The Things You Expect to Find in D.C. and the Things You Don’t

Posted on Tuesday, Nov 14, 2017

There’s something dangerous to be said about expectations. As human beings, we are near conditioned to have them whether it be in our relationships, our places of work, or even the journeys we embark on in different times of our lives. The problem with expectations is the unacknowledged anxiety that things might not work out in the way you want them to: the people we love can change, work can be suddenly hindered by unforeseen obstacles, and sometimes being in a specific location doesn’t mean all the pieces have fallen into place.
Washington D.C. has always been the place for me. There is something to be said about living in a city where power is permeable in the air, almost tangible as it settles on your skin. When you live anywhere else in the country, most headlines are just headlines; someone a few thousand or few hundred thousand miles away did something to someone, and it’s important enough to take notice, but you can usually go about your day. But when you’re in D.C., every action has an equally important reaction and it echoes around the buildings here like shockwaves. D.C. is a city where things happen, and that in and of itself was enough to convince me to drop everything in order to start my life here. Some people say that there are certain moments that define the course of your life, whether you realize them or not. Stepping off the plane that took me here was one of mine.
As an official A&M alum, Class of 2017 (A-WHOOP), I figured I had a solid maroon-brick road paved out in front of me. I would intern for an incredible organization while in town, find a noteworthy job along the way, move the rest of my things out of my parents’ house, and let myself be a young adult in one of the most powerful cities in the world. After a year or two of working, graduate school would be the next step, and I would emerge into the workforce after a few years as a newly minted, experienced woman, ready to change the world. Hence, started the list of things I expected to find in D.C.: an incredible internship, an equally incredible job, a thriving city life apt for a young adult lifestyle, and an unshakable path that led towards an uncomplicated, easily achievable future.
Well, you know what they say about expectations.
At this point, I have lived in this incredible city for 10 weeks. In 10 weeks, I have loved every bit of my internship at the National Conference of State Legislatures where I work on immigration policy and international programming every day. I have found my favorite spots to eat, drink, and be merry. I have envisioned a life here that I can see myself thriving in and feeling like I am actually making a difference in the world. Perfect, right?
In the past 10 weeks, I have also struggled with what it means to be an adult, or at the very least, a college graduate. The job search is hard and overwhelming. The pieces haven’t all fallen into place, despite the rose-tinted dreams I brought in my carry-on bag onto the plane. I have become increasingly unsure about my future and wondered which road is really the best one for me to take. These 10 weeks were not the steady, unshakable path that I had hoped to be on. There have been earthquakes and hurricanes and tornadoes, and this maroon-brick road seems a little torn up. These were the things I expected to find in the arms of this city and I haven’t found them; a part of me wonders if I ever will.
And yet, along the way, there have been so many things I’ve found that I never expected to fall into my hands. I’ve reconnected with old friends here, some A&M alumni and some not. I have found a small, but tightly knit family among my roommates that lead to rainy day expeditions to the zoo to see the lions or washing the dishes and laughing together at 10pm even when we’re all exhausted and just want to go to bed. I’ve gained not only a mentor, but a friend in my internship supervisor who has never treated me like anything less than someone to admire. I’ve also found that though my future endeavors have been shaken up along the way, it has only led me to confront my true passions and recognize that they may not line up with what you’ve always envisioned for yourself. There are so many little things that you never expect to stumble upon, especially when your focus is on something that is never completely in your control. That’s the thing about expectations; just because they don’t work out as planned, doesn’t mean you won’t find other things that bring you joy along the way.
Life in D.C. has not been easy or everything I dreamed it would be. What’s important to realize is that things like this never have to be a bad thing. Either way, it is always worth it to take the step and find out.

Ishanee Chanda
National Conference of State Legislators
Washington, D.C. | fall 2017