Tonight I go off to meet another group of eight strangers, picked to live in Washington, D.C., get a crash course in foreign affairs and then go off to another country to write a story. I will attend the welcome dinner and try to be witty, and – as is expected of me – I will engage them in conversation whenever there is a lull.

This is the sixth time I’ve done this – the sixth dinner with eight new people. I have had the same conversations about myself five times past and will no doubt have them again tonight

“How long have you been with the program?”

Two years and counting.

“Wow, you haven’t been here long.”

Longer than the number of years you’ve been living away from your parents’ home, my sweet.

“All this talk of journalism and foreign affairs must bore you.”

No, I’m actually quite interested in foreign affairs – in fact, since I’ve attended about 80 of the seminars designed to education you, I probably know a bit more about it than you do. Don’t assume things about me based on my job. Wait – scratch that. You should assume things about me because of my job – use your deductive skills and wonder just why someone in my profession would work here? Maybe it’s because I’m actually interested in the content? I thought you were supposed to be a journalist. Investigate – don’t be lazy!

“I have this problem with my computer – maybe we can talk about it?”

I am not an IT tech, I am a communications professional. I design publications and web pages. I also write and edit content. Sometimes I wrangle graphic designers and other contractors. Although it’s definitely an interesting field to work in, I do not fix computers for a living.

And so on and so forth.

I hate having things assumed about me based on the limited knowledge these people have. In my two years with the program, only three people have tried to get to know me – and two of them were women who were interested in me and backed off when they learned I was married. The rest just decide things about me – decide that I’m not as smart as them, not as cultured or educated.

It’s frustrating. I have a terrible ego – especially about the things I know, the books I’ve read, the films I’ve watched, etc. I’ve made a very strong effort to educate myself on all kinds of topics. I don’t like to brag about what I know – I keep it to myself. But I’m proud of myself for self-educating – for making up for all the time I slacked of in college and high school, all the stuff I didn’t learn because I was too busy going to shows or movies. It burns me when people assume stuff about me – I try hard to not judge people when I meet them, to get to know them a little bit before I start telling them things about themselves.

I know this is silly for me to gripe about. But I’m going to be in that realm again where I’m defending myself to people who’ve already made up their minds about me. And I hate that.

I like my job – don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned so much and really great opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve seen history up close thanks to my job, and met the people who make important decisions that impact the lives of everyone in the world all because I handle the communications for a journalism program. But sometimes dealing with new people – navigating the same paths over and over again – makes me wonder if it’s worth it.