Last days in DC

Today I said goodbye to one of my favorite people in Washington D.C., Jackson the painter from Mississippi. Almost every Sunday that I’ve spent in DC I have gone to the farmer’s market near my house to buy fresh produce and make new friends. Jackson is one of those friends. I don’t very much else about Jackson other than that his wife is a painter too, he has three kids and he had a pretty wild life up until he had kids. But Jackson doesn’t like to talk too much about that life, instead, he likes to talk to me about mine.

            Over the course of the semester, Jackson has given me advice ranging from the best bars I should go to the best way I should live my life. Today Jackson told me that if he had any advice for me it was to “go crazy while you young and stupid so that if anyone asks you why you actin’ so crazy you tell ‘em you just young and stupid.” After telling me that he paused for a second, cocking his head at me. “You know little lady, I bet you is doin’ that already. You never told me what you been doin’ here, you been doin’ some crazy things?”Caught off guard, I took a second before replying, “You know, now that I think about it, I guess living here has been pretty crazy.”

            Here is a list of five “crazy” things I have done this semester

1)    Received Enough Business Cards to Wallpaper My Room

People in DC really, really like to pass out business cards. There are some places where I expect people to give me business cards, i.e. when I attend luncheons or conferences. But then there are the people who give me their business cards on the metro or when I’m hosting at the restaurant. A lot of the times I’m grateful for the card, most of them are just trying to help me get a job. But every time I look into the overflowing drawer where I keep all of the cards I’ve gotten, I start to wonder how many trees get killed so people in DC can feel important. Granted, I’m no better, UNEP gave all three of us interns business cards and I do pass it out occasionally. One of the other interns, Cat, and I decided that we felt too ridiculous passing out the cards so we took a bunch of them and wrote “unpaid and overworked” before the line that says “intern”. That made me feel a lot less like I was pretending to be important and definitely made passing out the business cards a whole lot more fun


2)    Spent $30,000 of Someone Else’s Money (aka Planned a Youth Conference on Climate Change)

At certain points during this semester I found myself wishing that I had an internship where all I had to do was file papers and make photocopies. Instead, I was in charge of planning the first ever Kick the Carbon Habit Education Campaign (KCHEC) Youth Conference for my two-day a week internship at the United Nations Environment Programme. It was more work than I had ever imagined. Essentially, I had twenty days to find hotel/hostels, book a conference venue, determine the conference agenda, reserve airport shuttles, choose the catering, liaison with the speakers, book flights and work with a firm to design the website. I stayed late at the UNEP office so often that I had to ask the custodians not to turn out the lights at 10:00 or else I’d be left in the dark. Even though I often felt like I was drowning in logistics, it was all worth it when it finally came time for the conference in Chicago and I was able to meet all of the amazing youth leaders on climate change (so-called Regional Representatives of which I am one). Kick the Carbon Habit Youth ConferenceOn the last day of the conference my boss told the group that this conference could not have happened without me and I almost cried. It was really amazing to be singled out as a leader in a group of leaders who I admired. I can’t wait to get back to my college in Walla Walla and see what I can do to continue to be a leader in our environmental education campaign.

3)    Not Killing My Housemates

Although some of you might think that “killing housemates” may sound crazier than “not killing them”, I can tell you that living for three months in a two-bedroom apartment with five messy, opinionated and impolite college students would induce thoughts of murder from Mother Teresa herself. It’s been quite a challenge living with people that I dislike and who dislike me. I’m not sure if I can see the upside of the whole situation or extrapolate on the lessons learned quite yet as I am currently sitting at our incredibly messy kitchen table and have not been able to use the bathroom for the past hour because one of my roommates decided to take a bath.

4)    Been “the whitest black girl I ever met”

This semester I worked part time at Nando’s, a South African/Portuguese restaurant. Aside from the managers, I was the only white girl in the restaurant. I shocked a lot of the people I worked with by being able to sing all of the lines to famous rap songs. I loved working there and I’m really going to miss everyone. Tonight was my last night of work but thankfully I get to see everyone again tomorrow night for our all-staff “Pimps and Ho’s Party” (pictures to come).

5)    Grew Up

At the beginning of the semester I wrote a blog post about how I felt like I was pretending to be a grown-up. Sometime in between that first post and now, I stopped pretending and started believing. I might even have figured out my future career path.

One of the first questions that people in DC ask (right before offering their business card) is “what do you want to do with your life?” I’ve answered so many times in so many different ways that I now feel like I might actually know. I want to work on promoting clean energy technologies in developing countries as a way to mitigate climate change and promote sustainable development. I think that first I want to work in the US government and then, once I understand our own crazy system a little better, I want to work for an intergovernmental organization like the UN or the World Bank. Oh and I also really want to work for Obama. Sounds like a plan right?

This semester has been a crazy one for sure, probably more than Jackson could ever have guessed.