What You Leave Behind

What You Leave Behind

The title of this post has a dual meaning: it refers to the memories one leaves behind in Washington, D.C., as well as the junk he can't either ship or pack when he heads back home.

That's the situation I was in Wednesday night as I prepared to leave Washington, D.C. I was trying to determine what would ship, what would pack, and what wouldn't make it back to Arkansas with me.

Certainly, the memories would make it back to Arkansas with me. Just when I thought surviving the Budget Battle while I worked at a federal agency was pretty historic, President Obama orders a hit on Osama bin Laden in his Pakinstani compound.

When the news broke that OBL was dead and the folks started their victorious chants outside the White House, it was already 11:30 PM in Alexandria, Virginia, where the Braddock apartments are. Even if I could have gotten on a train to take me up to the White House, there's no way I could have returned since the Metro closes at midnight Sundays through Thursdays -- remember that.

So during one of the most historic events, I was sitting in my apartment watching it on TV, as though I were still a thousand miles away from the action instead of a mere thirty minutes away from it all.

If I would have lived at the Resident and Academic Facility (RAF) on 3rd and K Street NW, I could have hopped on the Red Line and taken it to Metro Center and then made it to the rally and had great pictures. Instead, I went by as soon as I could -- the next day -- and saw this: 

Yeah, wonderful. See, I can't tell if they're there because of Sunday night's events or because that's the normal flow of tourists. I couldn't tell. But when I was down by the White House, I saw this crazina who's all over the place. I mean, you just have to go down there and see it. She claims she's been there protesting since 1982 or whatever. Like I said, she's all over the place. The signs make no sense. At one point, she's blaming the Jews. The next point, she's saying we need to disarm our nuclear weapons. Then the Republicans are to blame. And then the New World Order is to blame. Maybe she'll start blaming Tony Romo one of these days.

That was on Monday, and it was preceded by a commencement ceremony at The Washington Center. I don't know why they called it a commencement. No one got to back-flip off the stage when they received a diploma or whatever. It was just like every other lecture they've had there, except some of the students got to actually lecture for once instead of doing so under the guise of asking a question at the microphone.

I forget who they were, the student speakers. I lost the itinerary for the event. I thought I brought it back to Arkansas with me, but I can't seem to find it. So, I won't show the pictures because you won't know who they are. There were four students total and they talked about how their experiences at The Washington Center. I don't know how they were chosen; I'm not sure about that process.

But the speaker I do remember is Lucas Daniel Boyce, an alumnus of The Washington Center back in the spring semester of 2002. He interned at the Bush White House in 2002, was able to parlay that into a job, and then ended up working for the Orlando Magic. So, Mr. Boyce gave a pretty positive motivational presentation. And he started it off talking about Sunday night's events.

Mr. Boyce's presentation was one of those "Power of Positive Thinking" type of speeches. I'm not disrespecting Mr. Boyce's path to where he is now because I know it took a lot of hard work, but they really don't do anything for me. See, I like the type of motivational speeches where you're told you're a mote in the mire like everyone else and that you're going to get pushed into the gutter if you don't push back. No one looks out for you; you have to lookout for yourself. Now, having said that, even though you can't count on anyone to look out for you, you have to look out for others because it's what separates you from everyone else.

But all right -- some people like this, especially kids my age. You know, they think if you think all of the happy thoughts in the world, it will come true. I kind of disagree. If you keep grinding and pounding the rock and just keep moving on the death march of boredom and mediocrity called life, you'll differentiate yourself. That's how I see it; it's one guy's opinion.

Mr. Boyce did have some good goals, and I think these are very applicable. See if you can read them, what with the camera and monitor interference:

I listened. Even if it's not the style I like, I still listened. Mr. Boyce's advice had great application.

After the graduation ceremony, they showed a montage of students who had fun at The Washington Center.

Oh, I just remembered something. I don't think I've ever shown you pictures of Meridian at Braddock Station. Check them out:

It was a very nice apartment facility and I'm very thankful to stay there. But I really feel like I left a lot on the table when it came to socializing and networking with other students because of where I lived.  I'll still join the TWC alumni network, and hopefully, I'll be successful enough somewhere that The Washington Center will ask me to come back and harangue the next crop of interns.

So what's left for me to tell you? Oh, yeah! Don't ever take a cab from the Dulles airport to wherever you end up staying in D.C. You can take a Metro Bus -- the 5A Bus -- to the Rosslyn Station on the Orange/Blue Line and then go from there. Compare the $6 it costs to ride the bus versus the $75 you might spend if you take a cab. Yeah -- just though I would throw that out there.

But if you don't mind, I'd rather talk about work instead of domestic affairs. Let's get back to the action. My last day at Voice of America felt like I was trying to abandon a sinking ship. I was trying to do so many things at once while I still had the time. I was able to complete a news package I really wanted to do on pulmonary hypertension. I was able to finish a video for future interns. It was hectic and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish it, but I did. It was more evidence of why I was bestowed this honor:

No one, I mean NO ONE, gets a plaque for their internship at Voice of America, particularly in that division. That just shows you how hard I worked at my internship. And it's something that I hope happens for many interns, whether at Voice of America or elsewhere. So while I may have written this note specifically for whomever sits at my desk in the terms to come, it's advice for every intern:

So there it is. Don't wait to die of Dutch Elm Disease. Instead, be productive. Your internship is what you make of it.

It didn't register on me how tough it should be to walk away from Voice of America like this on my last day.

Since I graduated Saturday, May 7th, the question becomes whether I'll return to Voice of America and Washington, D.C. Or if it's what I leave behind.

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