“A worried mother does better research than the FBI.”
Well, what happens when this same worried mother applies to be a FBI special agent?
Where have I been?
As my readers may know, I took a seven month hiatus from writing, @stayinbedmomblog Instagramming, and everything short of parenting. And what did I do during this time? I applied to be a FBI special agent!
It all started when I was contemplating going back to work and searched for high school English teacher positions. I came across the FBI special agent job post calling all educators: “Experience in education can easily translate to a Special Agent career, where you’ll enhance your team’s understanding of threats, vulnerabilities and gaps by investigating matters and building relationships with communities and individuals from all walks of life. You’ll use your gift for simplifying complex material to tackle some of society’s toughest challenges.”
When I read this, I was tickled, hair on my arm standing up inspired (cue The Script’s “Hall of Fame”). The FBI was seeking experts from all educational disciplines and backgrounds to create a multidisciplinary team. Could I dare join this elite team? Was I ballsy enough for a career change to the FBI? I waited over a year to apply and, when I finally did, it ended up being life-changing.
The Special Agent Selection System (SASS) often takes at least a year to complete. and I have nothing but respect for the difficult and demanding process. My grueling journey to become “special” lasted about nine months. I applied as an angsty 35-year-old and ending up aging out as a grateful 36-year-old – roughly making it halfway through the ten step application process. (Applicants must be between 23 and 36 years old and enter on duty the day before their 37th birthday.)
If you’re looking for a how to article, read no further. As a former FBI special agent applicant, you’re asked not to discuss the process as it would be unfair to past, present, and future applicants. Instead my piece is an attempt to answer why I would undertake such an endeavor.
Why would a stay-at-home mom with no military, law enforcement, or relevant background apply to be a FBI special agent?
She believed she could, so she did.
That’s the short answer.
And now for the long answers:
- I was trying to prove something to myself, my husband, and my kids – a dare.
- I was looking to go back to work, maybe even changing my career.
- I was piqued by just one more episode binges of X-Files and Criminal Minds on my preferred TV streaming service.
- I was doing it for the cake, you know the one with the FBI Academy seal – the big slice of cake at Agent Clarice Starling’s graduation ceremony in The Silence of the Lambs. (Uh yeah, I have a screenshot of it saved to my phone and an unhealthy, lifelong relationship with mounds of desserts.)
- I was looking for a mind-body challenge.
Why It’s Crazy (at a first glance)
1. I’m a high school English teacher by trade, for crying out loud.
I’m a sit-behind-a-book type not a kick-down-a-door type. I’d have to be willing and able to participate in arrests, execute search warrants, raids, and similar assignments. That’s a far cry from writing detentions, sending kids to the principal’s office, or calling home to parents. Not to mention I’d have to carry a firearm and use it if necessary!
2. I’m spatially challenged and would most likely do surveillance on the wrong address.
I wish I were kidding. And what about the challenges of navigating in an unknown domestic or foreign city, doing so while under stress, and quite possibly without the aid of GPS.
3. I can barely handle my Ford Explorer.
Tactical driving would be a challenge to say the least.
4. In 2018 I didn’t go to the gym five times.
In 2019, during my application process, I had to go to the gym at least five times A WEEK. How was I going to sustain my efforts?
5. I chose teaching in part due to the flexible hours and healthy work-life balance.
How would I work a minimum 50-hour workweek – involving odd hours, being on call 24/7 including holidays and weekends – with young children in tow? I would have to do all this while managing the schedule of a spouse who travels most weeks for work. And what if I actually became an agent. I would be putting my family through a stressful and dangerous life of moving (possibly at a moment’s notice) and long and unpredictable hours.
Why It Wasn’t So Crazy (for me)
1. It took me places I never thought I’d go.
I may not have made it all the way to Quantico, but I still went to some splendid places I’ve never really been – like the gym and the local high school track! I went to places outside my stay-in-bed comfort zone. Throughout the process, I had a persistent feeling of discomfort – even occasional bouts of nausea. But I didn’t shy away from this feeling because I believe disequilibrium is a positive force that can open you to change. Without a feeling of befuddlement, I don’t think a person can undergo real growth or change. As a former teacher, I’ve reflected many times on Plato’s metaphor of the stingray in Meno that the role of a teacher is to numb and the students to be numbed. I remember sitting in the FBI Meet and Greet interview room (the fourth step in the FBI special application process), thinking what the f*ck am I even doing here? I was stung and numbed.
2. It challenged my notion of good mom-bad mom.
I was hush-hush during the process because I was afraid people would think I was a bad mom for even applying. The bad mom concept went against my self-proclaimed blogger philosophy, yet I trudged on despite a nagging suspicion that I was selfish in subjecting my family to a far-fetched dream that occupied my every waking thought. Misgivings aside, I stayed true to my Instagram blog tagline “A happy parent = a happy baby 👶🏻”.
3. It was a reason (an excuse, because I needed one) to tackle a difficult challenge.
Moms don’t apply to be a special agents. They just don’t do that. Well, this mom did! She believed she could, so she did. She challenged her thinking and made the impossible possible.
4. It reminded me that I’m special no matter what.
I don’t need a FBI special agent title to be special or have intrinsic worth. “I am mom (or dad) enough.” To my stay-at-home parents reading this, you’re special just by being involved mommies and daddies. We don’t need a title or accompanying salary to have inherent worth. Believe you ARE FBI special agent material. Yes, you are!
5. It taught me that physical fitness is as much about your mind as it is about your body.
Self-love and acceptance start with regular exercise. Don’t feel guilty about using the gym daycare or finding a babysitter until your children are able to exercise with you. I won’t lie, at first I felt very guilty about leaving my kids at the gym daycare five times a week, but I made a practice of pushing away this continuous thought.
6. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
I bought my first ever suit for my Meet and Greet and have been smiling ever since. It was a welcome change from my mom uniform of black leggings and athleisure shirts. Nothing wrong with that, but everyone deserves a change of clothes and a change of perspective.
7. No job experience is unimportant or irrelevant.
All jobs must be accounted for and incorporated into your life story à la the multiple page Federal Resume. These experiences make us who we are.
8. Live “a [mom/dad life] like no other.”
The FBI advertises “a career like no other.” Why not aim for a mom/dad life like no other? Be the parent you want to be, not the one you think you should be. Do the unexpected; surprise yourself, don’t “should” yourself.
Why It Wasn’t So Crazy (for my kids)
1. It shows them it’s never too late.
It’s never too late or you’re never too old (36 years and change!) to go after your dreams or switch your career. Goal setting and goal realizing require short and long-term planning, as well as grit and grace.
2. It encourages a lifetime of fitness, of the highest degree.
I often hear my two-year-old daughter proudly proclaim, “Exercise MYSELF, Mommy!” and that makes me proud.
3. It demonstrates how to not be afraid to fail and handle rejection.
After two rounds of deliberations by the FBI Headquarters, they gave me a Least Competitive designation and let me know I didn’t make it into the final 25 percent of applicants. It sucks! But I didn’t dwell on defeat (well, at least not TOO much). Sometimes there are factors outside your control. Instead it’s much more useful to recount what you learned or how you grew throughout the process.
4. It models a growth mindset.
Yes, I would’ve been subjecting my children and husband to a volatile life of moving and lengthy and uncertain hours, but wouldn’t that have built character? Such a lifestyle might have lengthened telomeres too.
A Final Thought – From the Pillow
Who am I? Where am I going?
So get out of bed, my friends, from time to time and ask these questions, but don’t forget to maintain a healthy stay-in-bed mindset along the way, especially for the times you face defeat.
What could be a better legacy to give your children than a healthy definition of success: trying new things which puts you in a state of disequilibrium so you learn and grow. Success doesn’t necessarily mean you accomplished your goal or fulfilled your dream. Nor should success be tied to a job title, a salary, a big house, a gaggle of girlfriends, a bunch of social media likes/comments, a swath of stamps in your passport or some other way we externally validate ourselves. Shouldn’t success instead refer to the internal process of self-actualization?
Who are you? Where are you going this year? Are you taking your kids with you? Tell me all about it!
Do you meet the FBI’s key employee eligibility requirements for special agents? 😃