We kept it under wraps for a long time. Only family members and a few friends knew, and they did their best to keep it a secret. It was a burden, the kind that affects everything you do in your life; it determines the kind of friends you keep, the activities you engage in, and the trajectory of your whole life. But after more than a decade of hiding from the world, I am finally ready to come clean.
So here it goes (stomach churning)… For all of those who wondered why it seemed like I had gone missing, dropped off the planet, or was completely unsociable, the truth of the matter is that I was working as an intelligence officer for the Central Intelligence Agency (yes, the CIA). I know those three letters conjure up thoughts of wild adventures, mystery, and intrigue. I got adventure alright: I lived in war zones and conflict-prone locations where I felt the daily bomb blasts of suicide explosions, hunkered down to avoid stray bullets during firefights, and tried not to let sickness consume me (in one country it seemed like the officers were perpetually ill for two years). As for mystery and intrigue? We got some of that too, but not the kind of drama you might imagine.
We saw a ton of the world but we worked harder than we will ever work in our lives. For ten years we were steeped in nothing but security, counterterrorism, and counterintelligence issues. If it didn’t happen in my part of the world, then I didn’t pay attention to it. American politics? American culture? I barely noticed. The long, repetitive names of Middle Eastern terrorists or the inner workings of al-Qa’ida? Got it.
For those of you who knew me from high school or college, you might wonder, “Sweet Michele in the CIA???” Yep. It’s true. I’m still sweet, but I am no pushover. I realized during my first trip to Egypt that I had to learn to be aggressive or I would be eaten alive on the streets of Cairo. I rescued the bits of my personality that had been pushed aside in order to be a well-liked southern girl—-and figured out how to employ them to survive.
Because I was conditioned to hide for so long, I have struggled to make this blog a reality, far after I had determined to do so. While everyone was moving towards full disclosure through Facebook postings, tweets, and blogs, I had receded from society and tried to hide my life. It has been enormously challenging for me to move in the completely opposite direction.
But that’s all behind me now! I have officially joined the digital age and let the cat out of the bag. The shaking of hands could not prevent me from finishing this post and fulfilling the urgent calling on my life: to use my skills as a (former) intelligence officer in the quest to motivate and inspire. While the “coming out” part still feels uncomfortable and scary, seizing the opportunity to inspire others feels really good. Here’s to life’s great adventures!
All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the CIA or any other U.S. Government agency. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of information or Agency endorsement of the author’s views. This material has been reviewed by the CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.