D.C. in Perspective

D.C. in Perspective

Coming home isn’t easy. It has officially been a week since I came back to Little Rock, Arkansas after spending four incredible months in Washington D.C. Despite the transformative nature of this experience, I’m more nervous now than I was when I first came to D.C. I’m nervous that things have changed too much, or haven’t changed enough. I’m nervous that I’ve changed too much or not enough. I’m nervous that things will go back to the way they were before.

 

Paradoxically though, I have never felt more confident. I’m a pretty nervous public speaker, but I find myself planning what I might say to a crowd if I ever get the chance. I’m usually one to complain a lot, but not to the right people. Now I find myself writing emails and planning out arguments as a matter of habit (the administration of my college will rue the day they sent me to D.C.). This is not to say that I have found any sense of “clarity” or “purpose," but I don’t remember ever feeling this confident in my own power to change people’s minds. Maybe confidence isn’t even the right word. Freedom is more accurate. I feel free to change minds (my own included).


I still have a year and a half of college left. I am still sheltered by provided housing, meal plans, and scheduled community events. There is a lot of temptation to pick up where I left off and slip back into the rhythm of collegiate life, but D.C. gave me a taste of something I had never had before: I was scared to graduate college. Society tells us that college is the prime of your life, the golden years. Whenever I was told this I thought “Dear god, I hope not.”

 

D.C. showed me that on the contrary, life gets better. I had subscribed to the idea that I was not ready for the “real world” that lay outside my academic experience. I always hated that idea of the “real world.” As if the lives some people lived were not authentic enough, because they hadn’t experienced X, Y, or Z. Living in D.C. showed me how much I had bought into this myth and how much of a myth it truly is. I feel that my mindset has shifted. I can adapt, I can handle challenges, and I can enjoy myself all the while.

 

My submission for the new TWC Logo

 

So I’m not here to tell you that all your problems can be fixed by positive thinking, but like one of my favorite activists likes to say, change happens when a lot of people make a small shift. That shift, for me, is the freedom I feel now that I’m back home. The freedom to speak up and not feel bad for doing so. I’m probably more cynical about the federal government than I have ever been in my life, but I feel more optimistic than I’ve felt since I started following politics. I saw people change their minds all the time. I saw bipartisanship that I didn’t think existed anymore. I saw the machinations of a political infrastructure that kept working no matter what the situation or who was in charge. I was a small cog in that incomprehensibly big machine, but man did it feel good. I try to keep those realizations close to me. I feel free to hope for something better. I feel free to throw my opinion out there, because I was forced to so many times already. I feel free to change my mind, because I was proven wrong so often.


I’m nervous that I’ll get sucked into the ease of cynicism. It is so easy to condemn the whole system or to emotionally detach from the outcome of a bill, election, or referendum, because it’s all pointless anyway. It is so incredibly easy to memorize a set of phrases and comebacks in place of conversation. In D.C. it was so easy to feel involved and engaged, which is almost a trap in itself. D.C. has a tendency to make its residents forget that D.C. is a unique city and that in most other places, opportunities do not present themselves so pre-packaged. D.C. is an incredible place but so are places like Arkansas, even if it is not as apparent.


I cannot thank The Washington Center, my roommates, my friends, my internship site, or my professors enough for all they did for me. While my time in Washington D.C. has come to an end, this feels more like a start than anything. On one of my first days back home, a little kid from my church (that I’ve known since he was born) sauntered up to me. After staring at me with the uninterpretable stare that only a child under 7 can give, he said “You sound bigger and you look bigger," then promptly got distracted and walked away. Despite the comment on my weight, this was oddly inspiring. He was most likely just commenting on my physical growth but after writing reflective blog posts for four months, I have developed an overactive tendency to find meaning in extraordinarily normal experiences. I have changed indeed, as he said. I even sound bigger. Whether I’ve changed “enough” is ultimately up to me.


This is my final blog post and I want to thank all of you who have stuck with me through this process. I still can’t comprehend why people would read what essentially feels like a journal entry, but I appreciate your support more than you know.


Sincerely,
Noah Adams

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