Where’s my tractor?

Click. Click. Click.

Some of my days at work are spent continuously staring at a computer screen, learning how to code in a new language.

Click. Click. Click.

Some of my days are spent hunched over my desk, highlighter cap in mouth, examining economic research papers learning monetary policy.

Click. Click. Click.

The parallels between Two Tramps in Mud Time, and working in DC can be explained through the repetition of keystrokes on a computer. The poem leads with an unnamed man chopping wood, who gets distracted my an individuals looking for work. He stops an things about the almost robotic nature of his task. He begins to ponder, on why he should continue his work when he can allow another individual to do it for him. And this is where life as an intern really sets in, why are you preforming a repeated task where there does not seem to be an end in sight.

I know swinging an ax requires coordination, focus, and back strength that I do not happen to posses. Pounding away at the old, dusty, intern mechanical keyboard carries the same monotony the unnamed man feels. And while “Click. Click. Click.” can seem at the moment the last thing you want to continue to do. Yet, do not let blue skies and great days keep you from not working.

The poem says “Except in color he isn’t blue, but he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.” Although the blue bird, the he in the poem, wants to sing to the flowers, winter might still come and he would not want them to open up and die from the frost. In DC, there are times when you want to quit, or to sing your own tune. But you have to remember that winter can still come, and can leave you in a bad place.

There were times were my mind wandered, and I felt lost and helpless in a building surround by Ivy.  And each click on the keyboard made me question my own sanity, when other people were asking me about my own job. Smirks and comments about doing a better job, really do make you want to stop and wonder if it is time to be done. And while the unnamed man, spent an eternity getting to the point. In good times, you still have to work hard.

Before I received any internship, I spent hours writing cover letters, working on my resume, and researching facts about places I would like to work. Now that I the internship, I cannot stop the grind that got me to the place where I am. During the dark days, the sound of the keyboard was the one thing keeping me sane.

Click. Click. Click.

With each keystroke I was moving in a new direction and I was getting better. Each letter I typed, deleted, and bolded made me a better candidate for a position. Sometimes you forget the hard work it took to get where you are, and you let the chip on your shoulder stop nagging you. So when he asks, “Is the deed ever really done?” There is only one real answer you can give.

Click. Click. Click.

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*Tries not to cry while writing this

What stuck out to me while reading “Two Tramps in Mud Time” was “The time when most I loved my task, the two must make me love it more.” They say that if you do what you love you’ll never feel like you’re working. That’s how I feel about working at the Wilson Center. While I don’t know if I would like to continue working in the development sector itself, working for the Wilson Center has been a dream. I now know that working in the foreign policy field everyday is where I want to be. Even though not every task directly involves foreign policy, I know that the work I am doing as a development intern influences the center so that it can continue it’s research. I attend event weekly that cover a multitude of topics, from the Arctic to Russian-US relations.

We see today that many people today work in a field because it pays the bills, even though they hate what they do. They over look their misery for money. Most people don’t expect to have this life. Everyone wants to do what they love but when it comes down to paying the bills they feel the need to settle. I believe in passion. I believe in working for their passion. If you are passionate about your work you will not only be better at your job but you will feel satisfaction that money will not give you. Some people say that’s naïve, but I disagree. I would much rather do something I love than make money. (Remember this is me talking as a 21 year old, let’s see my thought process at 30) “My right might be love but theirs was need.” Some work for need while others work for love. I plan to work for love, my passion, in a place where I can do so.

This week was special to me. I didn’t think I would miss this city as much as I would before I even leave. I learned that Washington DC is the place I want to settle down. I feel the most myself in this city. As I reflect on my time here I know I talked a lot about how every conversation was some form of a political debate, I loved it when I got here and I still do. I love that everyone is fighting for a place in this city, because when I do make it, it will be so worth it.

I will miss Washington, DC. I came here hoping that it will shape the direction I want to take with my future and it did just that. I was able to do everything that I wanted to. This is the type of place that you can’t sit at home, but rather go out and experience it to the fullest everyday. Someone recently mentioned how during the very first Cap Scholars meeting back in December I made a comment that said something like, “Guys, I know none of us know each other now, but isn’t it weird to think that in a couple months we’re going to be such good friends.” Everyone kind of gave me a weird look but I was right. All of us have become a family. We experienced something that many people don’t at our age together. I’m proud of everyone and can’t wait to see all the amazing things they accomplish in the future.

 

Thanks DC for all the memories and friendships. Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon.

 

Forever yours,

Mihaila

 

The Wood Splitter Is Me

I believe that reflection is an essential part of disseminating self-truths and after my experience in Washington, D.C. there lays a respectable amount of thought to be done. In Two Tramps in Mud Time, I uncovered the journey of someone locked in a prison of his own making, then, embarking on a multifaceted attempt at understanding his purpose. He begins to recognize that wood splitting, although comes easy, may not be the life for him. Only through patience and adaptability to the elements will he truly understand happiness – that is everchanging. These two strangers that emerged from the mud made the wood splitter feel as if he had never held an axe before with slight whispers of truth and logic. “My object in living is to unite my avocation and my vocation”, from this stanza revealed to me that uniting one’s passion with one’s work is as essential for others as it is for oneself. Leading split versions of oneself will only create further internal dissonance.

My time in D.C has been insightful as much as it has been challenging. My internship has been eye opening and the greatest opportunity for growth that I have had in quite some time. It has taught me about some of the technicalities surrounding government and legislation, but more importantly the demanding level of intrapersonal preparation and maturity that is required from such a demanding line of work. My time in D.C and specifically the Capitol has exposed me to many variations of work opportunities and leadership styles, some of which I easily identified with and others that required a more cognizant approach to understanding. Nevertheless, these brief two months have helped me identify strengths and weaknesses within myself. To be entirely candid, I remain unsure about what I want to do with my future and career, which is quite frowned upon in legislative offices where loyalties and intentions are expected to be forthright. However, I will continue to inchworm my way towards clarity, if there’s such a thing.

The poem displayed a series of changes that paralleled the weather. I understood this part of the poem as the need to be adaptable and fluid through life. At times we mustn’t’ be afraid to speak out, even if that means changing the weather. Whereas, other times the softened and smooth blue jay approach may be more beneficial and practical.

I have taken a tremendous amount from this internship, and have only briefly reflected on the lasting impression it will have on me. The truth is – I don’t know what the future will hold for me, but I’m hoping and working towards something grand. Presently, I find myself somewhere between the wood splitter and something else. I am committed to finishing my undergrad in the next year, and following up with a good law program. Being on the hill has exposed me to many different career trajectories and personal experiences, and the question of beginning law school directly after undergrad has become apparent to me.

The poem spoke to my strengths, weaknesses, and fears. It further solidified my desire to find a passion, and until then to remain fluid and eclectic to life’s offerings. I take no opportunity for granted or regret any experience that contributes to my own understanding and the world around me – D.C is another notch on the belt.

Lady and the Tramp in D.C.

The aspects of the poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time” I identified with the most were the two major themes throughout the work: competition for work and need versus pleasure. The theme of competition for work is pretty clear beginning in the first stanza when the narrator states: “I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind/And let the other go on a way./I knew pretty well what he had in mind:/He wanted to take my job for pay.” In the first stanza, the narrator is describing himself working and chopping wood when suddenly two strangers approach him and seem to want to take his job. Even though this is not the entire message of the poem, this stanza resonated well with my experiences in D.C. D.C. may be a land of opportunities, but it is also a land of fierce competition with thousands of overqualified applicants applying to the same jobs as you. It is easy to forget to cooperate with others and instead perceive them as a threat who may undercut your success at any turn. I will not lie, I took the first few days of my internship to assess whether my fellow interns seemed competitive and ready to swipe the best projects, or collaborative and seeking to build a team atmosphere. Fortunately, it turned out that everyone was very supportive of one another and had diverse enough interests that our projects did not clash. However, even at networking events, it is easy to feel threatened by everyone else. While in D.C. I have had to learn to stop perceiving those with more experience as a threat and instead use them to learn. Asking questions about someone else’s experiences is a much better way of demonstrating one’s interest and ability to learn than trying to one-up everyone in the room. Plus, you never know who you can learn something from. Truthfully, my fellow interns and capital scholars have connected me with some pretty influential people. One of which was Jesse Morton, former radical jihadist/head of Revolution Muslim, and current collaborator with the NYPD and FBI for identifying potential radical Islamists. Had I never attempted to get to know my fellow interns or asked them about their interests, I never would have been invited to this event.

The last few stanzas possess the closely tied theme of pleasure versus need. The lines, “As that I had no right to play/With what was another man’s work for gain./My right might be love but theirs was need./And where the two exist in twain/Theirs was the better right—agreed.” thoroughly demonstrate this theme. Although the narrator loved to chop wood, he did not need to chop wood to provide for himself. The two strangers obviously needed the work of chopping wood to sustain their own livelihoods. In my workplace, it seems that many professors as well as young professionals are aware of how tough it is to be an unpaid intern. They recognize that we have more need for than them in terms of need of experience, letters of recommendation, job opportunities, etc. Thus, many of them selflessly invite us to events where influential individuals will be in attendance (such as the ambassador to India and/or military officials from around the U.S.). Furthermore, the professor I was working with throughout the summer offered to help me publish an op-ed (as I have stated in previous blog posts) because he knows in order to establish ourselves, us interns must pursue publication opportunities to be taken seriously by graduate schools and future employment opportunities. Long story short, unlike the narrator in the poem, the people in D.C. that I have encountered are more readily willing to help us and pass along opportunities that are our own “right” out of “necessity.” Although my professor has a passion for publishing, he took a break during the summer to help me draft and publish my own piece. I am very grateful to the people I have met in D.C. who have helped me in my need driven path towards career opportunities.

Time Marches On

It took me by surprised that “Two Tramps in the Mud” is a poem and like all poems, there is a hidden meaning within its text. These past two months have certainly changed me, and the poem has put my recent experiences into perspective. The poem splits into two parts, one part involving the narrator talking about the two tramps and the second is the narrator discussing chopping wood through the four seasons. The narrator goes into depth about how much he enjoys chopping wood and the two tramps judge but can never understand the art of his work.

I feel that when the narrator discusses the seasons, it reflects towards the beauty of the world no matter how small. I feel this relates to my visits to Washington DC monuments. Whether the monument was man-made or preserved natural life, there was a sense of wonder in all of them. Given that I lived on the west coast my whole life, I never experienced this form of environment. Even the suburban areas are amazing in the sense that they collect all kinds of culture. When entering local restaurants, you can see all around what type of history the establishment carries. This is a type of uniqueness that cannot be captured in a restaurant chain and I am glad that I had first-hand experience.

Also, I feel the discussion of the seasons represents the changing of time as well. That something cannot always remain the same and change must occur to progress. Although I was in Washington DC for only the summer, I have certainly changed as a person. My first week here had me second guessing my decision to come here, but it did not take long for that thought to disappear. Being exposed to a new environment has matured me and gained an understanding of what it means to be part of the work world. I have also released what I have taken for granted back at Arizona. For me to have a house and with my family is truly a blessing, something I do not see happen a lot here.

The Narrator’s talk about the tramps judging him was, for me, the most interesting part of the poem. Regardless of the tramps’ criticism, the Narrator ignores them stating “The judged me by their appropriate tool. Except as a fellow handled an ax they had no way of knowing a fool.” I feel that the narrator is talking about ignoring the judgment of those who are beneath you. The Narrator explains that he is the right man for the job and he should not concern himself with the other people.

This reflects my life in terms that I will always face criticism no matter what I do. Especially if I am considered an expert in my craft, there would always be someone there to say that I am not doing good enough. Two Tramps in the Mud discusses the idea of ignoring the critics because only I know how valuable I am. I was always aware of this, but the poem puts it into perspective. However, I was taught to never be afraid to be confrontational and stand up for myself. However, the poem has granted me a new alternative if I am faced with such an event.

One new thing I learned in Washington DC this week was the reflection of one’s actions. Every Monday my department does a weekly meeting to discuss everyone’s status. This week everyone congratulated me on a job well done and that I have only improved when working at my internship. My actions gave me achievements, which added more to my character. It has really shown me that hard work does pay off. To put it into a greater perspective I got the chance to see the Lincoln Memorial this week. I never knew that President Lincoln’s speeches were engraved in the monument building with the top of his statue stating, “In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” For me, that is the ultimate example for a someone who’s actions reflect one’s character.  

Look at Where We Are; Look at Where We Started

After reading the poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time” there were a few different lessons that spoke out to me via my own interpretation. The first meaning I found while reading the poem came through when the author was discussing the changing of seasons. I believe, that sometimes you can be in a moment and not truly appreciate that moment until months, or even years, have gone by. Personally, I feel as if when looking back at my summer spent in DC this is how I am hoping to feel in a few years, or even a decade from now. My summer in DC was indeed memorable – I made a lot of new friends, networked a lot, and also got to explore more than ever before. In the future, I know that I will look back on the summer of 2018 with a different outlook than ever before. With tenure, the memories that I created, and the feelings that I encountered, will be reflected upon by myself and engraved into my thought process for years to come. The key though is to realize that there is a difference between reflecting upon, and evaluating a point in your life.

In the midst of the poem, I stumbled upon another interpretation which began when the author drew on the notion that internships are like visiting other people’s needs. Personally, I understand this concept after my internship in DC this summer. When I first got into DC, I imagined a la-la land of people running around in suits, happy, and constantly loving their work on the hill. Unfortunately, similar to everywhere else in the world, work in DC often is sometimes a place to start for many or something that someone ends up literally needing to do to survive. I believe that the author of the poem was trying to hit home at the point that it is important to do what you love in this life. The old saying goes “if you love what you do, and do what you love, then you will never work a day in your life”. After this summer, I have never been more motivated to hone in on that old cliché and figure out what I love to do. Once I find what I love, what I am passionate about, and what makes me want to be eager to go to work every single day, I will not stop doing it. With that said, I think that sometimes in life it is really important to encounter different situations, situations that you are not always comfortable with. A few weeks back, I had written a blog post that mentioned learning how to be comfortable being uncomfortable – I think that is crucial to one’s career trajectory in life, and also their personal life. However, in order to get comfortable being uncomfortable, one has to truly understand where they are comfortable, and where they are not. If anything,  this summer I have learned that every single person has a different interpretation of the world. I have had countless conversations about various topics with people from a multitude of different professions; and through my often verbose conversations, storytelling, and everything in between, not one person has aligned identically with another. Without going on a complete tangent – what I am trying to allude to is that everyone in life has a different world view, and in turn, this aligns their needs to be asymmetrical when compared to everyone else’s. The people who are most successful in this world, are the ones who can identify everyone’s needs and also inject themselves positively into others atmospheres.

Without a doubt, this summer will be one that I look back and ponder more than any thus far. In the coming years, I will make many large and crucial life decisions about my path. However, one thing will stay constant with me moving forward; as the author of the poem noted, “my object in life is to unite, my avocation and my vocation”. In the future, there is only enough time to do what you love, do not waste any time as the world needs you to be at your fullest. And remember, as soon as you blink, or wish for some other fate, you will find yourself years ahead looking back at the times you once dreaded, or hopefully loved. With that, I pack my bags and leave the nation’s capital. However, this time; I am leaving with new friends, new memories, and new life lessons to be shared with my future friends, family, and community members, having amassed much more than where I was when I started months ago.

The Blessing of Work: Reflections on “Two Tramps in Mud Time”

“My object in living is to unite My avocation and my vocation As my two eyes make one in sight.” Thus runs the penultimate sentence of the poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” in which Robert Frost reflects on a commonly-held ideal of human life: the marriage of work and play, of duty and passion. I certainly find in myself a desire to achieve this ideal, a desire often frustrated by the seemingly irreconcilable conflict between the activities I enjoy and the activities to which I am bound by responsibility. Frost’s poem suggests that I need not despair, however, because the line between work and play is one I have invented arbitrarily. As the narrator comes to realize, whether we deem an activity enjoyable or arduous is a matter of perspective. What we want to do and what we need to do can in fact be one and the same thing.

I see many parallels between the experience of the narrator in the poem and my experience working in D.C. this summer. Lost in the cathartic joy of chopping wood, the narrator finds himself suddenly awakened to the grueling reality of his task when two lumberjacks arrive to offer their services. In a similar way, there have been days this summer when I have been so focused on and engaged in my projects that I forgot I was even doing work until it was time to leave the office. While I may dread rising early in the morning each day to plant myself in front of a computer for eight hours or more, I ought to remember how simple it is to sincerely take pleasure in the work I do once I immerse myself in it. Any productive work can become enjoyable if it is undertaken with care and devotion.

With regards to the things we naturally find enjoyable, the poem encourages gratitude. Frost evokes imagery of the changing of the seasons to caution against taking for granted the advantages we receive. Frost warns that those who would “dare to speak” about the warmth of spring are sent “two months back in the middle of March.” “Be glad of water,” Frost advises, “but don’t forget The lurking frost in the earth beneath.” We must be grateful for the gifts we are given and remember how easily they could be taken away. This is certainly something I have had to learn this summer. Living in a cramped apartment with five other roommates has made me immensely grateful for the spacious quarters I enjoy in Arizona. It is hard to believe that just a few months ago I took my apartment in Tempe for granted and even complained about it at times. Oh how my perspective has changed!

Frost’s poem articulates with clarity some of the greatest lessons I have learned while in D.C., the most impactful of which is this: our time on this earth is limited, and to live well, we must prudently seize every opportunity that presents itself to us. I am the only one capable of controlling how I spend the time I have been given, and it is my responsibility to exercise fruitful stewardship over that time. It is impossible to judge yet whether I have used my summer in D.C. to the fullest possible extent, but as far as I can tell, I have done everything I can to make the summer an enriching, memorable experience. For this, I am grateful.