As someone who knew very little about Texas politics and accepted a position as a policy analyst through the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work’s legislative internship program, I’m sure you can imagine the daily wrestling of feeling like a total fraud and that I don’t belong, especially as compared to a veteran of the Texas House of Representatives. I feel this even more so as a social worker because, as I’ve come to learn, a lot of people think we just work for CPS.
However, during my time here thus far, it has been incredible the amount of information I have somehow absorbed, something I honestly thought was not going to happen so quickly. I used to think you had to be someone with advanced knowledge in order to participate at this level of politics; that this wasn’t for someone like me who barely knew the players, let alone Robert’s Rules of Order (so how in the world was I going to follow anything??). What I have quickly come to learn here is that we have two ways of showing up in life: as a yesor as a no. What a yestakes is simple: showing up just as I am, being fully present and ready for anything.
I have also had to learn to give up a few things as well. The first being the idea of having to get things right. Operating from that point not only impedes my learning, but discourages engagement with my surroundings, making connections with the people around me and hindering any sort of personal growth. It is a killer of all possibility. Letting go of how things should be and instead embracing things as they are has given me permission to get messy with the process of acclimating to life under the Pink Dome. Rather than looking at “failures” as a mark against myself, I can choose to see the mess as an opportunity to lean and improve.
Second, I have had to give up partisan beliefs. If you are only willing to engage with people who are a part of your “tribe,” whose values you align with closely, then know you will accomplish very little. I have been most impressed, while sitting in on committee hearings, with Representatives who engage, respectfully and curiously, with ideas that I assumed they would have quickly dismissed. Giving up on partisan beliefs means giving up being right, which demands that I give up holding firmly onto ideas that I believe to be true.
Lastly, I have had to give up on the idea of radical change. As someone whose family legacy is largely around politics, and of involvement in a national revolution, I have been raised with ideas of social justice and equity from a young age. I have grown up with those ideas and with a vision of how we can challenge systemic problems. Ideas that are vast and sweeping, kinda like a revolution. But in the real world of U.S. politics, where the system of signing a bill into law is made more for the possibility of failure than for success, you have to be willing to celebrate the small wins (read: incremental change).
Giving up what I must has made room for me to show up as a yes. I have learned that this space is as much mine as it is for those who were elected into office. That progress is made through hope, not through fear. That change can happen if you simply show up, just as you are.
by Merci Mohagheghi, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group
Article was originally posted on University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, Austin Legislative Internship Program and has been re-published with permission by all parties
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