I’ve been in my academic/internship program for about ten weeks now. As of the first week, I knew I was going to have to write a research paper. A research paper that should have taken all quarter to work on. But here I find myself, one week before its due date, with little more than a page written. I always procrastinate on assignments because I am a very quick writer. It’s the one thing I can say I am truly truly gifted at, fast writing- and not just fast writing, but fast writing that gets me good grades. In college I learned that if I started a paper two weeks before it was due, or if I started at 10 pm the night before it was due, either way I was going to get an A. The incentive to start earlier was that I would personally get more satisfaction out of the crafted piece of writing I turned in. I would appreciate how much effort was dedicated to the assignment. But the professor wouldn’t. If it met their standards it was an A. The same goes for writing it the night before and meeting their standards. I know I worked hard in college, but I think I developed some very bad habits. Looking back on the entire time I was at university, every paper I ever turned in, with the exception of the first quarter, was written over the course of the night before the due date. Even in summer school. No exceptions.
Anyways- how does that relate to what I am writing about now? This attention I am giving to my blog so as to procrastinate on the assignment I should be focusing on. Well….
Tonight I decided to stay in, to work on my research paper. With the Thanksgiving holiday, and next week being the due date, I didn’t want to have to write a 20 page paper in one night. I had been sitting at my desk for the last hour when I decided a bath would be the perfect way to unwind and get my mind in a good place. Maybe if I sat in the hot water long enough it would help me be more productive on my paper. I believe that was my ACTUAL process of thought. And I convinced myself that it was true too.
I let the bathtub fill up as far as it could without it overflowing once my body was submerged. After allowing about ten minutes to pass, giving it enough time to cool down, I sank into the water and let every muscle relax. My bathtub is the perfect size for my body, and I can almost slip my whole body under the water. The distance from my feet to knees do have to exit the water when I put my head under, entering that different world of warm muffled sound. The only sound underwater being the sucking noise of the drain, attempting to steal my bath from me.
I sat cross-legged in the bath and let my mind wander. I grabbed my bar of soap, pulled it under water, and squeezed it with my hand, watching it squirm away from me. I kept doing this over and over, watching my attempt to grip it fail miserably. The tighter I tried to hold onto the soap, the quicker it was gone. I don’t know how or why I became so entranced with playing with a bar of soap, but before I realized it, the water had turned murky. The repetitive motion of squeezing the soap had had the effect of essentially dumping soap into the bath. No longer could I see through the water as easily.
And, as my mind wanders, I started thinking about life, and the way it is like soap in a bathtub. I started comparing the soap to people we desire in life, an object we desire, a time we once experienced, a feeling, something that we once had and loved with all our hearts, but is now gone. And I started comparing the murky water to life. The consequences we face in life for our actions. The results of our behavior.
Sometimes we become so transfixed on obtaining something, on making it ours, that we will go to any length to chase it down, to bring it within our reach. And the more we focus on desire x, the more we lose sight of the world around us. The more we neglect the other things that matter, the other people, the other dreams we once had. Life is about balance. It’s about having multiple goals, multiple interests, multiple desires. Chase them all, and keep them all in perspective. But in your pursuit, don’t lose sight over what it is you’re after. Don’t let the world around you become murky.
I thought a lot about this when I first moved to DC. Everyone from home kept asking me, do you think you’re going to change? Do you think you’ll become preppy? Do you think you’ll get all political? Do you think you’re going to become an East Coaster?
When I first arrived I was completely overwhelmed by my new life and how hectic, fast, and professional it all was. The District was, and is, everything Santa Cruz is not. There is no way to even compare the two without first putting them on opposite sides of the spectrum. I remember being overwhelmed by how fast people walked, how it seemed like people were always in a hurry, how every person I met wanted to talk about what it was that they do, who they work for, who they know. I remember thinking that it was all the small things about DC that were unlike the person I am.
Over summer when I first started interviewing for internships on the East Coast, I read an article that provided advice for a phone interview. I was nervous, never having been interviewed over the phone before, and definitely never having interviewed for places that ranged from National Geographic, to Amnesty International, to Capitol Hill. I felt as if I was out of my league. Why on earth were these people giving me their time? The article I was reading told me to dress as if I was actually going to a real interview. That our state of mind changes depending on the clothes we’re wearing. I thought it was silly advice so I skipped on it, but being in DC it keeps coming back to me. I’ve never dressed so professionally in my life before, and I realize that when I leave my apartment in the morning, and walk to the metro, on the way passing the biggest lobbying firms and political consulting firms in America, surrounded by thousands of professionals, I get in this weird state of mind. It’s almost as if this aggressive, competitive instinct sets in, where I take in my surroundings, and I tell myself I can make it here or anywhere else, I can be as successful as I want in life. I can do anything these people can. And I swear to god, like 80% of that thinking is because I’m dressed nice. Because I can see myself in a world of professionalism, even if that’s not what I want. I can see myself at the top. There’s nothing I can’t accomplish. I’ve always considered myself a confident person, but it’s almost like an over confidence in those moments. An over confidence that is temporarily created by costume and environment. I’m not really sure how to explain it, or that I’m doing a very good job at doing so.
There was another change too. A few weeks ago I was trying to get to the metro to go to work. People were jamming the stairwells and escalators, and while there is an unspoken rule that one side is for riding the escalator and one side is for walking up it, no one was moving. I started getting pissed off, and thinking to myself, these people are idiots and they are going to make me late. It was as if I almost wanted to tell them, “excuse me, I work on Capitol Hill, can you please move, thank you.”
All of a sudden it was almost as if I got hit in the face by my own reality. My life is no more important than theirs, and earth to Allie, I am JUST an intern. Pushing people to get by and rushing past the crowd, as if I have somewhere so much more important to be, is obnoxious. It’s what I disliked about people in DC when I first arrived. If you’re in that much of a hurry, that you’re going to be rude to every person you come into contact with, you should try leaving the house ten minutes earlier. Over something so small as feeling rushed and irritated I started thinking about if I’ve changed since I’ve been in DC. Had I actually become an East Coaster in a little over 2 months?
The answer is no- if you can actually even say there is such a category of person as an “East Coaster.” I am still the person I was when I left Santa Cruz, if not a bit more centered, independent, and confident in myself as a young adult. I think the reason all of this is being written about in regard to murky water, is that I could see how living in such an intense environment could cause a person to lose oneself. This world is held together by networking, and who you know, and who people know you know, and who you know that they know. Every week there are functions, and banquets, and parties, and events, and promotions, and the list goes on and on and on. And then there are the trendy areas, and the trendy clothes, and politics of every damn thing ever, and blah blah blah. I love DC, its been very very good to me, but I could see how a person could change here. How you could become so focused with reaching a goal, working your way toward a certain job, obtaining a certain title of prestige, that you forget who you were before you got here. You forget that life doesn’t have to be go go go. That you don’t have to network the hell out of every person you meet. You forget that you haven’t always lived in blazers, high waisted skirts, and heels.
But then again- the bar of soap could be a person. And you could be chasing that person. Trying to get them, trying to make them yours, desperately trying to grasp at what is fleeting, and everything else in your life is getting blurrier. Everyone else is fading into the background. Everything that used to matter has just turned murky.
I don’t know- the soap could really be anything, I suppose. It’s yours to play around with. I’m just rambling so that I can avoid writing my actual paper.