Last Chances

Last Chances

I realize that all semester I have claimed to have crazy-busy weeks, and this has been true. My semester in D.C., interning, sight-seeing, entertaining visitors, volunteering, studying, and attending programming, has me asking myself at the end of each week: "how in the world did I survive?" This past week was my last in D.C. and it just wouldn't be right if it weren't as busy-- or even more so-- than the other fourteen. Let me begin to give an overview of this last week, and some insight into how exactly you finish an experience like this one.

 

Last Thursday night, Brianna and I attended The Washington Center Holiday Alumni Party, hosted at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center. We were asked to attend so we could give a presentation on our civic engagement project that we participated in during our stay in D.C. I felt honored that Reid and Jennifer, our project leaders, nominated us to share our experience with other Washington Center alumni. It was really neat because some of the alumni we spoke to had participated in the program more than 20 years ago! It was also really important to share with the alumni what all our civic engagement entails, because the civic engagement component has not always been a part of the program. Brianna and I both participated in the Education project, broken down into informational meetings and direct service. We spoke to others about our individual reasons for joining the project; Brianna coming from an area plagued with dropouts and I felt compelled to learn more about the issues and seek solutions. We shared about how rewarding the project was to us, being able to give something of value to the local community we had become a part of. Let me tell you, this group of alumni knows how to have a good time. The venue was absolutely beautiful with its sleek design and spacious balcony overlooking the city. Even more fun was had once the latest version of Just Dance came out--when there were seriously hilarious alumni dance-offs. I couldn't help but want to jump in and show everyone my moves! When the night ended, and we were literally asked to please leave, Brianna and I made hopeful plans to road trip back to D.C. for next year's holiday party--when we would finally be part of the TWC Alumni group.

 

Brianna, Reid, and I at the Alumni Holiday Party

 

During my last weekend in D.C., while everyone else rushed and crammed to finish their portfolios, I had some fun and most of all, finally relaxed. On Saturday, Brianna and I went to the Holiday Market downtown, near Gallery Place. Claiming the title of "market devotee" in blog posts past, I had to visit this one entirely devoted to all things Christmas! You could say it was a success--I found one awesome Christmas present, and ate some hot, just fried, miniature donuts. That night, I headed out with my closest friends to celebrate Demitri's 22nd birthday. I was really excited because not only do I love birthdays, but Demitri's favorite food spot is Shake Shack-- yes, home to the best burger of my life. A group of us headed there together and stuffed our faces with the greasiest, greatest food I've found in D.C. A big thank you is deserved to Demitri who discovered Shake Shack months ago and talked it up enough for me to abandon all goals of healthy eating, and give in to their sinfully delicious food. We sat around, toasted to our experiences, and shared stories about our favorite times in the city. I couldn't help but feel a little emotional at dinner, but it wasn't my party, and I therefore, couldn't cry even if I wanted to...

 

One Last Group Shot

 

Come Monday, it was time for all of us to officially end our experience with a commencement ceremony. It was the longest two hours of my life, only because I was fighting against a lump in my throat and pleading with my eyes to not let the tears that were pooling up inside them, actually fall. The ceremony was so much nicer than I imagined. One of our fellow interns put together the most incredible slideshow, surfacing hundreds of memories from all of us in the room. It was the last time we were all together as the Washington Center's Fall 2013 interns. We heard so many inspiring words of advice, and stories of how this experience impacted different individuals. During my last few days, I was starting to think of everything I learned during this experience, and what I would take away from this city, and these people. During commencement, we had an alumni speaker and a few student speakers who couldn't have said it more perfectly. There are two things that were said during commencement, two pieces of advice that I believe are critical to understand, and take with us. The first is to never think that any job is below you; everything that we do, no matter how small or trivial it may seem, is important. Every step we take leads us closer to where we one day hope to be. Never believe that you are above anything asked of you, because every single task has something to teach us; always stay humble. The second piece of advice was expressed by our fellow intern, Blue Knox. Each of us came to D.C. with desires, a hunger to learn things we couldn't anywhere else; Blue urged us all to stay hungry. We all came here for the same reason, we all gained the same kinds of experience, yet, it does not end when we have left D.C. and when we have left our internships. We need to all keep that hunger for experience, starvation for knowledge, and bring it to everything we may do in the future. We must never slow down, or ever lose that craving for experience we all had in the beginning, back in August. Later in the ceremony, awards were given to students for academic achievement, leadership, and civic engagement. The first two award recipients had incredible, inspiring tales of what they had accomplished in their time here in D.C. Listening to their stories, I realized that while we all gained experience, each of us had such different stories, molded by our individual personalities, cultures, and aspirations. When the time came for the civic engagement award, my project leader, Reid May, walked up to the podium. Brianna and I exchanged a confused glance, almost saying to each other with our eyes. "no, not us...". When I saw Reid walk to the podium, I made the assumption that the award recipient would come from our Education project. When the announcement was made that for the first time, "two young ladies" would receive the award together, Bri and I smiled at each other, because we knew. They called our names and we filed through the seats to the front, next to Reid. I'll never forget this moment, filled with shock, happiness, and terror. I knew that my favorite part of D.C. besides my internship, had been my civic engagement experience; I had put in a lot of extra time to get the most out of my experience, but I never thought I would be individually recognized for my devotion to the project. I felt so happy that Reid and Jennifer, our project leaders, could see how much we loved it, and cared about the cause. Now, that last part, about feeling terrified--is kind of a funny little story. Before commencement, I was running around trying to find my heels. Upon realizing I had left them under my desk, in my office, I asked around to borrow a pair. Brianna had only one pair left unpacked, and I slipped them on. I practically fell around my apartment before commencement, laughing at how my feet flew out of them every step I took. Even though they didn't fit at all, I decided to wear them, saying to Bri-- "thank goodness all we have to do is walk down there and sit in a chair, because I could never walk in these in front of anyone." As soon as our names were called, my first thought was how ironic it was that I would have to walk up to the front, with everyone's eyes watching, in these doomful shoes. I am certain that I looked like a newborn Bambi, awkwardly stumbling and slipping toward the front. Note to self, always be prepared--because you never know when you'll need to walk into the spotlight!

 

Brianna and I after Commencement

 

The night of commencement, our alums in residence had a pancake dinner for all of the interns. Almost everyone went, feelings of nostalgia carrying over from the commencement ceremony. After dinner, I went next door to spend time with my closest friends, knowing that my nights living down the hall from them were running out. The next morning, my best friend, Miranda, made her way into town despite the D.C. "snow day." I picked her up from Union Station around 10 a.m. and it was time for the "last chances" to begin. I was so glad she was finally able to make it to D.C. to visit me. One of the hardest parts about leaving school to come to D.C. is trying to relate to people back home. You want to share everything with them, but they can only understand it so much. With Miranda in town, staying with me, hanging out with my friends, and exploring the city, I finally felt like I could really share a piece of this with someone back home. We spent our time going to places I already loved, and places I still hadn't had a chance to see. The best sight during my last few days running around the city was the Capitol Christmas tree. Being my very favorite building in D.C., I wasn't sure it could ever look more beautiful than it normally did. But now, with its massive and brightly lit Christmas tree standing on the lawn, I was wrong--it was a magical sight. Despite feeling numb, and shivering in the cold, we stayed and admired the tree for quite some time--I wish I could permanently burn the image in my memory. Even though Miranda and I went all over town, to museums, monuments, different neighborhoods, and restaurants--the best part in my eyes was all of the time we spent with my friends. In our last few days, we spent hours and hours talking and spending time with each other, just in our apartments. I think everyone felt the inevitable reality that the end was finally here, and we needed to seize all of the time together that we had. I wouldn't change anything about the way I spent my last few days in D.C. with Miranda, from home, and my friends in D.C. My last chances to see things, spend time with friends, and make memories, were precious and rightfully spent.

 

Capitol Lawn and Christmas Tree

 

Me and my best friend, Miranda

 

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart,"

-Helen Keller

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More