Twenty years ago today I drove through the front gates of CIA Headquarters. It was the first time I did so as an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was a strange feeling, being stopped by the guards, having them find my name on the list of new employees, and being directed through the multipe layers of security to ultimately find my destination: new employee orientation.
At the time, I thought the CIA was going to be a lifelong career. It definitely could have been, but after six years, three months, and two children, I ultimately decided to shift my priorities. Still, I enjoyed the work at CIA, both the challenges and the feeling that I was living history as it was being made. I also loved the atmosphere in those halls and the way the employees seemed to connect so well with one another. Perhaps it was because we had all been so carefully screened to get there, or because we all knew that when we passed through those gates each night we could no longer speak of what we had seen or what we had done that day. Whatever it was, many friendships were formed and many confidences were shared.
As I look back on the years I worked at the CIA, I find myself a bit nostalgic. I miss the energy of those halls, the feeling of unity of the employees, and the shared ambition to keep this country safe. Mostly, I miss the people.
So I have spent today remembering my early days with the Agency and the wonder of being a new employee. And when the school busses dropped my children off in staggering intervals, I was reminded of what was important enough to make me want to give up that part of my life.