mach.I.ne

Its been a week and a day since I fully entered The Machine. When I say The Machine, I am referring  to the political force driving Washington DC. I am now a cog in this system. Another mechanical part spinning in circles, helping The Machine destroy everything in its path. The Machine is massive. It is made of thousands of people in suits with clean haircuts, nice shoes, and strong voices. I never really imagined myself as part of this world, but now here I am. I listen to dubstep on the metro first thing in the morning, I wear clothes that seem to mature and fancy for me, and my hair is always messy by the time I get to work. And yet I am the newest member in The Machine.

I must say it is truly empowering. The first time I stepped out of the metro and took the high reaching escalator to street level, South Capitol, I was instantly greeted by the looming presence of The Capitol. I had never even been that close to it before. Its breathtaking. My heart jumped in that way that makes your stomach feel like it just lifted within you. Deep exhale. This is where I work now. Excitement and nervousness were competing for who would fully consume me.

I spent a portion of the first day being shown around Capitol Hill. But not the Capitol Hill most are familiar with. I got the underground tour. The three buildings that sit on the hill, Longworth, Rayburn and Cannon, are all connected to one another by underground passages, which also lead to the Capitol. I felt like someone in the CIA, with my government badge on, wandering what seemed like secret shortcuts. There is even an underground train, like the type you would ride at Disneyland. A play toy for politicians.

Everything in the Machine is so big. SO Large. SO Massive. SO GRAND. I can’t even recall how many times this past week I realize while running an errand in one of the buildings that I am completely lost. Lost with no idea where I am or where the place I am going to is. I’m finding that just wandering, and asking the help of anyone who looks like an intern, is the best way to get around. Get aquainted. Its also really surprising how many people don’t know where the rooms are im looking for, or how many times I am going to need to ask for directions to the coffee shop until I remember the way. Its hard to describe how never ending these huge hallways are, and everything looks the same. Exactly the same. Capitol Hill is a political maze.

My internship is my first office job, and I have my own desk and my own computer and its my special little corner right next to the front door. I intern for ten hours a day when the House is in session, which means whenever the congress people are voting I am working ten hour days. On the days they don’t have to vote, I get to leave an hour early. And im doing this for free. Ten hour days for free. But in hopes that it will lead to something bigger and better for myself.

 (view from office)

My office is great. The people are fun and easy going and it’s a great work environment. There are a lot of Californians in the office, which creates the sense of home in a foreign place. I had heard so many horror stories of what people are like in politics and on the Hill, that one of my biggest fears was ending up in an office from Hell. My situation couldn’t be farther from it.      

Not only did I get really lucky when it comes to my co-workers, but also with my living situation. I live in a two bedroom apartment in a highrise in down town DC. To give you a sense of where I live, its on the same street as the White House, about three blocks away.        My apartment is shared between myself and three other girls. I honestly could not have asked for a cooler roommate. She is ridiculously funny, and after having my own room for the past year, its nice to have late night pillow chat time with someone again (instead of always forcing friends into it when I spend the night). Her fascination with China is the same as mine with Japan, and we are both from San Diego, Santa Cruz, and we both have freckles. She likes red wine and I like white, and we’re both interning on the Hill. We suspect that even our congressmen might be buddies. Yesterday she got a new workout video and it called for hand weights and she didn’t have any, so she used two bottles of wine instead (one being the gift I gave her for her 21st birthday). She is truly the best roommate I could have asked for, and I can only imagine how the next two months will go.

      

The other two girls I live with are also great. I’m getting the impression they are much mellower than myself and my roommate, which will be the perfect balance. They work for non-profits and think-tanks, so between the four of us we have got every base covered. Its nice having us all interested in different things, because it brings different elements into discussion and we are all able to share different stories and things we learned that day.

Everyone I am meeting in the UCDC program are here doing really different interesting things. Some people are working in politics, some with the UN, some with research orgs, some with non profits, some with the national museums, and some with the media. One of the girls I have been spending a lot of time with is working with National Geographic so I will get to spontaneously live through her experience and find out what interning with them could have been like, had I taken that route. When I first started UCSC I was blown away by how smart everyone was, and how knowledgeable they were about all different things. The biggest change with being in DC is that everyone is so incredibly driven. People are working really hard, and everyone has pretty big goals for the near future. It is very inspiring.

A few things have caught me off guard since I’ve been in DC. The first being no one really has an accent, and for some reason I was expecting people to talk differently. Two, people are always in a hurry. There is escalator etiquette at all of the metro stations, that being that those who want to ride the escalators stand to the right, those who run up them use the left. People are always running or speed walking faster than I am used to. You learn very quickly not to get in someone’s way. Another difference is that most people dress professionally here. About every third person is in a suit or dressed up very nice. You get a sense of everyone being a professional at something and they have very important jobs, whether or not that’s true, it looks as if it is.

Apart from interning everyday and getting settled into my place, I have been taking advantage of DC’s night life. Like I said, I live downtown and everything is close and there is so much going on, despite what night of the week it is. The happy hour culture is huge out here, and so you see most people at bars dressed in the same clothes they worked in. Example: most guys are in ties and most girls are in pencil skirts and blazers. Everyone is always dressed up, despite where you go. A group of us have already kind of found a place that is becoming our regular spot, and when I mentioned it to my mom she told me it was the same place she went to when she was younger. This place and its history.

My parents are also visiting the east Coast right now, and over the weekend we went to lunch and then drove by the house my mom lived in during a few years of college.

I knew I was going to like living in DC and while I was nervous to move here, I knew I would adjust. I never realized how much I was going to love it and how quickly it was going to happen. I have yet to feel even a tinge of homesickness, or longing for what I left. I can’t wait until the next time I see familiar faces, and am in the company of those I am truly comfortable with, but until then I’m settling here. This is my new life. This is where I’ve been waiting to be. Every day is better than the last.

I can’t believe this is my life.


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before air. during air.

Essentials: laptop. novel. perfume (long flight, weird body smells). journal. folder with research reading. sunglasses (too early). bottle of whisky to go (compliments of a friend). photo to save my page in novel and remind me that no matter how far I move family is only a phone call away.

 

                                                                                                                  Breathtaking

 

 

 

Day.One.

I couldn’t have asked for a better place to call Home. Last night as my plane circled the District of Columbia, I saw everything illuminated and glowing and calling me toward it. The homes and buildings below were nothing more than dots of light, snaking across the land. Millions of tiny flashing and sparkling red yellow white lights. This is my new home, I kept telling myself. This is the destination. One of these lights are mine.

And then I saw it- The Capitol. After it came into sight no other light had a chance. It stood above the rest of the city and had this erie light green glow to it. Almost the color you would imagine a washed out dollar bill would be if it could  glow. And THAT is my work, I told myself.

After a lonely day of traveling I didn’t feel lonely anymore once I arrived. I expected to be hit in the face with homesickness, but I can’t imagine missing San Diego when I am surrounded with so many new opportunities and possibilities, and most of all adventures. But- I do miss all the lovely faces I left behind -San Diego and Santa Cruz- Especially yours.

The house I am staying at until I move into my apartment in Dupont Circle is my Father’s childhood home. When my grandfather passed away his request was that the house stay in the family. Since then, over ten years ago, the house has become my Father’s older brother’s house, and everything has been remodeled. While its still the house that I have many childhood memories of, its nicer and newer. The oddest thing is, it still smells the same. We always remember distinct smells, even if its been years upon years. And this house, its the same as it was when I was five years old. Its a solid brick house with white trim and black window shutters. It has a sunroom, a back porch, a basement, and many colonial style fixtures and touches. Its a beautiful house and its weird to imagine that the table I sit at as I write this was my Father’s dining room dinner table. Everything in this house is filled with HIs history, and now here I am, invading. My Father had one older sister and three brothers. I am staying in what was his sister’s room. She is now in her early sixties and lives in San Francisco and hasn’t lived here in over 40 years. But its her room, and she has taken it upon herself to decorate the walls with framed photographs of San Francisco. Her past and present combined.

I also happened to look in the closet in the bedroom and on the top shelf I saw a record player. I’m waiting for the right time to ask….

When I woke up today the time difference put me at almost noon when it was still earlier in my old life. I spend the better half of the day exploring Georgetown and the town where my Mother grew up. My parents are both born and raised D.C. and they left for California at about my age, so I guess returning here in my own life has completed the circle.

Georgetown is absolutly amazing. Streets made of cobble, brick buildings as far as the eye can see. Botique after botique. Coffee shops. Bars. Everything a posh college student could ask for. It will be interesting to see how D.C. warps my identity, and if it does.

Its late September, summer still, and almost everyone was wearing jeans and scarfs. I can only imagine what awaits me as the months pass by.

One thing I noticed is…. everyone is richer here. Thats an incredibly huge generalization, but thats the best way to describe what I saw. Everyone was driving nice cars. Everyone looked like they modeled for Banana Republic. Everyone looked so- put together. I’m so used to Santa Cruz and San Diego, where basically anything is acceptable. I have never seen so many guys in business suits-young guys, my age and a few years older- walking around a college area. Its as if I have entered another dimension, not the other side of the country.

After Georgetown I explored this old amusement park near my Mother’s childhood home. Glen Echo, the park, has now been converted into a national park and art commune. The park was originally the most popular of the DC area up until 1960 when there was protesting and rallying because blacks were not allowed in. For eight weeks blacks and whites protested outside the park and were successful- the next spring it was open to all people. When it became a site for rioting almost ten years later the park was taken by the government and reopened as an art commune. None of the buildings have been changed. None of the signs taken down. It stands perfectly intact as an amusement park from the earlier half of the century. While many things around it have changed, the people who spent their childhoods there and those who rallied outside have all aged, Glen Echo has stood still.

 

One of the most exciting things about being in D.C. is everything has a       history. I have yet to see a clone neighborhood. I have yet to see any home that looks as if it was built in the last 50 years. All the buildings are really old and are incredible architecture. D.C. has been a major site for all of the movements that have taken place throughout history. Everything has happened here. This is our country’s capitol. This is the place.

And now it is part of my history.

BitterSweet

I heard recently that every time we say goodbye to someone a part of us temporarily dies. Please may this be false, since the past two weeks have been filled with one goodbye followed by another. Leaving Santa Cruz was hard enough. I knew I was saying goodbye to everyone there for a long time. Some of the most amazing people I spent the last two years with, and most importantly my brother, who I’ve never really lived apart from. Tomorrow morning I will be leaving San Diego, and not just San Diego, but the whole West Coast- everything that is familiar, comforting- everything that I call home and all that I love.

But I wanted this. I wanted to go to Washington DC and as much as I want to hold on to everything I know, I’m ready to let go. San Diego will always be here. Its time for me to explore.

Its the afternoon before I leave and still neither of my suitcases are full. How do you put everything you need into two bags? Minimalists have it easy.

It was about this time two years ago that I sat cross-legged on my bedroom floor, contemplating what to take to college with me. I remember thinking, how do I even begin to decide what comes with me and what stays. Two years later I find myself making the same choices, except this time I don’t have a car to fill. Just the two bags.

Maybe I’m stalling packing because a part of me isn’t ready to zip up and close the suitcases, therefore doing the same with my life here.

This time tomorrow I will be in Atlanta, Georgia, most likely tired of traveling, and tired of waiting to get on my next flight. By 7 p.m. tomorrow evening I will be on the other side of the country. I have absolutely no idea what to expect.

The unfamiliar is awaiting me. New faces. New friends. New streets. New buildings. New names. New weather. New everything. I am tossing myself out of my comfort zone. I am diving head first into a new life.

This has been a year of big accomplishments for me, and moving 4,000 miles away from my established life is up there. But then again, if my life was so established I wouldn’t be leaving it. This is going to sound incredibly cliche, but I am going to DC to pursue my dreams and goals. That makes it sound as if they are awaiting me there, to be seized as soon as I arrive- rather, DC will be a place that provides me with the means to accomplish my goals. Those goals will be the steps that get me closer to accomplishing the bigger picture—- THE DREAM. The dream is still in the works, but a vague image of it is forming and hopefully it becomes more clear these next few months.

So while today will be the day that I need to say goodbye to my family, to my friends, to my dogs, to my home, and to the one I love, tomorrow will be the day that I say hello to everything I have been working towards.

It may be bitter- but its definitely sweet.