Sometimes, politics can feel like banging your head against a wall. That was what the past two weeks felt like at the National Center for State Legislatures, in which I began my own independent research project. My research interests concern poverty legislation and the politics surrounding it, and that topic is often inherently partisan. As someone who comes from a career in left-wing organizing and politics, I found myself out of my comfort zone attempting to address issues I am passionate about in a way that would be interesting to state legislators of both parties.
Perhaps that was when I learned I am still a student and there are people, at NCSL and elsewhere, who will work with me to develop new skills so I can be successful in multiple areas. After submitting two research ideas to no success, I was beginning to question my abilities as a researcher and student of poverty studies. That was when a member of my team, Jon, stepped in. Within an hour and a couple of sample political documents later, Jon showed me how to talk about poverty in a way that matters to state legislators. Currently, he is guiding me as I complete my first legisbrief (a concise briefing paper on issues important to state legislators) on source of income discrimination and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, which combines my deep interest in poverty economics with a newfound appreciation for constitutional law.
In terms of my summer database project, I am almost at the point in which I can workshop the product with state legislators. I am excited about this, especially after a recent trip to the Capitol I made with NCSL interns. We met with legislative staff, and after I talked about my database, they met me with big smiles and cheers. This is a product they’ve wanted for some time now, and it’s finally coming together. Seeing that my internship work has real world applications has brought me so much joy, and reminded me why I fell in love with public service in the first place.
As a student at a school like Stanford, I can find it hard to set boundaries between work and life. In Denver, I am learning not to let work consume me, and have found joy outside of the office, performing around the Denver jazz circuit (listen to the audio, left), and even gearing up to host my first solo jazz show at the end of August. I have found joy in sewing, designing clothing at the Denver Design Incubator on the weekends, making a tailored coat, and a pair of embroidered shoes.
In my last post, I wrote about the divide between people and politicians, and I am beginning to learn that one does not have to choose between a successful career in politics and having a full life. I hope to take this lesson back with me to Stanford, as I begin my sophomore year, finding time between my policy studies to be an artist, friend, and human.
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