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.
In the past two months, my life has been filled with endings and new beginnings. The day after my college graduation, I left my small town of Caldwell, Idaho and moved across the country to South Florida. A week later, I began my journey to Washington, D.C. with the LGBTQ Victory Institute. My peers often ask me why I left, and some days this question is harder to answer than others.
From an outsider’s perspective, Idaho offered me everything a person could desire. A home, community, family, familiarity, and safety. I debated staying, sheltered in a quiet life next to the Sawtooth Mountains, a familiar sight my entire life. I indeed felt safe, yet stagnant. This ache in my bones for something bigger was unexplainable, and all I knew was that I was never going to get where I wanted to be by staying there. I still do not know where I “want to be”, but all I know is that it is not in Idaho.
Some days are harder than others, and the challenge of adjusting to city life has been hard. If this experience has solidified one thing in my mind, it is that while change is not easy, it is necessary. My time with the LGBTQ Victory Institute, as well as my time within Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office, has been incredibly remarkable and rewarding, to say the least. Coming from a very low-income area, this was a commonality I shared with my friends. Having access to professional development opportunities is hard to come by within my community, yet incredibly important. Imposter syndrome is still a phenomenon I battle daily.
Despite these challenges, I have come to recognize the power that each individual has. Learning about LGBTQ history, as well as tours through the African American Culture and History Museum and the Holocaust Memorial Museum have only reinforced the idea that change is possible, yet long and enduring. I am reminded daily of my peers who fought to make the changes they wished to see within the government and fight back against oppressive forces. I now feel a duty to continue this fight.
Each time I feel sadness about the endings I am constantly enduring, I am also reminded of my beginnings. As I enter into a new period of my life as a recent college graduate and young professional, I feel a fire deep within that propels me towards an unknowable journey. I still do not know where I want to go, or who I want to be, but serving in Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office and with the LGBTQ Victory Institute, has offered me a rough direction. I know that I am interested in foreign affairs and international humanitarian work. This is only a rough outline, but this experience has opened up possibilities of endless pathways and experiences. This is a scary thought for anyone, to acknowledge that you have the power to be anything and everything that you want. It is overwhelming to feel the pulls of society, while simultaneously recognizing absolute freedom. My entire life has always been laid out. A sister, daughter, and college student. But for the first time in my life, I don’t have the obligation to any of these roles, and I am only me. The idea of “me” and who I am is still something I am trying to figure out.
I think sometimes that new beginnings are disguised as painful endings. When I believe that everything is finished, I am reminded that it is a marker of new beginnings, and it is the middle that matters the most. I constantly remind myself that I am moving up, rather than out with new life lessons and experiences. I am someone who is driven by quotes (cheesy, I know) yet there has always been one that stuck out in my mind and drove me forward. Visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum, I found this quote memorialized on the wall.
The quote reads, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out– because I was not a socialist. Then, they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– because I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
This quote by Martin Niemoller has always stuck with me. With the recent Supreme Court decisions and anti-LGBTQ legislation coming out within my home state of Florida, I recognize that my power is held within speaking out. While there is power in numbers, I think we often forget the power of individual people and their influence on others. We must continuously roll that heavy boulder up a hill to combat the absurdity of life. And most importantly, no matter how much we lose in our quest, we must never back down until we fulfill our potential. This sense of power is what will drive me forward and guide me in my new direction. While I bid adieu to my colleagues and newfound friendships, I know that this is only the beginning.