March 20, 2011

Daydreaming & Overalls

I'm not sure what happened, exactly, last week. Technically, I spent a lot of time at work, or at home doing work, didn't sleep very much, and ate a lot of ice cream. When I look back on this past week though, I'm pretty sure I'll remember it as the week when time folded onto itself. It will be the week when 2008 and 2011 occurred back-to-back without the existence of 2009 or 2010. And the week when opportunities I asked for showed up much sooner than I expected. Absurd, right? Also, awesome.

I spent part of my spring break of 2008 in DC. Or more specifically, staying outside DC and venturing into the city. A friend of a friend was kind enough to host us and share his bed with us. His amazing, comfortable, never-want-to-get-out-of-it bed. I talked about that bed for weeks after our trip and friends looked at me with the same expression you are probably wearing now. I digress. A friend and I traveled down to DC in part to see her friend and in part to visit the city where we planned to live that summer.

We arrived in D.C. filled with hope. In fact, I'm pretty sure I packed hope into the duffel bag I dragged across NYC in the pouring rain. Did I ever tell you that story? I'll have to do that sometime... It was the spring of my second year of law school. I was so tired that I would sometimes walk across the parking lot with my eyes closed. I was convinced it was just a smaller version of a nap and totally worth the slim possibility of getting hit by a car. Some afternoons my study partner/friend would take a forty minute study break trip to the gym and I would fall asleep on her floor listening to the State House and Senate toss the budget debate back and forth down the state house hall. I know, that sentence is a lot to digest, I'll give you a minute...

I had been accepted as a summer law intern for a DC child advocacy group just a few days prior to spring break. I was knee deep in research for a law school writing project on school zero-tolerance policies. I loved every minute of it. I shadowed a classmate who spent a lot of time in a leadership role at the state house and then engaged in debates with him via email during our juvenile defense policy class. Then he would make fun of me for having a purple tongue from an earlier lollipop and laugh at me from across the room. I would remind him that at least I got more than 4 hours of sleep the night before (his standard) and with that I would win whatever debate we were having. More sleep always wins. 1 for the Child Advocate and 0 for the Politician. At least that is how I remember it...

So we arrived in the DC area and made a bee-line for the Capitol building. We passed the Supreme Court on the way, but it gave me the heebee-geebees (HA) and I don't really remember it. Thanks Post Traumatic Stress Disorder contracted in Con Law I. I do remember the first glimpse of the Capitol building and the butterflies that arrived in my stomach when I thought about spending an ENTIRE SUMMER in the presence of this great building. I could only hope for the time off from my summer internship to go on a tour...

On the third day of our mini spring break trip, my friend and I slept for so long that our friend/host had to come in and wake us up before we slept the entire. day. away. We joked that we had gotten three nights of sleep all packed into one thanks to his comfy bed. He couldn't tell if we were kidding or not. I chose not to tell him about my parking lot naps or stints on the floor asleep.

Having spent most of the day blissfully cocooned in his heavenly bed, we didn't have time to make it into DC. So what did we do? We explored the state capitol! And I drooled over the state house. Day dreamed about what it looked like inside. Pictured myself in a black suit and black heels walking down the stately hallways...

The next day we left and I spent the rest of the semester positively giddy. And then I spent the summer of 2008 in DC. Wait, let me rephrase that: I spent the summer of 2008 sweating in DC. In addition to sweating almost every minute of every day, I had a fabulous legal internship experience and didn't have to worry about getting time off from work to visit the Capitol building - work sent me there. As in, it was part of my job. Also, I rocked out in the halls of the Senate office buildings and House office buildings (hheeeyyy good times!) and spent some quality time in DC city council hearings. Awesome.

Those memories carried me through 2009 and 2010 - two difficult, informative, and transformational years.

So, I've been living in DC for the past two months. As expected, everything is different from the summer of 2008. I am different from 2008. Before I moved, I packed 2008 up in a special box and put it on the shelf. I couldn't hold it out as a comparison point; too much had changed, and the hope I had that year withered up and dried out. So I stored 2008 like potpourri on the top shelf.

Until this week. When I hoped for more and "more" showed up on my doorstep. Or, technically, in the doorway of my office. In the form of an assignment. When I left the last non-profit I "worked" at and loved, one of my supervisors gave me a book of photos and quotes. One of the quotes said, "Most people don't recognize opportunity because it shows up in overalls and looks like hard work." Or something to that extent. It resonated with me then and still does. This past week, the assignment that showed up in my doorway wore overalls. And then another assignment showed up down the hall asking for me, and it was wearing overalls, too. See where this is going?

So, I tackled the work, still uncertain if it really was an opportunity.

On Wednesday a coworker and I drove to the state house that I drooled over in 2008. We veered off the highway and onto the exit ramp and it all came rushing back to me... The hope I held that semester that had since dried up and evaporated. The determination and belief that all the hard work would be worth it in the end. The determination to contribute something of value to society and love, love, love the process. The way the red brick state house contrasts against the blue sky. Returning to the state capitol, I had to choke back the memories of that time period and who I was in 2008.

My coworker and I had to find parking, lunch, and the Committee room. I didn't have a moment to react beyond the initial wave of memories. I spent the first hour in the State house comparing it to other state houses I know better and the US Capitol. It wasn't until the Committee hearing was about to begin that I caught myself thinking, "I always wondered what it would look like inside this State house." Holy revelation, Batman. It hit me.

In 2008, I had spent the afternoon daydreaming about walking these halls in a black suit and black heels and the advocacy work I would do on behalf of kids. And there I was, on a Wednesday afternoon in 2011 in a black suit and black heels with something I wrote under consideration in the process of potentially changing an important law impacting kids. The difficulties and setbacks of the past two years faded away. I was exactly where I had wanted to be. My hopes showed up looking precisely as I wished.

Guess who now believes in the power of day dreaming?

That second opportunity that showed up wearing overalls and calling my name down the hall? I'm still waiting to see exactly where it takes me. But when I got back from the State House on Wednesday, I gave it all of my attention and love. Seeing as I'm sans plants, animals and romance, I had a lot to offer. HA. Although, this trait could also be why I am sans plants, animals and romance. MOVING ON.

I didn't sleep a lot this past week. I spent some time stressed out. I ate a lot of ice cream. I refilled my coffee a little too frequently. I rolled over when the alarm went off thinking only minutes had passed since I closed my eyes. I got myself up with the reminder that I was tired but not exhausted. Evidence: I was sleeping in my bed rather than on the floor or while walking across a parking lot. But I also spent the time doing what I love, hoping that it will result in more time doing what I love. And hoping that it makes a difference in a law, and most importantly, in the life of a kid. And that my friends, marks the return of my 2008 hopes. Wonderful. Perhaps miraculous.

There is another saying that goes something like this: "Opportunity is the intersection of preparation and luck." After this past week, I think opportunity might be the intersection of day dreaming and overalls. And that's a combination I can support.


  1. Okay, so I usually reserve my utter femininity for face-to-face conversations, but: Holy. Shit.

    I have never been moved so much by something that contains so many words that confuse the complete hell out of me. Did that makes sense? In simple terms: I freaking love reading the stories you share, no matter the content. However, this gave my goosebumps. It made me believe in daydreaming again (online dating is trying to kill daydreaming/romance for me;) ).

    Have I mentioned that?

  2. This is such an awesome story Emily, and definitely renews my hope in daydreaming! I'm so happy for you, and congratulations, and good luck on the assignment you're still working on!
    It's an amazing feeling to suddenly realize that you're exactly where you'd always dreamed of being, and I can't wait till I'm in that position myself!
    Congrats again, and thanks for sharing your story! I loved reading it. :)
    <3 Kiersten

  3. You will definitely get there! I think one of the best things I learned over the past year is that even when I give up on my dreams, sometimes they don't give up on me. That and to pay attention to your thoughts - sounds cheesy, but it's totally true!

  4. I'm pretty sure I gushed about how much I appreciate and love this comment in an email to you, on twitter and facebook, but one more time can't hurt, right? THANK YOU.

    april. april. april. xo.