Mr. Speaker – Members,
We have entered the last month of the 86thLege! As a social work intern and policy analyst with the Legislative Study Group, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into these 119 days of session, and I only need enough energy to get through 21 more days until the legislative session ends. While the immense workload and severe lack of sleep has limited my ability to process this experience, I recognize the great privilege and responsibility I have in being part of a caucus which makes recommendations to legislators.
Below are a few things I have learned along the way:
- Coffee is life.
- Politics are not just party line or power. Compromise happens here on the daily, but as staff I am not always privy to that knowledge or reasoning. Members are playing a multi-level game of chess on the floor/in their offices, and this game starts before session even formally begins. But after being a spectator in this game, I can’t help but ask: At what point does compromise water meaningful policy change down to nothing?
- Free food makes the Capitol go ‘round.
- Relationships within the Capitol are used as trading capital and there are a rare few which are genuine. This culture of using others to better your own interest has caused me to be protective of my fellow LSG analysts and cherish the relationships we have built throughout session. The support and love I have received from them has been invaluable.
- Laughter is the best medicine for a stressful day.
- As I learned during Budget Week, as well as with House Bill (HB) 3 / House Bill (HB) 2 amendments, I can work for upwards of 35 hours straight with no sleep. I hope to never experience that level of sleep deprivation ever again.
- Perfection is the expectation at the Capitol. People are measured by what they produce and the power they have.
And here is the last bit of knowledge I have learned many times over the last 119 days: vulnerability is hard. After a particularly exhausting week (they’re all exhausting at this point, but this one seemed more so) my roommate and I decided to refill our social work cups with Brené Brown’s The Call to Courage on Netflix.
Brené spoke the difficult truth to us about vulnerability. Vulnerability is uncertainty and risk and emotional exposure. Opening myself up to true success and also failure in a setting with important people has brought forward anxieties I thought I’d previously mastered. As an ENFP and a people pleaser, I struggle with measuring my own self-worth by what others believe of me. Occupying a space which expects levels of perfection with no room for error makes it difficult to strive for success without being defined by a product.
Even though I know mistakes happen and that the willingness to be wrong leads to personal growth, I still get feelings of panic when I have developed bill analyses for bills that are being considered on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. Brené reminded me that I need to trust my knowledge and perspective in this environment. I have a lot to offer, and I am passionate about the bills I analyze. I am showing up and working my butt off to provide quality policy analysis. I am looking vulnerability in the face every day, not just in my work but also in my personal interactions with my fellow LSGers.
The experience and knowledge I have gained through this internship have allowed me to grow as a whole and I will be forever grateful for the friendships built along the way.
And with that, I close. (This is how members present their bills on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives – just a little session humor!)
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” – Theodore Roosevelt
by Ali Schoon, 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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