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.
After an incredibly exhausting day at work, I called my best friend to cry and express how much I missed home. She affirmed that I was the most melodramatic person she has ever met but astutely said to me “It’s good you had this experience, but I promise it does not define you.” I think a lot about how all of us are just culminations of little pieces of our lives that do not intuitively always belong together. Life is not a puzzle where all the pieces line up correctly; it’s jagged and messy and contradictory, but it still creates a somewhat coherent picture. This summer, filled with trials, tribulations, joy, laughter, growth and yes, tears, will become a piece of the larger puzzle that does define me. Something that has been emphasized in Victory programming since day one is every experience is transferrable. So, yes, this experience will not define me in that it does not determine the trajectory of my life. However, it will stay with me forever as a piece of the larger puzzle of Bridget (I think as a corner piece- the ones you find first when doing a puzzle to ground you).
In my Congressional office, I found that Capitol Hill has incredibly unique opportunities to pursue. I also found that the work is not my calling. Like many other people in the south, I never eat food at a restaurant or at home until everyone has theirs as a sign of respect. At an intern brunch with Congressman Maloney, everyone started eating when their plate was put in front of them. That was a huge shock to me. Now, there is nothing wrong with doing that; if you were raised to eat as soon as you get your food, then continue doing so! I have just found that experience to be a useful metaphor for how different the culture of Capitol Hill and Washington, D.C. is in general from the culture I was raised in. There are many avenues of change, and the arena of Capitol Hill is not the one for me.
Still, there were many incredibly useful and transferrable lessons I have internalized in my time in Congressman Maloney’s office. I had the opportunity to train four other interns, and I found that I enjoyed being a safe space for coworkers to confide in and ask for help without fear of judgement. Since I continually got lost in the basement of Longworth over the summer, I made the people I trained a little cheat sheet of incredibly chaotic directions to various spots they may need to get to. I initially just sent it to them, but my staff assistant noticed what I had made and added it to the intern training manual. It touches me that I was able to make life a little easier for the next class, and upon reflection I found that my best work is often in uplifting other people. My writing also improved through writing form letters and compiling record projects for the Congressman, as well as my awareness of how a bill actually becomes a law (and how 99% of the time it frustratingly does not).
Victory programming exposed me to the numerous avenues of change at my disposal. I learned from advocates, lobbyists, campaigners, elected officials, lawyers, and organizers that there are several approaches to solving the same problem. I confronted discussions of power and space and how being queer impacts my approach to these concepts. My biggest takeaway is that no one is going to forge a path for you to walk on; you must build it yourself. You have to be your biggest advocate, and you have to view experiences as puzzle pieces bringing you to a more complete life.
I am a huge people person, and by far the aspect of this internship I will miss the most is the people in my cohort. Several of them have seen me cry and then ascend into a hysterical state of laughter in the span of one hour (I am a cancer sun and moon- do not be alarmed). We bonded over pop culture, being from the south, love of the lake life, and enjoying a good night out. I was surprised by how much I grew to love someone who I have pretty much nothing in common with (this person does not even like Phoebe Bridgers…). I have never been in a community that centers queerness, and I loved being able to transcend different lived experiences to bond over just being queer. I will carry these people with me forever even if life grows us apart. I like to think that they all are metaphorical pieces in my life puzzle (yes, I am crying writing this).
Am I ready to go home? Definitely. Am I excited to bring this experience home with me? Definitely. I am grateful I got to add this piece to my puzzle and am curious to how it will fit with the other pieces of my life. I always like to neatly describe how I’m feeling with a song lyric, and I always turn to my girl Phoebe Bridgers to help me out. In my favorite song “I Know the End,” she sings “Either way, we’re not alone. I’ll find a new place to be from.” That’s the last reflection I have for y’all: Victory became a new place for me to be from.