At the beginning of May, but at the end of my college career, I drove the Capital Beltway viewing each exit sign with great nostalgia. “My time has come,” I mumbled to myself as I thought about inspiration for this article. It’s time to take a break from Washington.
After a hectic last semester of college, it seems that so many graduates and conservative friends are instantly heading for DC for the summer- or the year. We all know the excitement that comes with finding a groovy neighborhood, easygoing roommates, and calculating how far your office is from the White House. This is what I had dreamed about all of college. It is exactly what I had worked incredibly hard for. I spent my summers in DC with internships, at conferences, and taking summer classes to graduate early so I could solidify my spot as a Washingtonian.
While I had fantasized about working for a conservative group and giving my all to my career so I could make a difference one day, I am now headed two-thousand miles in the opposite direction- to California. Not only will I be on the other side of the country, but I will be volunteering, not working. I want to share why spending some time in a super liberal state, far away from conservative friends, can actually be really productive. A lot of thoughts have dominated this past year, as I deciphered how being away from everything I loved for so long could possibly be a good thing.
Firstly, taking a break from Washington can be inspirational for those of us still trapped on our left-wing campuses seemingly all alone in the movement. I’m a firm believer in taking a breather from the fast-paced attitude of DC. It helps us apply everything we have learned there (from internships, conferences, etc.) in other places. For one thing, I remember feeling so empowered and supported by my DC friends when I was hosting a lecture at my school and even when I was studying abroad on the other side of the planet without a single conservative in sight. As challenging as it was to start my conservative club on campus and host this lecture, I had to undergo it to understand what the hype was about. The next time I found myself in DC, I felt personally connected to the conservative movement. I now understood why we are fighting the good fight.
Secondly, aside from the experiences you will garner in the time away from DC, you will be able to pursue other interests and explore what really makes you unique. For me, it was easy as an undergraduate to talk about challenging the status-quo, but kind of tricky to navigate where my passions were in the entire conservative movement. I would say yes to most things in order to gain as much experience as possible, but upon a break from DC, I am able to refine my interests and be able to freshly return with a specific idea for the change I want to make. My year of volunteerism will be spent working with family stabilization services and afterwards, DC is the spot to rally for action and encourage policy change.
Thirdly, it is simply healthy to have a change of atmosphere. Going from our busy college schedules to the non-stop pace of Washington can take a toll as we put self-care and sleep on the back-burner. I realized rather early that I could not sustain this lifestyle and that I would soon burnout if I didn’t take a break. If I want to live a positive, public service-oriented life was a Washingtonian, I must refuel, refine my interests, and reinvigorate the atmosphere I so love. Traveling is obviously beneficial for relaxation, but also for reminding ourselves that there are so many people in this country who are not involved in politics. Our activism directly affects them, though, whether we know it or not. For me at least, I love meeting the people that will be influenced by the policy you helped proofread or the election you campaigned for.