Thursday, October 7, 2010

Papa-paparazzi: Traipsing Through the Corridors of Power

Can I just say, if nothing else, Lady Gaga has a pretty exceptional ability to write one-liners? If she wasn't a singer I would suggest that she become one of those stand up comedians, or the person who originally wrote the comeback line, "yeah well your mom is like [fill in insult here]!" She could probably write something pretty spectacular. I mean, let's take a brief look at the rundown of the one-liners in her songs that you will leave this blog post singing?

"Ra, ra ra-ah-ah, roma- rom ma ma, ga ga, ooh la la, want your bad romance"

"Papa- paparazzi!"

"Can't read my, can't read my, no he can't reada my poker face (she's got to love nobody)"

"I'm kinda busy, I'm kinda busy, sorry i cannot hear you I'm kinda busy..."

"I've had a little bit too much, oh oh oo-oh, all of the people start to rush, start to rush boy"

I mean, let's face it - the woman has talent. She took sounds like "roma" and "rom ma ma" and made them irresistibly catchy. I have to hand it to her - if I could make my blog posts sound that exciting, I would have a readership of 500 million or some outrageous number suggesting the viral power of the Internet.

I digress (I seem to need to digress a lot). Yesterday I had my first real glimpse of the "corridors of power." They have been referred to as halls or offices, or even stairways, but the truth is, the power is in the corridors. Your high heels click promisingly on the marble floors, the elevator arrives promptly so you do not have to deign to walk down stairs in your perfectly pressed suit, and around each corner there is a row of doors with plaques saying, "Senator John Barasso, Wyoming" or "Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works." There are flags proudly displayed by each door, and as you peek in you see interns looking intently at computer screens while their feet are sinking into the three inch deep carpet (though this is thoughtfully masked from view by their desk).

When we walked into our briefing in the Dirksen Senate Office, I was immediately enthralled by the white. There is white marble everywhere, literally EVERYWHERE. The bathroom, the hallway, the rooms themselves... Good grief, it sometimes looks like someone robbed a quarry in the middle of the night and dumped the loot on Capitol Hill. We proceeded to make our way to the hearing room on the third floor, where the actual Senators on the Committee for Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, sit. I sank about a foot into the plush green leather chair and tried desperately not to want to press the "Talk" button that would have turned on the microphone hovering near my mouth. I resisted, pulled out my notebook and prepared to take copious notes.

As I was listening to the staff talk about the committee and the energy issues in the Senate, I was struck by how my mind kept wandering to teaching. I was excited to see the movie "Waiting for Superman" with my roommate that night, which is an incredible documentary about education. But even as glamorous as the plush chairs, the "Talk" button, the marble, the Lincoln town car waiting outside for a very important suited someone, the fact that you can walk a block and be at the Supreme Court, or the Capitol Building... I still kept thinking about teaching. I was thinking about what it would be like to walk into a classroom full of faces, to stand up at the front, and to teach a lesson. I was thinking about whether or not I would be able to teach literature or math or history. I was thinking about what a privilege it would be to know those students and their parents.

I came to Washington, DC, ready for those marble buildings, ready for catching glimpses of Secret Service detail or arguing policy analysts coming out of a briefing. I was ready to enter the whirlwind of Washington, to live and breathe the rumble of politics. And what I have found? It's teaching. It's always teaching.

Now, I am reminded often by my very wise mentors that this does not mean I won't be involved in policy or politics at some point. I could be. I could end up on the Hill (GASP!). I could end up working on education reform for some Senator and have a badge that lets me into the buildings of power. But this I know with my whole heart: I want to be a teacher. In whatever way that manifests itself next, I want to teach.

So... why the Paparazzi song? Why did I bring Lady Gaga into this post? Good question. Mostly because Lady Gaga's Paparazzi song was playing in my head yesterday as I walked through Dirksen. Partly because I think of Paparazzi as a song about image of power and the power of image. The song is about being the center of attention, being the axis around which others spin ("baby there's no other superstar you know that I'll be papa-paparazzi," among other lyrics). And it's so easy to get caught up in the paparazzi, the glamour, the whirlwind of powerful places and people. It doesn't have to be a Senate Office Building or the Supreme Court. It can be the job where you feel indispensable to the organization, the college campus that you know like nobody's business, the hometown where you were homecoming queen or king, the group of friends that are influential, fashionable and fun. You feel on top of the world. And it's wonderful, I don't want to deny that.

But cling to your passions, especially the unglamorous, untrendy, un-powerful, un-paparazzi passions. Remember them - your wholehearted love for plays or poetry or solving physics problems. Your passion for India or Taiwan or the city of Lynn. Your love for making soup to feed the homeless, your love for childcare, your love for counseling others, your love for editing the school paper. Don't forget that sometimes the least paparazzi passions are the truest. Sit in the plush green chairs when you get the opportunity (and push that "Talk" button and pretend to be Sen. Murkowski, please). Walk the corridors of power. Sing Lady Gaga's one liners to yourself while wearing those impossibly high Alexander McQueen shoes she wears. But also devote yourself to the things you cannot stop loving, you cannot forget, you cannot escape. It's teaching for me; what is it for you?

Goodnight, readers. Sleep well.

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