Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Girl America"

as performed by Mat Kearney

...Though her age reads she's just a young girl
The age behind her eyes show the PAIN that she's swirled...
A natural born LEADER even when her peers diss her...

My girl America's CRYING when she's lying on her bed at night
I can see that she's SCREAMING when she's DREAMING for her FREEDOM
My girl America's DYING while she's trying just to STOP THIS FIGHT
Don't stop BELIEVING, my girl America...

...She knows THERE'S MORE because there is A VOICE SHE CAN'T IGNORE
'Cause it was founded in the FOUNDATIONS, from the day of her creation...
But still most of her FRIENDS DON'T CARE as they glare...
It's not the CIRCUMSTANCES that determine who you're gonna be
But how you deal with these problems and pains that come your way
It's for you that I PRAY with HOPE for a brighter day
And so I say, your DELIVERANCE is coming

My girl America's CRYING when she's lying on her bed at night
I can see that she's SCREAMING when she's DREAMING for her FREEDOM
My girl America's DYING while she's trying just to STOP THIS FIGHT
Don't stop BELIEVING, my girl America...

...And I see each TEAR and every scar
The hands that have held you where you are...

My girl America's CRYING when she's lying on her bed at night
I can see that she's SCREAMING when she's DREAMING for her FREEDOM
My girl America's DYING while she's trying just to STOP THIS FIGHT
Don't stop BELIEVING, my girl America...

Friday, August 14, 2009


So today I was uploading the last few of my pictures from DC, including the ones from THE lobby day, and I got to thinking about a young woman named JoLeah.

Now, I'm not sure what you should all know about JoLeah to understand this story, but she's essentially the same age as me, is from Texas and went to Texas A&M. She graduated, I believe, the same semester I did and was working for Invisible Children as a Regional Assistant for How It Ends. In actuality, this job meant she set up the summer and fall Roadie tours and helped to plan our lobbying initiative called How It Ends. Anyway...

So here I am, in the middle of one of the most memorable days of my life. I just got out of a meeting with Senator Feingold's office, and I'm going down to the cafeteria on the ground level (not the basement or the lobby level...the one in-between) of the Hart Senate Office Building. This is seriously EPIC...and I do not just throw that word around. I grab some fries and a veggie burger, and I end up offering a seat at my table to a kind-looking young woman who I know is with Invisible Children. I catch her nametag--"JoLeah Stiles." I recognize that name as one of those famous IC names, but we haven't met.

Then we get to talking, and this girl is simply amazing...inspiring, really. At some point, I get her to tell me about herself and how she got into working with IC and what she's been doing and the whole deal. Immediately, I'm just a bit jealous. I so wish I had the opportunity to do all this with my life.

Then she asks me what I'm studying and such, how I found myself in DC, etc. After talking for, oh, probably 15 minutes, she knows all about my love for DC, desire to work for a nonprofit, love for IC, and want to make a difference in the world...and I feel like I have known this girl FOREVER. All the things I can't tell my family or friends out of fear of them disliking my ideas, I have told her.

Then comes the amazing part. JoLeah is telling me to apply for the Roadie internship. She wants me to become a bigger part of IC. She wants me to move to DC. She wants me to follow my dreams. Basically all the things I know will probably cause some rockiness at home...those are the things she wants me to do. JUMP FIRST, FEAR LATER is, after all, the IC motto.

After 15 minutes, I felt like I had known JoLeah forever. She inspired me. She wanted me to make myself better. We had never met before, but I felt like this girl changed the direction of my life. All the things I WANTED to do...well, somehow now I felt like I had permission to do them.

So now I'm doing a whole lot of planning back at home. Studying for and scheduling the GRE, planning on making my third trip out to DC within a 9-month period, looking at graduate schools...all of the things I need to do to make a big move.

And I can't say it's all because of JoLeah, but she certainly had a part in it. When I was leaving my hostel the morning we started lobbying, a very good friend of mine sent me a text message saying, "Listen to what Someone is telling you today." I very firmly believe that Someone (and that's Someone in particular) was talking to me through JoLeah that day.

To JoLeah: We've only talked a couple times since, but I feel like we've known each other a lifetime. Keep fighting the good fight. Would love to meet up again someday...until then, stay amazing.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happening Upon Things...

So lately I've been happening upon things.

This weekend I was at Target browsing through the jewelry section, and I saw this necklace I would never, ever wear. So then why did I turn it over?! I have no idea. But I did, and it read "Hold onto your dreams." Then I realized it was a locket, and on the inside it read "Fortune favors the brave." Put that together, and what a quote.

Then I pay attention to the radio at work, for once, and it's playing Nickelback's new song, "If Today Were Your Last Day," which has lyrics like: "My best friend gave me the best advice: He said each day's a gift and not a given right, leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind and try to take the path less traveled by...If today was your last day and tomorrow was too late would you...donate every dime you had, if today was your last day? Against the grain should be a way of life...every second counts 'cause there's no second try, so live like you're never living twice...You know it's never too late to shoot for the stars regardless of who you are. So do whatever it takes 'cause you can't rewind a moment in this life. Let nothing stand in your way..." Hella strong lyrics.

Oh, and then did I mention that I happened upon something that I wrote in DC, when I was sitting in the Hart Senate Office building:
Sometimes people say things to you that sound really odd, but they're really important in the end.
This morning, Lara told me to listen to "Someone taking to me today." Later on, I had a thought: "I belong here." People keep mistaking me for a local. I "look like I DO work here." Apparently I did well in the meetings, and my leadership is appreciated, at least by some. I "should apply to become a Roadie," and I should come out to DC. I keep getting all of this advice, and all from people I barely know. (Granted, they are MY people.) I love it. I love being HERE.
I almost wish the logical part of my mind would turn off sometimes. The part that remembers logistical things like parking and rent and jobs can be such a pest sometimes. I'm seeing my dream, and I just want to follow it.
I'm going to follow-up with some of the people I've met here and see where it leads. Jessica secured an internship with the State department all on her own and came out this fall. Peter Quaranto has a job as the Legislative Advisor for African Affairs, and I'm not sure how he got that position, but I WANT it. John seemed bored with his job, but I'm curious how he got it anyway. I'd love something with some research, some talking about important ideas, and some change-making involved. Maybe that involves a non-profit, maybe the government; either way, I will find out. There is no reason why I can't try things out. Perhaps my next step will be looking into those internships in Senate or House offices. Of maybe state-level offices? Maybe I'll take the GRE and see where it takes me. There are many possibilities, and I HAVE to find out what they are.
I love it here, and I'm coming back soon.

WOW...crazy, crazy stuff. Somebody up there is talking to me. Just have to figure out what He's saying for sure...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 4 - A Renewed Commitment

Alrighty, so... I've been back from DC for 40 days.

I miss it. And yes, I counted the days.

I'm still trying to think about all the things I learned, all the things I experienced, and all of the people I met in DC. And all of the people I missed back home. I still get a nervous feeling in my stomach when I think about how I missed the people here while I was there for that week.

But then there's the pull factor...and it's pulling harder than ever. Two of my best friends are following their dreams to California this week. (Yes, Shawn Schmalken...I said two of my BEST friends.) I can honestly say I never thought that Nina and I would become such good friends when we started student teaching together, but I love that girl, and I miss her terribly even though she's only been gone four days. And then there's Shawn, and, well, he's just amazing. I'm so tired of having to hear from people that they're not incredible when I tell them they are, so let's just go with it this time, okay?! IC saw something special in that young man, and I see it, too. Go for it...between now and December learn everything you can about nonprofits and cherish every have no idea how much others are jealous of the opportunity you have. Just do it. When you get back, we have a nonprofit of our own to develop.

So I have to visit SoCal soon.

But back to DC... Now don't get me wrong. There are a million people here I love more than they know, and I get anxious just thinking about having to leave them. But there are fewer and fewer people here as time goes on. When it comes down to it, I'm tired of watching everyone else go for their dreams while I continue to run in place. A song by Shinedown ("Second Chance") has spoken to me lately...I've tried to tell my parents and everyone here why this is so important to me, and now I have to take my chance. So despite everything and everyone that I love here, I have to go because there's no way around it...the path for me to get what I want is not here in Milwaukee.

All that said, I'm working on my commitments with MMUN and getting their delegate guides ready and staffing the conference in February, and I'm studying for the GRE starting this week. As soon as the GRE is done next month, I'm turning to visiting grad schools and filling out applications.

I will not let my options crash down around me, and I will not let life pass me by.

Yes, I am going to keep up with this blog... Why? Because it's kinda grown on me. It saw me through more incredible times in DC than I can count, and I'm heading back. I can feel it.

Final thoughts:
--My fortune cookie tonight read as follows: "Smile often and see what happens." I can't tell you how quickly I smiled and thought of Trent and you both. Remember, smiling is the only disease to spread.
--Shawn, I believe in you. Do not EVER forget that. And I'll see you soon. Remember what I said when you offered to help me with the wedding invites? I meant it. <3
--Nina, I miss ya already. If you need absolutely anything, I'll always just be a call away. I know how the teaching gig goes, and I'll be out to visit and fill what little spare time you have as soon as I can. Love ya, girl.