Celebrating, debating and rock n roll by Louise Mackey

Every week as a WIPer in DC is a bit insane between discussion panels, work, play and my incessant struggle with my body’s biological need to sleep.  However, my fourth week in DC has proven to be the most challenging.  As per usual I had my 9 to 5 internship from Monday to Thursday, however, internships are only one facet of our jam-packed weeks.

Monday evening started with a WIP Papers discussion.  My WIP Papers team has chosen to write our policy paper on the Constitutional Convention and in particular the case for redefining marriage so that it could encompass same sex marriage.  The WIP Papers is an element of WIP that I particularly enjoy.  I love writing and researching (as indeed I should, considering I plan to do a PhD) and the prospect of our paper actually being capable of instigating a constitutional reform simply thrills me.  However, working in a group with ten leaders, often with opposing views, who are also your friends, is not always easy.  As I am a law graduate I put myself forward to research and read as many articles on the topic as possible before our next meeting which would take place Sunday.  Yet another task for the To-do list!

My Tuesday evening was devoted to preparation for the debate which I would be a party to on the Thursday.  The debate was entitled “2012: It is still a man’s world”.  To be totally honest the daunting task of being part of a debate overshadowed my whole week.  I had never debated before and as the majority of my fellow WIPers speak so affluently and eloquently the feeling of inadequacy was overwhelming.  On applying for WIP I knew that my reservations about my ability to speak in public would be one of the greatest hurdles I would have to overcome and therefore I was appreciative of the opportunity to face a fear.  But let’s not romanticize the notion of facing fears..in the days approaching D-Day you are apprehensive, vulnerable and quite frankly scared.

Wednesday was the 4th of July.  I have always been intrigued about the festivities that surround this day, presumably because I have never had the opportunity to take part in them.  America is unique in its patriotism.  It is infectious, heartwarming, uplifting and you cannot help but want to be a part of it all.  One of the host families organized an incredibly festive 4th of July barbeque with all of the trimmings…pasta, spare ribs, salad, apple pie, cup cakes…the list goes on and on!  We all read out the American Declaration of Independence and wined and dined in true American style.  We next headed to the Lincoln Memorial to see the fireworks.  The hoards of people could not ignore the Irish invasion as we jovially belted out the Fields of Athenry, the Rattlin’ Bog, Willie MacBride and many more (yes Dad you would have been in your element).  Our musical endeavors turned to awe struck “ooohs” and “wows” when the firework show started and indeed they continued until the show ended.

Thursday was the day of the debate, as well as being the dreaded 5th of July (the day after the 4th was always going to be exhausting).  After work I met up with my team and we went through our presentation.  Even at our rehearsal my nervous disposition was clearly visible.  People who know me would probably be surprised to hear just how nervous I was as I am not a particularly shy person and have been singing on stage since I was six.  However, when you are singing you don’t get questioned for over an hour afterwards on your performance and its content…well not if Simon Cowell isn’t present anyway.   I made it through it largely due to the support of my team.  However, I spent the rest of the night dissecting my performance, particularly my weaknesses.  I couldn’t help but be frustrated with my inability to retort as effortlessly and pointedly as my peers.

This inner anguish continued throughout Friday despite having a fantastic private tour of the National Gallery of Art and a thought provoking debate and reception with Patrick Wilson at the Capitol Hill Club.  It was not until the National’s baseball game on Saturday that my mind began to ease, though in hindsight that may have just been due to my brain cells frying in the 108 degree Fahrenheit sun…(which oddly refused to bronze my “oh-so Irish” complexion.)

Sunday hosted a very successful WIP Papers meeting and, the high light of my summer, the Coldplay concert.  Not even the fact that I initially forgot my ticket and made the concert with only two minutes to spare could take away from the euphoric feeling in the stadium.  As would be typical of the hedonistic lifestyle of a WIPer, that night I arrived home not to fall into bed but to start the bag packing for another adventure…our trip to New York!

Whilst the above is evidence of an exerting week I can’t say that any of the preceding weeks have been less exhausting.  Therefore I have pondered over why this week was the one that really took its toll on me?  I think it is partially due to the fact that week 4 is the half way mark.  This has left me with contradictory emotions.  I miss my family and friends at home, however, when I leave in four weeks I will be leaving my new network of family and friends which I have completely immersed myself in whilst here.  Additionally this week has really highlighted my insecurities and fears and forced me to face them head on.  My initial frustrations with my lack of experience in debating have now dissolved.  The beauty of WIP is that all our strengths and weaknesses are pooled together and therefore you are made more aware of your talents and more conscious of the areas in which you must improve.  There is a wealth of value in this and I have decided that I must use this opportunity to not only polish my attributes but to swallow my pride and push the boundaries of the comfortable bubble I have created for myself.  Therefore the perfectionist in me, who often makes me quit the things I am not instantly great at (football, reading maps, patiently waiting for my turn to speak), will have to make room for a new me who will gladly venture into unknown territory and revel in temporary mediocrity in the hope that in the future I will not hyperventilate at the thought of doing so again!!  In other words free entertainment for all spectators!!