The Working Girl Blues

I’m working on my eighth week at my agency, and learning a lot about how the government really works, but also a lot about myself.

Over the last year I’ve been consistently challenging my own ideas about myself. When I left Tennessee and moved to DC for school, I was under-confident. I thought I was just a sweet shy Southern girl whom no one would take seriously. And really, the only person not taking me seriously was me. I’m not sweet, not shy, and not someone you want to mess with.

In my final year of school, my clinic advisor took the time to help me see my strengths — that I could see problems in words quicker than most, that I wasn’t afraid to hit the nail on the head, and that people could see my abilities and trusted me with their business.. These are the qualities of a counselor, the lawyering tasks I find most compelling. Any smart kid can read something and figure out what it means if they try hard enough; discerning what realistic options are available for a person and giving that person the tools to examine those options carefully without overriding their right to self-determination is much more challenging.

And that is what I love about my “job,” but also what drives me crazy about my current position. I love the issues I’m working on, but I miss the people they impact. Instead of helping someone learn to navigate the system, I am the system. Six months or a year from now I will be knowledgeable enough to try making changes to the system, thus fulfilling my goals and the very reason I took this job. But right now, I’m not really able to make a deep impact. Instead, I’m fighting tiny battles of slight consequence with other offices that think I am their enemy instead of their partner.

People are hard to work with. No matter how careful you try to be with your words or conversations, when your job is to review others’ work for policy issues and consistency, people may not appreciate your feedback. And the worst of those people may try to push you off the real issues by fighting back. And sometimes, you have to stand up to professional bullies to get your job done. Even if you end up in pretty much the same place you started. And that was today.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

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