This is going to sound nuts, but when I was in middle school, I was secretly convinced I was going to be a spy. I was pretty smart, I was athletic, and I felt like I was different from other people. I think every single adolescent goes through a period where they feel “different” from others, but what it manifested as for me, was this uber-awareness of what was going on around me. I felt like I was often observing the world from outside my head, always watching, always listening.
I was also a big reader and during middle school I got hooked on spy novels. Robert Ludlum was my favorite. I’m fairly sure that I have read every single one of his novels. I also read plenty of John Grisham and Tom Clancy. I’ll admit that even now I’ll pick up a thriller for a plane ride – Steve Berry is my current favorite. I’m a huge James Bond movie fan and have probably watched every single one at least twice and my favorites, many more times. I went to Turkey when I was 19 specifically because of the scenes in Istanbul in “From Russia with Love”.
I envisioned myself going to boot-camp, shocking people with how tough I was for how small I was. I imagined myself becoming fluent in four or five languages, living in foreign countries, blending in as a sleeper agent, and one day, sneaking into a vague foreign embassy to steal information that would save the lives of hundreds of Americans. At that point I had no real understanding of how actions could affect thousands, or millions of people. The most I could imagine was two or three hundred.
My mother and father, but especially my mother, constantly drove the message that we could be anything we wanted to be. I thought that maybe someday I would work for the president after my long and accomplished spy career. I didn’t want to be the president, but I wanted to be someone who was important to the president.
Now, fifteen years later, I can safely say that none of those dreams will come true. Thank goodness. I can safely say that I will never have to choose between the safety of an indefinite number of Americans and holding possible terrorists in prison for indefinite periods of time, torturing them, depriving them of any sort of human kindness. I’ll never have to follow an order that goes against my morals. I’ll never have to decide whether someone lives or dies.
Thank goodness I never followed through on those naïve day dreams.