They say you can’t go home again, but I’d have to disagree. There is nothing like sleeping in your own bed, even if it’s a little stiffer than you remember it; dust has collected over your old figurines; and your mother’s yoga mat is sprawled on the floor.
I guess I haven’t written any kind of synthesis of my experience on the Hill this summer just yet. Before I even had time to sit down and think about it, I was swept from below into the familiar rhythm of hanging out with old friends. Now, after two weeks, a 6 hour flight, and lots of unpacking & decorating, here I am already starting my new job, thrust into the litany.
But let’s rewind a little bit. Here is where I guess I’m supposed to tell you all what I learned. Hindsight finally kicked in, so I thought I’d write it down. Capitol Hill is a world within itself. You can find distinct cultural differences simply walking between Constitution and Independence Ave. and even from Rayburn to Longworth. In giving tours, I not only learned about how the U.S. was built from the ground up, but I was also able to meet people whom the U.S.’s foundation could not do without. I learned about how legislation is researched, presented, drafted, recommended, and passed…or not passed. I finally understood the claustrophobia of a 9 to 5 job. And I still remember the perpetual echo of heels on the House office building floors during session as staffers rushed to and fro.
My “forever lessons,” as my friend Jenny G. puts it, are derived from much deeper within my experience, however. For instance, in all my politeness and nervousness during my first weeks, I just about apologized for everything, from answering the phone wrong to accidentally slamming the door (the daggone door slammed anyway). I grew frustrated with – then eventually gave into – “the Beltway mentality,” a sort of austere crudity that people seemed to be conditioned to project from 9 to 5PM, Monday through Friday. But my fellow intern Adriana told me matter of factly that the way people react to situations is more a reflection of them than of me. Once she put me straight, I found it much easier to handle some people’s horrible manners. I also learned that in a bustling cultural powerhouse like Washington, D.C., you are constantly surrounded by people, and if you are not going to be yourself, then no one else is going to be. So I smiled wider, sang louder on the Metro, wore more colors, and opened myself up again – not out of spite or rebellion but because it was ME. And I wasn’t going to let my personality be the first sacrifice in any experience.
Also, I learned what it was to miss Home, with a capital H. It wasn’t exactly California I missed the most (though it really is as great as they say in relation to everywhere else I’ve been). It was everything that made it Home to me that I missed. I learned there are places and people in this world that will always be the same, in a good way, because they will always bring out the best in you.
So in a nutshell, that was my summer in D.C. I have met amazing people, my fellow interns and roommate included. I’ve also met not-so-amazing people, but everyone and everything has been part of the process that continually defines me and my perception of the world.
I just started this week at the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, which I believe changes the world every day, intentionally, collectively, and wholeheartedly. More about that on my next post. Here are pictures from my new room in Maryland, which I painstakingly decorated this week. You really can’t have enough scotch tape.