OutPower

Disney Channel, David Cleland, and District of Columbia – David Cleland

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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Growing up, I remember being enchanted by the wonders of Disney, watching films of princes, princesses, magic, wonder, and far-away lands. It brought me joy and filled my life with hope and fantastical aspirations. However, getting older changes those perspectives and those ideals. You begin to see the world from a less magical lens. School becomes harder, time becomes shorter, and life becomes less whimsical. Because of this, I never imagined I would find myself in a magical story in a land far, far away, yet here I am, in a land known as Washington, D.C. with buildings that touch the clouds, waves of people that ebb and flow, and opportunities waiting to be uncovered. My time in Washington, D.C. has been my fairytale “I’ve been waiting for all of my life” (Elsa, Frozen 2). The stories and experiences I have made here will be ones I carry with me for a lifetime which is why I cannot believe that it is coming to an end. Or, rather than coming to an end, I can not believe it is almost time for me to return to my home from this faraway land because my story does not end when I leave Washington, D.C. and the LGBTQ Victory Institute. It simply brings about a new chapter. I know I will look back and remember every moment I had here.

I will remember my flight vividly. Specifically, descending into the Washington, D.C. area, I will remember looking out of the window and seeing an expansive city full of life and the Washington Monument, jutting out of the ground, towering over everything around it. I will remember thinking, “This is what dreams are made of” (Hilary Duff, The Lizzie McGuire Movie), and will remember what a dream come true this opportunity was.

I will remember getting settled for a couple of days, and then starting the programming with the LGBTQ Victory Institute and think back to when I met all my fellow interns in the cohort and some of the staff that would be helping me throughout the process. These folks made such an impact on my life and made my experience on Capitol Hill the best it could have possibly been. My fellow interns immediately felt like a family. I felt a bond between us all that I think resonated throughout the entire cohort and throughout our entire time here. There is something so special about a group of people who have worked so hard to achieve something as amazing as a position as an intern for the United States Congress, but there is something even more special about all those people being from the same community with similar, but completely different experiences. It allowed us to find sympathy and understanding in a foreign land, but it also showed us new perspectives and different experiences which I can say helped me grow as a person in so many ways. From sitting through presentations to having potlucks dedicated to coming-out stories, I feel like I, and the rest of the Victory Congressional Interns, will all look back and say that “You got a friend in me” (Randy Newman, Toy Story).

I will remember some of the tough times. Balancing LGBTQ Victory Institute programming, full-time work for the Senate, virtual work for my school, and 5 college courses was a daunting feat, so I often found myself overwhelmed, burnt out, fatigued, unmotivated, and insecure, but through the help of my peers and the presentations from my program, I was able to overcome it all. Focusing on Imposter Syndrome helped me stop being my own worst enemy and focus on what matters after realizing I am capable, and I am where I am meant to be. I felt like the LGBTQ Victory Institute set up multiple ways to ensure my success, my safety, and my happiness throughout the entire process which I cannot be more grateful for. I also had a lot of help from my supervisors in my Congressional office. They constantly made sure I was enjoying the program, was feeling enriched through the work I was doing, and was not overworked in any way throughout my time with them. It was so refreshing and heartwarming to see such amazing people pay such close attention to my wellbeing and enjoyment despite just being an intern. With all this help, the only thing left for me to do in order to keep up my mental health was to know that “All it takes is faith, trust, and just a little bit of pixie dust” (Peter Pan, Peter Pan).

After this opportunity, I finally feel like I have a direction in life. I feel like I know the next steps I want to take, the path I want to follow, and the life I want to live. I have had amazing conversations with so many people who work for so many places and in so many different capacities. I was able to see what I was interested in and how I wanted to continue to grow in life. It also showed me that I do not have to know everything, though. I still do not know where I will end up or what I will be doing 5 or 10 years from now, but I do know where I want to start which is all that matters to me. It has given me so much comfort and joy that has never been there before. The LGBTQ Victory Institute gave me so many opportunities through presentations, panels, and trips that enlightened me to the expansive world that is out there which opened my eyes to the endless possibilities out there for me. I can never be grateful enough for this opportunity. It is like I have set sail across the ocean with a direction in mind. I do not know what is beyond the horizon, but I know something is out there, and if I continue down the direction I have set on, eventually, something wonderful will come. Now, after this experience, when people ask me, “what is next?” or “what do you plan on doing?” I can answer, “See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me. And no one knows, how far it goes” (Moana, Moana)!

All I know is that this experience has completely changed me like any good fairytale should change the protagonist. I feel like the better version of myself, I was always searching for. Through the LGBTQ Victory Institute, I have gained, professionalism, experiences, friendships, connections, knowledge, and optimism for the future. Through my Congressional office, I have gained skills, partnerships, professional relationships, direction, and motivation for what is next. Through Washington, D.C., I have gained joy, community, gratitude, hope, and perspective. It is through all these phenomenal relationships I have built with these entities that have bestowed upon me so many gifts that I will never be able to repay. I have a new me. I am a better me, and it is thanks to Victory, the Senate, and Washington, D.C. However, despite the amazing time I have had and all the good that has come from this experience through the Victory Congressional Internship, I am sad that “I’ve got to move on and be who I am” (Gabriella, High School Musical 2). But like I said, this is not the end; it is merely the beginning of a new chapter in my life with the LGBTQ Victory Institute, my Congressional office, and Washington, D. C., coming with me the entire way.