OutPower

From Conversations to Finding My Calling – Alan Cruz

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci

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I can’t believe I’m in Washington, D.C. 

These were my first thoughts when I stepped off my plane at 4:25pm at Reagan National Airport on May 30, 2022. I had just gone through a 6-hour, nonstop direct early morning flight from Las Vegas and was running on 2 hours of sleep. I couldn’t believe I was in D.C., let alone having the ability to stay here for two months with guaranteed housing and getting paid to work at one of the world’s most powerful institutions in the world ‒ the U.S. Congress. 

Since the age of 17, I’ve always had the desire to work for Congress in Washington, D.C. Now that I’ve undergone this Congressional internship with the LGBTQ Victory Institute, where I had one of the most incredible experiences to witness first-hand our public officials and staff members of Congress do the work that kept America running, I realized ‒ Congress is not for me. And that’s okay. 

In the past 8 weeks, I have contemplated the question, “where do I fit in in this world to do the most good?” and I thought that the answer would be Congress. After this experience, I realized that I wasn’t exactly right. My internship experience provided me with a wealth of experience both on the legislative-making side and creating genuine connections on Capitol Hill. However, as I’ve navigated this internship, I’ve realized that my true passion and interest lies in digital and social media. Policy making and legislation will always be dear to my heart, and I know that my advocacy within these two areas will never go away, but I truly believe where I’m meant to be is working towards the digital and social media end of things where I can help bring visibility to policy, organizations, and movements that are working towards fighting for a safe and equitable world. 

What helped me come to this conclusion has been a mix of Victory programming and the networking receptions that I’ve attended where I’ve had the opportunity to talk to countless people on their journey and experiences in how they got to where they are today. In every conversation I had with a Washington, D.C. professional, whether they worked in policy, governmental affairs, communications, or social media, one thing stood out to me: not everyone’s path is linear. Many of the individuals I spoke to told me how they thought they were going to go into one field based off the degree they studied and internship experiences they held in college only to find out that as they continued to experience life and navigate their journey, their passion and joy lied in another field that was either similar or completely different from what they originally intended to get into. Hearing this gave me a sense of comfort as someone trying to break into the digital and social media space. 

I’m extremely nervous making this “pivot” ‒ first believing I thought I’d go into law and become a lawyer ‒ to the digital and social media space, but I feel confident and firm that this is the path for me. When I was 13-years-old, I joined an Instagram page, @ForeverFeminism, as a co-admin and co-social media manager. Along with three other teens who were the same age as me, who lived in different parts of the world, we worked to grow the account from less than 10,000 followers in 2014/2015 to 139,000 followers in 2021. Although the Instagram page has been inactive for a while, this was my first introduction to digital and social media where I learned about insights and analytics, follower engagement, and content creation. I didn’t know it yet, but for several years while I was in high school I was already working in the field of digital and social media marketing without knowing it. But once I graduated high school and entered college, I dropped my involvement with the account and my interest in social and digital media because I thought that I needed to get a “real degree” for a “real job” in the “real world”. As soon as I graduated college in May 2022, my passion and interest for digital and social media marketing came back in small ways I didn’t realize ‒ I kept running into professionals working in the field through conversations I had with professionals who attended Victory Institute receptions and programming; as well as speaking to lawyers and lobbyists who work in the field I thought I wanted to get into and got the honest insight I needed to figure out that working in law and governmental affairs isn’t what my path is.

Once the realization fully hit me in the beginning of July 2022, I immediately had a conversation with someone at my previous internship at the Soze Agency who gave me the final push I needed to take initiative to tap into the field and since then, I’ve been enrolling and completing social and digital marketing certification courses through LinkedIn and Google to attain a foundational understanding of the field, talking to professionals who work in different areas of digital and social media marketing, and slowly building out my portfolio and searching for volunteer opportunities to join non-profit and companies to allow me to help run and share ideas on how they can maximize their social media accounts through the concepts I’ve learned in my courses and my previous experience. This is the kind of work that excites me. 

I don’t want to live with regrets 5, 10, or 20 years from now when I’m working in a career that I am not passionate about and reminiscing about the “what if”. That is not the kind of life I want to live. As I continue my journey in exploring where I fit into this field, I’m keeping an open mind and taking advantage of all opportunities that will allow me to flourish and grow to become the best version of myself. 

Although Congress might not be the path for me, I know that Washington, D.C. is a place that I can call home and is somewhere I plan to return to. In the short 8 weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve been able to establish and create a community with so many people that I call friends and family who wish to support me and see me succeed. D.C. life has been exhilarating and full of so many surprises. It is a little scary knowing the fact that while Washington, D.C. may be a huge city with thousands of people from various backgrounds across the world, it’s also very small and you run into the same people constantly. But a part of me finds comfort in that. 

The people that I will miss most are my entire Victory program cohort and all of the other interns in my Senate office. Because of them, I’ve been able to find joy and fulfillment every single day. When I needed a shoulder to lean on and a good hearty laugh, my fellow cohort and co-interns were always there. They were my safe space. I’m happy to know that although my time will end once I get back on the plane to head back to Vegas, I will eventually come back to Washington, D.C. It may not be working in Congress, but it will be in a role where I know I can do the most good. Until next time, D.C. ‒ see you soon.