Let’s begin with a quote. Two quotes, actually. “We’re all perfectionists, so we all want to be there already.” – Mona Mohib
"The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else- we are the busiest people in the world." - Eric Hoffer
As we rush through our DC lives, from speaker after panel after networking event, to running around at work, to just catching up with each other over dinner, I find myself coming back to this theme again and again – what am I here to do? What is my passion? What do I want to make of my time in DC this summer?
We started the week with Neil Patel, CEO of the Daily Caller. He thought his passion would be the law – until he got to a law firm and absolutely hated it. He eventually found a way to combine his great love of politics with the law on the Hill, and is now an entrepreneur living out the last lesson he gave us: “Pick something and get on the path to doing it. If you’re wrong, change it.”
Tuesday was a visit to legislative assistant to Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Neil Chatterjee that turned into a “whoops-we’re-still-voting-so-I-can’t-talk” impromptu seat above the House to hear debate on the farm bill. Flexibility in situations like these has also been key during our time in DC. Waiting for security clearance, I’ve had to learn to be the best intern I can – from home. Learning to roll with whatever comes our way is making for a dynamic summer experience.
Wednesday was a panel with two of the most illustrious, strong women I’ve ever met, Mona Mohib and Neera Tanden. I could fill pages with their profundity, but I think Mona summarized it best: as generally high-achieving students coming from backgrounds that stress having a plan and following through, it’s easy to start feeling “behind” if you don’t know exactly what your job title will be in four years.
Thursday we were lucky enough to be invited over to Priya Dayananda’s house for a reception welcoming Southeast Asian interns to DC, and introducing us to members of the community. Talking to them – and to the other interns – was the typical mix of awe at the cool things that people do and excitement at finding common interests. It was fabulous to finally get to see the inside of a Capitol Hill brownstone (!) and to get to pick the brains of the folks who live in them.
All of these experiences – and more and more exposure we’ll get over the summer to the different paths our careers and lives might take – are actually making increasingly comfortable with the fact that I don’t have answers to all the questions. Each of these individuals created opportunities and took them, working hard at whatever they were doing until it finally led them to their passion. It’s not so much a plan to go to X graduate school or have Y title as it is a plan to learn how to use our skills and talents to make change in the world. I can do that. I think we all can.
Hetali Lodaya USAID - Office of Science and Technology UNC - Chapel Hill