OutPower

What Happy Looks Like – Nathan Phillips

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 have been warned countless times from family, friends, and mentors alike that time would fly and before I know it I will be back home. I have been told to take as many pictures as I can and get out into the world and explore Washington, D.C. because it might be my last opportunity to do so (except for returning for the LGBTQ Victory Institute’s International Leaders Conference at the beginning of December.)

 When I left home, I was depressed, not for any particular reason, but just because that is how my brain operates. It gets bad and sometimes it gets worse and other times I am at the top of the world. Unfortunately, getting on a plane and living on the opposite side of the country does not eradicate any mental health problems you came to Washington, D.C. with.

My grandma would ask me if I did not want to go anymore, she insisted I could call it off and I think part of her hoped I would. I have only ever lived an hour and a half from home and as far as I am concerned, my grandma is my home. When she asked me what I was doing, the answer is often something that I could have been doing quite literally anywhere. Watching TV, coloring, playing video games; the list goes on. I kept telling myself to get out there because I can be depressed when I am home, but that did not really do the trick. Nothing really does the trick.

If I have learned anything while in Washington, D.C., it is how happiness is not generated by location or occupation. I have not determined how happiness is manufactured and I doubt I ever will; this line of thinking is a result of generational trauma and chemical imbalances. It is difficult to operate when you are high functioning and self-aware. I do get things done. I am successful in every sense of the word. I go to one of the best public schools in the nation (shout out to UCLA) and I got to work in the U.S. Congress at the ripe old age of 21. The funny thing is: that alone does not make me happy. It is the people I have met along the way that have made me the happiest I have been in a long time. If there is anything to take away from this internship, it would be the importance of surrounding yourself with people who love you, even when you do not love yourself (especially if you do not love yourself.)

I honestly do not think I would have made it through this internship without the friends I have made at the House Democratic Caucus, as cheesy as it may sound. Getting up in the morning is not always easy, but knowing I will get to be surrounded by people who are beacons of joy makes the dreaded walk from my bed to the shower a tad more bearable. At least once a week, one of us will reiterate the love and appreciation we have for each other. I think we do so because our friendship began with the knowledge that we will all pack up and head home at the end of the 10 weeks. 10 weeks which were occasionally excruciatingly slow and other times far too fast. Having to gentle parent our letter folding machine, Thanos, who has a meltdown at least once a day, has strengthened our bond. We talk about how we will have mandatory FaceTimes once a month to catch up and I am so excited to see where life takes all of us.

Not only have I fallen in love with the people I have met, I have fallen in love with Washington, D.C. as a whole. Walking around the city is breathtaking, just as the architects designed it. Every tree was carefully placed and with mass transportation, it is easy (and more importantly cheap) to explore. I am even interested in moving here with my best friend should we get the opportunity and I already know who to call as soon as our plane lands.

I am happy to go home to see my friends, family, and cats, but it is bittersweet knowing it means leaving this chosen family. I have regrets– most of them are things I was told I would regret if I did not do them and yet I proceeded not to do them (like taking more pictures or going to museums and memorials– all of which are free.) It helps ease my anxiety knowing I will be back in Washington, D.C. sooner or later. I try not to be too hard on myself, to remind myself of the accomplishments I have made and the memories that I will always cherish. I love my friends, Washington, D.C., and I am working on loving myself.