WASHINGTON, DC is full of young, idealistic 20-somethings trying to make a difference in the country / world. Some of them are on the political track, others in nonprofits or special-interest groups, others are trying to get into government bureaucracy. All of them — except the ones with a trust fund — are moonlighting as bartenders and waitresses, and all of them are coming into constant contact with egomaniacs and sociopaths. None will make it through their stint in DC unscathed.
Here are some of the rites of passage everyone in DC will inevitably experience.
Yeah, he’s an asshole, and yeah, he’s the one driving you to drink, but you work for him, goddammit, and you need that letter of recommendation. Also, you tell yourself — as you sip the whiskey that you just realized you much prefer straight — this will be good experience for managing up later in your career.
“Why are we even doing this?” You’ll ask a coworker at some point. The coworker will respond, “Why does anyone do anything?” and then, sensing you’re vulnerable, he’ll hit on you. Over the next few months, the loss of idealism will either destroy you and send you back to your hometown, or you’ll develop a thick shell of cynicism, learn how to play the game hard and mean, and drown your sorrows in incipient alcoholism.
“Wait, everyone else has been abroad? And everyone can see through my largely bullshitted resume? Then what was the point of college?” It’ll dawn on you that while you were imagining that college was preparing you for the “real world,” it was actually simply staving off your adulthood for a few years while allowing your potential future employers to use diplomas as an excuse to cull the pool of resumes they have to hire from.
“Why would we pay our highly-educated, highly-in-debt young public servants a living wage? Make them suffer to prove their love to the public sector! Yes, take out another credit card! Spend 98% of your salary on housing and drinks! Suffer for us! Suffer for our love!”
— The People of the United States of America
Sure, the guy you’re talking to is wearing a pink golf shirt and wants to “pound a case of Natty’s” with you this weekend, but holy shit, his boss could really help you get the job you want.
It’s nothing like your life, but it would be so…fucking…good…if it was.
Your boss: “Hey, want to go to a seminar on the politics of housing in Tuscaloosa?”
You: “Will they have lunch?”
Your boss: “Yep. It’s gonna be catered by that falafel place.”
You: “Well, I can’t afford to miss out on free calories.
You: “Well, the Argonaut has Science Night on Tuesday, but then I’d have to take an Uber…we could also go up to Adams Morgan and watch some music at Madam’s Organ, but then we’d be surrounded by bros… Maybe we could head to Gallery Place and try some new beers at RFDs?”
Friend: “What about Georgetown?”
You: “Fuck Georgetown.”
Oh look, yay, there’s the Washington Monument! There’s the Capitol Building! You totally can’t see those from practically everywhere in the city! Definitely, tourists! Stand in the crosswalk and take a picture of one of the world’s most photographed buildings while blocking my car! Jesus, this is what I get for driving past the Mall.
Uncle: “Look, I’m just saying, I know you’re doing good things in DC, but all of the people in charge there are crooks.”
You: “I mean, there some bad people, but doesn’t the fact that we all hate the group of people we elected to represent us say more about us than it does about the people we elected?”
Uncle: [Brief pause] “I just want to know how we elected a Kenyan Muslim Socialist.”
You: “I’m gonna go see if there’s any mulled wine left.”
You’ll wonder, for a moment, how he could have gotten the promotion over you, but then you’ll see the picture of his Uncle Biden on his desk, and you’ll cry yourself to sleep that night.
“Haha! You’re right, friend! Date rape is hilarious! Say, any chance I could drop by your uncle’s barbecue next week?”
You won’t know you’ve made them. But you’ll slight them in some tiny, unintentional way, and they will hate you forever. Long after you’ve left DC and returned home to raise a family, they will be plotting your downfall deep within the halls of power. Waiting. Waiting for the right moment.