Jumping into Politics

February 12, 2010

I could spend this blog entry writing about what I’ve done this week– my first week as a real-live Washington intern.  I could write endlessly about answering phones or booking tours.  But, in all honesty, I think you can guess what I did this week.  I sat at a computer, I watched the time tick by wondering if I was ever going to know what I was doing, and I asked enough mundane questions about spreadsheets and emails that my Staff Assistant (and boss) must have thought I was distinctly unqualified for my position.  Starting a new job is awkward anywhere so I won’t bore you with the details of getting lost in the Capitol or calling my Chief of Staff the wrong name.  What I’d rather talk about is transitions.

I’ve spent the last 3 and ½ months mostly unemployed.

Let me briefly clarify that I didn’t do absolutely nothing during these months—I got a speeding ticket, I took my grandma to get her ears pierced, I started letting my dog illegally sleep in my bed, and I disassembled and reassembled a bed to move to my brother’s new house.  So I would label myself mildly productive.  Which, I suppose, brings me to my point.  I spent much of the last 3 and ½ months alone.  And for that reason, moving into a house with 10 girls and beginning a life working 11 hours a day as a DC intern in a fast-paced, highly interactive environment was a bit of a shock to my system.

If there’s one thing I can say about a DC intern it is that you are never alone.  My office consists of three rooms- one is the Representative’s office, another houses our legislative assistants and legislative correspondents and the third is home to all the interns, the staff assistant and the scheduler.  The environment is…well…crowded.  Each phone call is overheard and each question can be scrutinized by anyone within earshot.  Which is everyone.   And not only are you surrounded by your coworkers, but the phone is constantly ringing bringing an entirely different audience to burden your mental sanity. And beyond that, after work you go out with the people from your office to some Capitol Hill “hot spot” or another to talk about the issues and converse about shared experience with other Hill staffers.

Okay…now I must admit…to some of you this may not sound like a burden at all.  Being in the company of others, experiencing the insights of our district’s constituents, and bonding over after-work drinks with your recently acquired friends (or should I call them “networking acquaintances” since we are in DC) may sound positively riveting to some.  But, as I’ve recently discovered, I am an introvert, and, not only that, but, as I’ve said, I have spent much of the past months by myself.  So the experience of going from 0 to 60 faster than a Ferrari (I had to look that up) left me a little shell-shocked by the end of this past week.  By Friday afternoon, I crawled into my bed like a cat leaving water, shaking and overwhelmed but surprisingly excited to take another dip (not the greatest analogy? I completely agree, but I really don’t like cats and the thought of them in water strangely made me feel better after a long week).

And this, it may seem, after this disjointed blog entry, is the point.  Although completely bewildering and somewhat depleting, I can’t wait to go back.  There is something electric about working on Capitol Hill.  For me, being able to run to the Washington Monument at sunrise before work, reading headline news that features pictures of your office building and seeing the legislative and democratic processes at work while you talk to concerned citizens and read policy papers that will influence future law is nothing short of astounding.  As it is with any job, the transition isn’t easy—especially coming from the unemployed world of bed reconstruction and grandma-sitting—but I know it will be well worth it.  And eventually I’ll get used to be a real human being, capable of routine social interaction, again.  And then maybe going out for happy hour after work won’t be that hard.

-Molly M., Star Fellow Spring 2010

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