This statement holds true even more so when you’re having fun. Since arriving in DC over two months ago I have had the time of my life. It didn’t seem like that long ago that I sat on the floor of my bedroom at my parent’s house in San Diego, contemplating what to pack while also stalling for time because I wasn’t sure that I was ready to leave the next day. I had no idea what to expect from the East Coast, and I had no idea my life would become as great as it has been.
When I accepted my congressional internship I had been hesitant because I hadn’t had a true passion for politics, which I felt set me apart from many of the people working on Capitol Hill. I had been set on working with a non-profit or human rights group, but took someone’s advice that had done UCDC and accepted the internship on the hill. Reflecting on my experience, I wouldn’t change a thing. Working in Rep. George Miller’s office was the greatest opportunity I could have asked for. The first day I arrived I was so nervous, stressing on what to wear, to using too much slang and sounding unintelligent. I am fully aware that my vocabulary is flooded with words such as “dope, rad, sick, cool, like, hella, right on” and the one we are all so guilty of, “dude.” In California everyone uses slang so loosely, but I was terrified of talking to the congressman and responding to something he said with, “nooo waaay, that’s soo rad.” To say that I would do that is not that far fetched.
The first day I arrived at least forty-five minutes early, terrified that I would be late. I wandered Capitol Hill and starred wide eyed at the world I had just entered. These giant massive heavy buildings would be where I would spend the next few months. Everyday I would pass through the massive roman columns that held the weight of Rayburn up. Everyday I would pass through the security, pass by the guards with machine guns. Everyday I would enter this political machine and I would be one of its cogs. I was so nervous the first day. Nervous answering phones. Nervous meeting my co-workers. Nervous doing small tasks that I was more than capable of. I was on edge, hoping with every minute that passed I would not have made a mistake and completely messed up.
All that changed in about a week. I quickly gained the confidence I had lacked on the first day. I began to get to know the people in my office and realized they were all incredible and extremely laid back. I got to know my way around and realized I didn’t need to leave my house an hour before work started. I observed others around me and figured out what was an appropriate wardrobe. And most of all, I asked a ton of questions. Question after question after question. It was the only way I was able to learn anything as quickly as I did, and it was the only way I felt so comfortable in DC almost immediately. Every time I talked to someone I would ask questions about what to do, where to go, things to see, how to do something, the best way to do something. I am a very curious and inquisitive person, and I sought out as much information as possible. If people in my office were having a conversation about politicians, I would ask who they were talking about if I wasn’t familiar. Someone had once told me, if you don’t know what they’re talking about, just act like you do and then look it up later. I’m glad I didn’t take this advice. I’m glad that I learned on the spot the things I needed to know.
Friday was my last day at my internship, and I was really bummed I had to leave. The people I worked with were the people I spent the most time around, since I was there almost all week from morning until evening. While I got to know some more than others, I appreciated being around all of them, and appreciated how down to earth and nice everyone was. You hear horror stories of how offices are on Capitol Hill and how egotistical politicians can be, and how intolerant and conceded superiors can be. I never saw or felt any of this in my office. Everyone treated me with respect and welcomed me into the office. Everyone was kind to me, everyone was patient, and George Miller was the coolest. I’ve always been really cynical about politics and the whole system of government and the American political machine. I had more or less lost faith in politics being anything other than corrupt. My general feeling toward politicians when I had arrived in Washington was that they were fucking up our country and that the government could go to hell. That all politicians were evil money grubbing whores and the American people they represent were the last thing on their minds. While this still holds true for most politicians, working for George made me realize there are some good ones. There were days that I would answer phone calls where people called in just to tell me how much they loved him, and how proud they were that he represented their district. Constituents would call in and ask why won’t he consider running for president. I would open mail that would have messages such as “we love you George Miller, keep up the good work!” It was a really great experience working for someone who was respected by the people who he represents, as well as the people in our office. Hes been in congress for over 30 years and it’s no mystery why. He is passionate about the work he does, and he truly works for the people who elect him. I would never trade my experience in his office for any reason.
As excited as I am to go back to California, this past week in my office was my favorite time spent there. It was a short week, but the days that I was there I wasn’t ready to leave when 6pm came along. The Christmas tree arrived this week and me and Mr. Staff Assistant tackled the task. As a team we were possibly the most pathetic and humors to observe, but after numerous failed attempts at wrapping it in packaging ribbon we gave up and I took almost full control. No offense to him, but some things I’m just better at. I took the better half of a day and cut tons of paper snowflakes from House of Representative wrapping paper, and he tied them onto the tree with our house of representative ribbon. After mastering the paper snowflake I started making origami swans and cranes and then was assigned the task of the pentakis dechaheron, which would be the ultimate tree topper. After two days of the saddest attempt I realized I had been defeated by a complex paper star, and after that I was unable to make anything else. After receiving a university of California college education and degree and interning on Capitol Hill, I had been out smarted by a stupid piece of paper. The tree had been set up right next to my desk, and it filled the air with its piney lovely Christmassy smell. You know how they tend to do that. Every time I would twirl my chair around and look at it I would smile and realize how much I was enjoying being in my office and being in the here and now. And then I would realize at the end of the week my time would expire. This office would leave my life forever. Such a bitter taste to have in your mouth. I chose to leave DC, I was and am excited about Tahoe, but it was hard to close that door. This place was an important part of my life. Although I was just another intern to the people in the office, to me they were the first young professionals I ever worked with. They were my first experience at a job outside of what I would normally do. On the last day they all gathered around my desk to say goodbye. They gave me House of Representative gifts, which are totally cheesy but so incredibly cool at the same time. It sounds silly but it was one of those sentimental gifts that matters who its from and why that matters to me. I made them take pictures with me and while it was totally awkward I loved every moment of it. It was a great way to end the week.
Living in Washington DC made me a more independent and self sufficient person, which was something I had needed. In college I always relied on other people to do things for me, for my parents to pay for things, for there to always be someone to give me a ride some where, or someone to constantly hang out with. For the first time in my life, I supported myself in DC. I planned the things I wanted to do, and figured out on my own how to get there. I spent more time than I ever have with just myself, and I really enjoyed it. I loved the times that I would take a day to myself and go to museums and on bike rides and just listen to music and get lost in my own world. I cherished the moments that I had silence and privacy from the world around me.
There were days that I was homesick for Santa Cruz. That I would hear a song that reminded me of a friend, or I would skype with someone and then close the conversation, missing them more than I had before. But it was almost as if the laws of the universe worked in my favor, because every time I would start to feel that way, I would end up having an amazing night with all of my DC friends, or my day at work would be incredible, or some event would take place that made me love DC even more. I absolutely adore this city and the people I have met, and I cannot wait until it is part of my life once more.
This weekend was the perfect way to close my East Coast adventure. I was joined by the beautiful Miss. Boston and Miss. New York, and we had an unforgettable weekend. From swanky lounges to Ben’s Chili Bowl, to over crowded taxi rides, to being lost in an area I had never been in before, I had a weekend I will always love. I spent my last days in the company of great people and had a time that will always put a huge smile on my face. I know when I arrive in California a part of my heart will long for DC. A part of me will want to be back in room 909 on Rhode Island Ave. A part of me will miss sharing a room with one of the funniest girls I have ever met. A part of me will always miss the last of what was my college experience. I would recommend to anyone to participate in UCDC, or intern in Washington DC. It is a city unlike any other, and I am leaving it completely satisfied, yet craving for what will come next. Craving to see where life is going to take me.
I was scared of leaving DC, in fear of looking like I failed. I had come to the east coast to pursue my dreams and get a job and get involved in human rights work now. But I realized that I can still do all that. I don’t have to do it this moment. I can take some time and enjoy my life and DC will still be here when I’m ready. I can explore the world and my opportunities and my freedom that I have in youth. That’s ok. This is the time to do it. This is the time in my life that everything is mine and there are no strings attached. I can go wherever I want, and be whoever I want. I am twenty-four and it feels as if life has just begun.