An Election Year & Job Security

This week, I felt the need to remind my mother of the reality of a political staffer in an election year many of us may be out of a job in a few months.


There are a fair amount of nervous staffers on the Hill.  They are worried not only about their boss's reelection but about whether Democrats will remain in power and how that will impact leadership positions and committee membership.


The elections this fall are undoubtedly important to the lives and policy goals of the staffers and their bosses.  But the election will also serve an important gauge of the commonsense of the American people (sorta like how America's commonsense was reflected in the reelection of Bush in 2004).  Will we choose to let anger and cynicism dominate – bred by the realities of economic hardship, partisan wrangling, and the campaign of misinformation and fear waged by the Republican Party and its media arm, Fox News?  I could devote an entire blog to slamming Fox News and Republicans, but I prefer not to waste my time. I'll also avoid enumerating all the notable things that Democrats and President Obama have done during the past 2 years and why the vision and actions of the Democrat party are better for our nation.  There are enough blogs out there who would do a better job than I on both topics.


In the face of the upcoming elections, I am not particularly worried about my career on the Hill.  I will be sad to lose my job, and I know that I will have to compete with hundreds of former Democratic staffers for off-Hill jobs.  Most likely, I'll just move home and prepare for an early departure to France.  


The thing I am anxious about, that truly makes me sad, is the thought that Americans will chose to not vote this November.  And worse, will choose to not be informed voters this November (Fox News viewers:  Switch over to NewsHour, BBCWorld, MSNBC, or CNN for just 30 minutes each day.  You'll get an education;  Non-FoxNews Viewers:  Check out FoxNews for just 30 minutes each day, and I promise that you'll be motivated to get politically involved or at least motivated to stay aware of current events and policies).


So much is at stake this year.  And not to sound cliché, but I will say it anyway, the future of America depends on having thoughtful voters who elect selfless leaders into office, leaders who are not focused on scoring political points, but instead honestly want to improve America for the benefit of all Americans.


A Modern American Woman

Over the weekend, I met with my language exchange partner and we discussed the differences between our two cultures.  He is a Francophone from Cameroon.  He admitted that he was struck by the fact that I was making plans for the future that did not involve a family life.  Instead, everything related to my career, my education, and my travel goals.  He noted how different things are in his own country and culture.
That is the wonder and beauty of being a modern American woman.  I have choices.  I can get married, or not.  I can have children, or not.  I can be a housewife, or a career woman.  
Thankfully, the stigma of being unmarried at 50 or even 30 isn't what it used to be.  Women are putting off or avoiding altogether marriage and babies.  Women are defining themselves based on their career and community activities, and not based on their husbands/partners.  
My mother, grandmother, and so many other women who came before me fought long and hard to give me options.  
I smile everyday that I go to work for a powerful female boss.  (Nope, I'm not a sexually harassed secretary for a male boss!  And as an African American woman, I can aspire to do more than work as a maid or a nanny.)
I smile when I come home to my co-ed house (Nope, I don't have to live with my parents until I get married!).  
I smile when I book a ticket to France using my own cash (Yep, I have my own bank account and I can travel without a chaperone).  
I smile knowing that I went to school to become a more knowledgeable person and to further my career not to increase my prospects for finding a husband before I got too old.  I smile knowing that I was able to go to school.
I can't imagine living in a culture or in a time period where my only option, my expected ambition, was to get married and have babies.  A time period and culture where my views, desires, and abilities were secondary to those of men. 
I must note that I do not have a problem with any woman who aspires to succeed as a wife and mother.  That is a beautiful, meaningful choice as well.  What I do have a problem with is being limited by my gender.  And, thankfully, as a modern, American woman, I am not. 


Language Exchange

I'm sure my readers are tired of me writing about France and my French language pursuits.  But I can't help it if dreams of France dominate my free time.  I recently signed up for a French-English language exchange partner and a French pen pal.  
French-English language exchange partner
I met with my language exchange partner last week and I think we will try to meet on a weekly basis from now on.  He is from Cameroon and a student in Maryland.  He's hoping to improve his English and he is willing to help me with my pronunciation and understanding of the French language and culture.  (And yes, I am aware that Cameroon French is not the same as Parisian French or French in the Loire Valley.)  The focus was definitely on English during our first meeting—mainly because I still don't know enough vocabulary (especially verb conjugations) to express myself beyond the basics.  I hope that future sessions are more evenly split between English and French—but first I need to learn more.  I definitely plan on getting him to check my French resume and teaching assistantship essay for grammar errors.  And I've already offered to review anything that he writes for school.  
French pen pal
During the past two weeks, I've been exchanging emails with a French guy who lives in Paris.  We exchange emails almost everyday—half in English and half in French.   It has been a great way for me to learn new vocabulary words and also to learn about the life of a Frenchman.  Most of our emails are about our lifestyles and our plans for the future.  But we have also exchanged our views on hot political topics like retirement reform in France and plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero.  I hope to find a Frenchwoman to email next – so that I can get a female's perspective on life in France and of course, her perspective on Frenchmen. And yes, I still get the occasional email from that French guy in Tours.  Hopefully, I can remain connected with both guys—make even more friends—to help in my transition.  I imagine that it will be easy for me to make English-speaking friends via whatever program I join.  But it will be more difficult to make French friends who are willing to help me integrate into French society and avoid the common foreigner/tourist mistakes (like the societal norm on kissing…).
I must admit that I am anxious to move.  Blame it on "Hill burnout" and a lack of exercise, but I am walking zombie most days.  Most of all, I'm feeling disillusioned and cynical about what happens on the Hill and how much of a difference I can make.  The DC bubble seems so toxic these days and I'm just tired of the misinformation, the ignorance, and the spin.  Of course, I blame the other side.  
Mostly, I need a break from the rat race.  February, August, or whatever month next year I mark for my departure can't come soon enough.
So that's my update.  I promise that my next post will NOT be about France.


Une Rêveuse

I spent the past week attempting to immerse myself in the French language and culture. I am still optimistic that I will be close to achieving the B2 level (!!) by December given that I devote most of my free time to learning new words, studying grammar, translating sentences, listening to French music and news, watching French movies, and writing/speaking French in class. My French self-study and new immersion class are both a little overwhelming and tiring. But I am shockingly driven to achieve French proficiency within the next few months (for the teaching assistantship) and year (for school, work, etc in France).

One of the French movies I watched over the weekend was Amélie. Indeed, it is a beloved French movie, quite whimsical and fun. But it was a movie that made me worry about my own quirks—especially after hearing this line from Raymond Dufayel, the “Glassman”:

“You mean she would rather imagine herself relating to an absent person than build relationships with those around her?”

It is true that I live in a dreamworld. It is odd that I am that way given that I had an older sister to play with, but as my parents would attest, I was always reserved and tended to keep to myself. While I am much more social these days, I still relish and often, seek out solitude. It’s just my personality I guess, though one could also blame the fact that my favorite hobbies (reading and writing) tend to be independent activities.

And I am a dreamer. I live so much of my life in my imagination and in my mind—thinking about the present, the past, and the future. I’m sure that reading and writing so much fiction reinforces this.

My question is whether this has prevented me from living life. Without a doubt, I have an active, fulfilling internal life. But am I missing out on something else?

There are so many people out there who are unable to be alone. I pity them. I can entertain myself for hours with my imagination alone. Add in bright sunshine and puffy clouds (and snacks, of course), and I’m good for an entire day of solitude.

And yet, it probably is a fault to live too little in the world. Life is about relationships, learning, and love. And, although I can do all of those things alone, there is a greater chance for personal growth in doing them with others.

So, I must seek a better balance. That means, for example, I won’t prevent myself from imagining wonderfully romantic events starring me and my latest crush. But I will put myself out there more often so that I can have a chance to, in reality, experience all that I dream.