This morning started with a special alarm: Canton Jones’s “What You Want”. That means that today is October 24th…the best day in the best month. Today is the 37th International Day of Juan…also known as my birthday. All things accomplished and not accomplished at Age 36 are behind me. I’m definitely looking ahead in this life I’ll spend at Age 37. With ½ of my year at Age 35 and essentially all of my year at Age 36 impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m looking to change the tide over these next 365 days…and that will start today. As has always been my custom whenever I’ve been abroad on my birthday, I took in a matinee film. I checked out No Time to Die for a 2nd time at Cine Colombia because I was pretty sure I missed something the 1st time I saw it 2 ½ weeks ago on account of shock…and I did. I also took a moment and spoiled myself a little bit by copping a few shirts out of the Oscar de la Renta men’s store. That’ll certainly bolster my professional swag. As with every season premiere, I come in with big expectations and equally as big goals. My Age 37 year will be no exception. The following will be areas of focus for me between now and the time I write “Season Finale: Age 37”:
THE SFP CREDENTIAL. For the remainder of my life, I don’t think there will ever be a year in which I don’t seek to learn something, to get a piece of paper that says I learned something. I will not be pursuing another collegiate degree. When I walked across the stage in the Gordon Field House on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology 5 ½ years ago, I promised myself that was the final degree. While I won’t pursue another degree, that doesn’t mean I won’t pursue the professional credential. Notice the italics around the word “the”. As I hinted in the 4th post of the Dreams of a Diplomat series, the IFMA Certified Facility Manager credential is “the richest prize in this industry”. Its value is immense to any Facility Manager as it all but ensures job security and the added bonus of being an attractive candidate anywhere one applies for an FM job. Its worth is astronomical to any Foreign Service Facility Manager seeking to move up into the Senior Foreign Service. That’ll be me in the future and the end game is still to be AnJuan Thomas, CFM…just not at Age 37. For this upcoming year, I’m going after the IFMA Sustainability Facility Professional (SFP) credential. Today’s newest facilities are exponentially more green than those built in previous times. As I move on to different assignments in this career as a Foreign Service Facility Manager, it’s likely that the facility portfolio I’ll oversee on behalf of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations will be relatively brand new and will have features that promote sustainability. Heck, I’m living in one of the most environmentally diverse countries right now so that’s an added reason why I should go after the SFP. I don’t know a whole lot about the LEED side of facility management and the classes I took at RIT that covered this area of the industry were just an explanation of the basics. Pursuing this credential will definitely make me more knowledgeable about energy, water, indoor environmental quality, and waste impact as it relates to my day-to-day. Look for me to drop the $1600 on the study materials in the next month or so though I’m sure the Department will reimburse or maybe even cover it without anything coming out of my pocket. The goal is that by October 23rd, I’ll be AnJuan Thomas, MSFM, SFP, FMP.
FINDING MY GROOVE AS A FOREIGN SERVICE FACILITY MANAGER. I’ve officially been a Foreign Service Facility Manager since January and I’ve been the Deputy Facility Manager here, in Bogotá, for the past 3 months. The job has certainly been a learning experience. I’m grateful for the resources my bureau has provided for me to be as successful as possible. I’m grateful for my colleagues here in Colombia. The opportunity to learn from one of the most well-regarded FSFMs in the world, arguably the best Assistant POSHO and Safety Coordinator in all of OBO, and an administrative assistant that is literally the oracle on all facility management processes here have been a tremendous boon to my settling into this role. But, as I noted a little over a year ago, the expectations for me as a Foreign Service Facility Manager are high right now. After all, it was me that brazenly wrote of Bret Hart ambitions coming into this assignment. Though it’s not common for entry-level Foreign Service Specialists, I do want to achieve tenure and lock my spot in for the long game. I want my name to ring out next summer when my second-tour bidding window opens up. None of that happens unless I find my groove in this game. Definitely buckling down and upping the ante in what I learn from the Senior Facility Manager, my regional mentor, and everybody else who has good advice and best practices I can steal and turn into gold is a plus for me. Part of that actually starts tomorrow when I get a chance to make up one of the courses that got postponed in the Facility Manager Tradecraft course earlier this year. You know I’ll be giving 102% effort so expect me to be amongst the top-performing students—if not the top overall performer—when it’s all said and done. This year at Age 37 will be a proving ground for me as a Foreign Service Facility Manager.
TRAVELING MORE. As I mentioned at the outset, COVID-19 wiped out the travel plans I had for the latter half of my Age 35 year, and pretty much all of my Age 36 year. I missed out on some major sporting events in 2020…like the original 91st Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium or my Dodgers playing in the World Series or the 2020 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Final Four in a year where Kansas probably was going to win the national championship or the 2020 Summer Olympics. I had plans to make those trips to Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Tokyo. I also lost out on a European vacation, particularly a trip to Germany to spend time with my spiritual mother and introduce her to Ashton. In my Age 36 year, I really can’t say what I lost in traveling because I never really got around to legitimately planning anything because the world was still closed. But now that things are somewhat returning to normal with state lines and international borders opening back up, I can get out there and see the world outside of my window. How else am I going to burn the 208 hours of annual leave I’ll accrue between now and the day I turn 38? And that doesn’t count the nearly 300 hours I already got in the bank. Though I have something that would make me an attractive candidate for any posting in South America, there’s no guarantee that my future assignments in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs will be on this continent. As such, it’s important for me to take advantage of the opportunity before me while I’m based in Bogotá. Visiting some of the major South American cities like Buenos Aires, La Paz, Quito, Lima, Santiago, and Rio de Janeiro are definitely targets for me since I’ve never been closer. Caracas is also a place of interest if diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Washington improve. I’m also close to Machu Picchu so I might as well take a peek. Visiting at least 4 of those places between now and October 23rd is the goal. Looking past South America, I do want to finally get back to Europe…at least for a Germany trip. I also suppose I’ll be a good husband and bite the bullet by taking a beach trip or two since Mercedes has this thing for relaxing on the sand. I’m thinking Panama City or maybe Curaçao…both short flights from El Dorado. Back Stateside, I may burn the R&R in the late summer and visit the Midwest and Great Plains. The bottom line is that I fully expect to get some extended use of my passport at Age 37.
PUTTING MY NAME OUT THERE MORE. In this Age 37 year, I want my name to ring out on the tongues or the computer screens of more people. No, I’m not seeking to become some top-flight social media heavyweight. Trust me, I’m the last person that wants a ✓. But I also don’t want to be as anonymous as I’ve been made to be by my preference for team over me. Piggybacking off my first industry media and my first professional article a couple of years ago, I’ll look to write some articles and maybe do a few industry podcasts. One of my colleagues wrote a fantastic article for this month’s edition of State Magazine, highlighting the awesome work of the female FSFMs. There’s no reason why I can’t do the same. There could also be opportunities for me to write for Building Operating Management and FacilitiesNet, being that I was one of their featured subjects in the FM’s Next Gen series. Of course, writing an article for my industry’s top periodical, FMJ, would definitely make me a household name. There are podcast opportunities out there too…in the facility management industry and in the Foreign Service. Publishing a book may also get my name out there. Since 2007, I’ve been sitting on a couple of books that are both 80% finished: a collection of over 125 poems I wrote in 2002 and 2003 for my first love that she never got a chance to see and a very riveting love story I wrote in 2007 that may or may not be based on real-life experiences. If I really wanted to, I could have both of those finished in a month and work on some publishing options. I’m not sure if I want to pull those projects out of purgatory though. Nevertheless, becoming more known in general is a goal for Age 37. Who knows?!? Maybe The Book of Juan will really take off like a rocket this year. After all, the metrics have been promising since I reopened the site in July.
SOCIETAL IMPACTS. Making a difference in society is just as much a goal now as it was in the Age 30 year. Gone is the opportunity to present the Just Juan Building Blocks Scholarship but that doesn’t mean I still can’t be charitable. As I mentioned last month, the city of Bogotá—and the Republic of Colombia, as a whole—has a bit of a wide separation in social classes…fronted by the estratos system. And as I learned in Andean Republics & Southern Cone: Language Integrated this past spring, this nation is fringing on being a legitimate 3rd world country. I believe there is an opportunity for me to make an impact here…to help out the people of Colombia that I’m able to reach. I’ll definitely look to do some volunteering and maybe even mentoring in the lower estratos if I can. Back home in my native Birmingham, I’ll make use of my return trip home to engage with some of the less fortunate in whatever ways are prudent.
PHYSICAL FITNESS. Last October, I mentioned running a 6-minute mile as a goal for my time here in Bogotá. I might have underestimated the magnitude of high altitude in setting that goal, which is actually even more difficult since my actual residence is well over 9000 feet above sea level…not the 8675 feet that most of the local and national government buildings sit down in the canyon. I’ll still go after the 6:00 mark but 7:45 seems more reasonable. There are an assload of gyms here and, where I live, personal trainers actually come to your residence to get you in shape. I don’t think I’ll end up joining one of the local gyms because there is an amazing gym downstairs that’s absolutely free but I will look to hire a personal trainer to get me in high altitude shape. I want my cardio to be a thing of envy when I’m out there running on the streets of the United States during vacations. I also want to bulk up a little bit. Can you believe I’ve never weighed more than 172 pounds?!? I want to get up to at least that with a low body fat percentage…kind of like a lean light heavyweight boxer. I’ll look to accomplish that in this Age 37 year. Last, on the physical fitness front, is inserting myself into the local cycling culture. Here in Bogotá, there’s this event called Ciclovía. From 7am until 2pm on Sundays and holidays, the main roads of the city are closed. They become de facto bicycle lanes and upwards of 1 million people participate per event. It’s not just people biking along the 121-kilometer trail. There are runners, walkers, and skaters as well. One of my top purchases in the next couple of weeks will be a very durable bicycle that can handle the terrain here. I’ll definitely be out there doing my thing on Sundays.
THE BUCKET LIST. I haven’t completed much from the bucket list in recent years. That will definitely change in the Age 37 year. Do keep in mind that Items 3 and 11 on the list can only be completed in South America and I just wrote that Buenos Aires (to dance the Argentine tango with a native Latin American woman) and Rio de Janeiro (to visit Christ the Redeemer) are targets. I just mentioned that I’d love to volunteer in this country that’s kinda fringing on being a 3rd world country. Guess what Item 54 on the bucket list is? Some other targets for completion in the Age 37 year include visiting the Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Item 68) if I make that trip to Germany. I’ll try to make time for Item 25, which is to watch every film that has won the Palme d’Or Award since 1984. I’m not exactly sure why I haven’t done it yet but I’m taking Mercedes dancing and she’s gonna see those moves I learned at Yokota Air Base’s Taiyo Community Center when we perform the foxtrot and waltz on a date (Item 4). One bucket list item I know I will accomplish at Age 37 is Item 57, which is to throw 50 $50 bills from the top of a 50-story building in a city of 1 million residents. I’m not sure where I’ll do it yet. It could be here in Bogotá (Population: 10.7 million with 3 buildings that are at least 50 stories). It could be one of the major American cities in the South, Midwest, or the West. I am for damn sure not dropping $2500 from the top of a building along the Northeast Corridor…that area of the country doesn’t deserve any more money from my pockets. It could be either of Buenos Aires’ 4 eligible buildings or maybe the Gran Torre in Santiago. Regardless of where, I’m sure that will be an event of high interest.
Besides these items, maintaining good health is a goal as it is every year. Getting even closer to God is always an annual goal. And of course, being an even better husband and father is a goal. I’d definitely be remiss if I didn’t mention I wanted to at least store away a pretty penny for a rainy season. Anyway, I’m glad to see another International Day of Juan, another year of life. I’m looking forward to all that’s ahead of me at 37.