This past summer was a whirlwind.
To begin, two weeks after graduation, I hopped on a plane and flew to Washington, D.C. to intern at the House of Representatives for a California Congressman. It was my first time away from home, and it was honestly hard but we made it, boys!
From spending Eid (an Islamic holiday) stuffing letters in envelops to crying in a shawarma shop because I didn’t want to leave, it’s been a rollercoaster indeed. But through it all, I know one thing for sure: I am grateful.
I am grateful for my family and friends, who supported me and pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was their support that gave me the confidence to search, and mid searching this beautiful city, I found a home.
I found best friends whose weddings I’ve already started planning dance choreography for, and I found the best coffee shops to people watch at. In DC I found inspirational mentors and new book recommendations. I finally found words to say in conversations that make me question the essence and core of my being. I found Jerald Nadler to be much shorter in real life, and I found the House of Representatives cafeteria to be underwhelming. In D.C, I found and lived crazy stories that I’ll tell everyone I meet. In DC, I found everything I didn’t know I was looking for, and most importantly, in DC I found a big piece of myself.
When I reflect on my time there, a stupid smile creeps on my face. From seeing my heroes like Pramila Jayapal and AOC in the tunnels of Congress to meeting them (YES, I ACTUALLY DID MEET RASHIDA TLAIB), sitting in on hearings about the detention camps on the Texas border and bursting out in tears on the spot, learning about who I want to be, soaking in the stories of my co-interns and fellows...this was truly a summer of learning and I am so grateful for the experience and the people and places that shaped it.
If you're planning a trip to DC, check out my list of recommendations by D.C. locals and visitors alike below! Although I wasn't able to experience all of them, I've placed a star next to my EXTREME recommendations.
Bluebottle Coffee (New Orleans-style iced coffee)
Colada Shop - Cafe Cubano
Soho Coffee and Tea
Au Bon Pain (try their mudslide cookie!)
Magnolia's Bakery* (try their Banana pudding!)
Thomas Sweet (Ice cream)
Ice Cream Jubilee
Momofuku Milk Bar
Cakelove (cake in a jar)
Co Co. Sala (Best chocolates)
Spot of Tea (Boba)*
Busboys and Poets (American)*
A Baked Joint* (Brunch)
La Pain Quotidian*
Ben's Chili Bowl
We the Slice (Pizza)
Mama Ayesha’s (Mediterranean)
Old Ebbett Grill (American)*
Amsterdam Falafel Shop
Spice6 (Indian Food)*
The Washington Monument
The Library of Congress
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum*
Supreme Court of the United States*
Georgetown and the Waterfront*
The Watergate Hotel Rooftop*
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The National Cathedral
Martin Luther King Memorial
World War 2 Memorial*
National Gallery of Art
Museum of the Palestinian People*
The Spy Museum
The African American History Museum
The National Portrait Gallery Museum
If you’re ever in D.C, promise me you’ll take it all in. Promise me you’ll look over the Potomac River and think to yourself. Promise me you’ll attend a protest and take in the national landscape. Promise me you’ll believe in something bigger than you.
I had all the schedules and timelines planned. I prepared for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for 7 months of my life. I met and spoke with legal professionals all over the country and obsessed over rankings and acceptance rates. When asked about my post graduate plans by aunties whose foundations were three times lighter than their skin tone at desi parties, I was quick to answer with “law school”.
However, when I started studying for the LSAT my world turned upside down. I wasn’t doing as well as I wanted, and my self-confidence and mood fluctuated based on my LSAT section scores. For me, the worst part of the LSAT wasn’t just not doing as well as expected --- it was the fact that I was trying my best and still wasn’t hitting my target score. Perhaps it was that I was studying hard but not studying smart, or that I just wasn’t competent. At the end, it was the feeling of not knowing which and how to fix it that kept me up at night.
From agonizing over points instead of learning the material to adapting unhealthy coping mechanisms, the LSAT was easily one of the darkest times in my life. In fact, if it wasn’t for my support system of friends and family who consistently picked me back up, I don’t know if I would be here today --- once I had a panic attack in my car and as soon as I told my roommate, she immediately drove home with my favorite latte in her hand and gently stroked my hair while I ugly cried in her lap. One time my other roommate asked me how my day was, and I burst out into tears. We’re both awkward people, so I just excused myself and went to my bedroom to take selfies of myself crying for future finsta content. Minutes later, she hugged me in my bedroom and texted me a cool video on the corruption of the glasses industry as a distraction. Sadly, it didn’t work.
You know when your grandma comes to visit and everything gets slowed down by 43%? She doesn’t mean to take more time than necessary to walk from the car to the ice cream parlor, but she just can’t help it. Once she finally makes it to the bench outside the parlor, she just sits there. She watches your little brother’s ice cream drip onto the pavement and a wave of guilt washes over her. She simply sits there, feeling guilty for being a burden. Basically, I became your grandma. Every time my friends would offer to come over and check up on me or leave kind text messages, I politely declined because I felt guilty for having no updates or #tea, except that, in my last practice test, logic games was the bonus section.
It wasn’t until a friend of mine shook my shoulders and told me that he liked taking care of me that everything changed. He told me that I took care of him, so it was only time for him to return the favor. At that moment, my entire perspective evolved: I thought about how good I felt when I took care of my friends, and realized that I had been depriving them of that sensation. So, I decided to chill out and force myself to accept kindness from myself and others. Doing so taught me a lot about relationships and friendship, and even today, I am learning to let the people in my life show their love and NOT being awkward about receiving it.
But know this: it’s not all romantic. My score didn’t magically go up forty points and my acne didn’t dissolve off my face when I learned to start letting others love. Instead, my attitude improved: I took a step back and learned to care for myself. I started taking it day by day, and even though there were still bad days, I spent less time agonizing. When I finally took the LSAT in January, I said a prayer and made the decision to apply with whatever score I got to see where it would take me. Additionally, I focused on the other parts of my application: my GPA, my extracurricular activities and resume, and my personal statement.
By the end of the application cycle, I had been admitted to five law schools and waitlisted at two top twenty-five law schools. At the time, I was upset because I wasn’t admitted to the crème of the crop, and in doing so, I forgot that I had a lot to be grateful for: I graduated cum laude and got into law school at twenty years old. To this day, I feel guilty for never letting myself feel proud about this. Since then, I promised myself to always focus on the positives and silver linings and more than anything, I wish I did this sooner.
A week before graduation, I reluctantly paid a deposit for a law school I wasn’t 100% set on. Although the school was reputable and close to home, something just felt wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it. When faced with the choice to start there or try again next year, I was torn. On one hand, I was afraid of what people would say if they found out I wasn’t going to law school in the fall, and on another hand, I knew that I deserved conviction in my life decision. Additionally, a small part of me was afraid: what if I blow this shot in search of something better that hasn’t even found me yet?
In prayer, I remember begging God to give me a sign. I consulted my mentors and friends, and they all reminded me of how young I was and that any experience was good experience. Call it divine intervention or a coincidence, but a week later I received an email from the law school offering me a nonbinding year-long deferral that let me keep my scholarship and deposit. When I studied the stakes involved, the worst-case scenario would be that I postponed law school for a year and gained some real world experience (and made some cash on the side). The next day, I sent over my deferral and the opportunity search begin.
After months of job hunting via interviews that my House of Representatives Internship supervisor graciously let me take in the office supply closet, a WHOLE lot of rejection letters, feeling inept and immediately drowning my sorrows in Boba, I received a production internship offer with NPR’s comedy newscast, “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me” in Chicago. Although the road here was tough, I’m very grateful for my decision to defer. Most importantly, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to choose; my parents were supportive about either decision and I recognize that not everyone has that luxury.
When I think back to this time last year, a wave of peace envelops me. Surely they'll never be a moment where the stars align and sometimes, I really do wish I just bit the bullet and started law school. But right now, I'm focusing on being confident in my decision and learning to breathe. Although I’m anxious about the journey ahead, I wish that, more than anything, I could go back and tell myself that everything is going to be okay if I am trying my best --- even if my best never feels good enough.