
“Benjamin Franklin, the most distinguished scientific and literary American of the colonial era, was the first American diplomat.” (state.gov) In 1779, his popularity and acceptance of French aristocrats and intellectuals helped the United States build it’s presence in Europe. While Franklin traveled alone in his diplomatic missions, present day diplomacy entails bringing along spouses, partners, children and other members of household. The challenges of the family are a great concern for the Department of State, as they directly effect the level of productivity within the embassy community and it’s relations with governments around the globe.
The spousal support was once strongly tied to the hired officer’s annual employment review, as spouse’s were rated in a manner to progress or hinder an officer’s ranking within the bureau. While the practice of rating spouses has long since been abandoned, the importance of their contributions and positive attributions are considered amongst some of the greatest additions to a comfortable standard of living within the embassy community and function. Spouses, partners and children bring life to the community. They involve themselves in mimicking American traditions and keeping the ties to the MotherLand alive and vibrant. The pressure to perform is still on the mind of every spouse, whether or not it is directly communicated.
Therefore, the need to be observed and mentally evaluated as the ‘perfect’ trailing spouse deems a happy, content, functioning individual within the embassy society. Spouses seek esteem, encouragement and support to reach their full potential, even as they are immersed in an environment that views officer’s alone as the elite group. The struggle to be heard and accepted is a defeating challenge in a class system of it’s own making. Highly educated spouses and partners remain determined to seek an actualized life, as they pursue their own needs alongside those of their fellow Americans.
In addition, the ideal spouse is someone who is not afraid to be their authentic self and constantly work on improving. Maslow explains the process as one whom is “capable” of enduring hardship, can “endure and grapple the real problems of life”, and is “almost synonymous with understanding and accepting” (Maslow, Critique). Any spouse that survives the lifestyle and environment abroad must embrace this process and capability to it’s fullest.
The importance of overcoming hardship is not lost, but rather encouraged and necessary, to further the process of fulfillment and satisfaction of one’s own life. Trailing spouses willing to fight to survive are in essence actualizing, or in the pursuit of happiness. It is critical for trailing spouses to decide the act of sacrifice is a generous and necessary part of realizing their own potential.
Through each sacrifice and challenge, a period of satisfaction and enlightenment of what one is capable of enduring provides motivation to continue the fight. However, in the beginning, when autonomy and esteem is lost in the bureaucratic processes of that sacrifice, the process is stopped for many spouses before actualization can be reached. Culture shock, emotional distress and being disconnected from friends and family are serious issues the spouse must overcome. The process to actualization can become a fight for survival as soon as the sun rises in the morning.
The beauty of fulfillment is found through the obstacles of daily life – reflecting and learning through success and failure, and realizing what one is capable of overcoming.
To be continued,…UP NEXT: The Pursuit of Happiness