Monday, August 16, 2010

So long, Farewell....

I am writing this part of my blog during my last day of work in Congressman Paul Ryan’s office, and I cannot stop reviewing the summer in my head. While I am very excited to go home to Gilbert, Arizona, it is sort of a bittersweet feeling. This summer has been one of great personal and professional growth for me, and I have really developed a wonderful relationship with the people who work in Paul’s office, along with my fellow AAPD interns, and the AAPD staff and mentors. I count my blessings every day, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity this summer to work in our country’s Capitol. During my time here, I have learned a variety of things, but I would like to outline some of what I believe are the most important (and the ones that no one tells you).

1. Ladies: Carrying multiple pairs of shoes in your bag to work---those heels may be adorable but by the time you hit up your fifth run to the Capitol for the day, you don’t care about adorable.

2. Men: Buy a suit that FITS. Your dads old baggy dress pants just don’t cut it. One nice tailored suit will get you a long way.

3. Longworth Coffee Shop is an intern’s best friend---you think you are going to get up and get a decent breakfast, but after hitting your snooze for the fifteenth time, you barely have time to brush your hair while walking out the door. Breakfast now consists of an iced coffee (LARGE) and an apple fritter from The Creamery.

4. Layer your clothing---DC is sweltering in the summer, but the office buildings are freezing. That cardigan may seem to be suffocating while you walk to work, but by your fifth work hour of -20 degrees, it’ll be a lifesaver.

5. Don’t be that intern---Every office has them. We all know who they are, and we avoid them like the plague for fear of being labeled as such.

6. The constituent is right. Period. End of story---Even if you know the topic like the back of your hand and you know they are quoting the most ridiculous articles on the planet, you listen…and listen….and listen…and thank them with the utmost sincerity.

These may not seem like the most precocious suggestions, but after you’ve gotten no sleep thanks to the people in the apartment above you, the Metro has almost eaten you 5 times that day, and you’ve gotten lost in a building you’ve worked in for 5 weeks already, being intelligent is not at the top of your list. You are ready to settle for being alive.

As for the more meaningful things I have learned this summer, those I have a tough time putting into words. The learning experiences were events, not hints. Seeing fourteen hundred people come out to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADA at the Hyatt hits you hard. These are people, young and old, who fought for their basic rights as human beings and the rights of generations to come. Watching not one or two, but eight to ten or more Congressmen and women take time out of their busy day to attend an award ceremony commemorating those who have worked for disability rights legislation shows you that there are people who do really care about the world around them. These are just two of the events I had the opportunity to visit, but there were many, many more.

The second part of this blog, I am writing on the plane flying back to Missouri where I go to school. It is Saturday August 14th, 2010. I have had a little more than a week at home in Arizona after flying back from DC, and I am on yet another flight. Now that I’ve had a little time and separation from the program I am realizing how much I miss working on the Hill and interacting with the people from AAPD. During my last couple weeks I was in DC, I could not wait to get home to see my family, but when I finally did get home, I realized I missed the atmosphere and the people I got to work with everyday. On the flip side, I am very excited to be starting my senior year at college, and I am even more eager to share my amazing experience with the girls in my sorority and my professors on campus. I am really beginning to realize how much the ADA affects my day to day life and the lives of everyone around me. I can’t wait to share my new knowledge with the people I get to see on a daily basis. I am realizing that this blog is getting a bit long-winded, but there are just so many things I want to say. To wrap up, I first want to say thank you to MEAF. Without you guys, there would be no Congressional Internship program; I am forever in your debt. Second, a huge thanks and hug to everyone at AAPD. I thought I would feel out of place as an intern without a visible disability, but you welcomed us all the same. That is a wonderful feeling I cannot put into words. Third, thanks to the staff in Congressman Paul Ryan’s office, I learned a great deal of things from you. Some are applicable to my professional life, and some just applicable to life in general, but all are amazing. Last, but certainly not least, a huge thank you to my wonderful intern colleagues. I learned a little bit from all of you, and I really hope that we keep in touch as an alumni class. Best wishes to all, Ericka

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