May 27, 2014

Giving up the White House - a Britt Fisk guest post

I'm sure you all know of Britt Fisk and her wonderful blog, The Fisk Files. She writes from her ranch in New Mexico and talks about her boys, her faith, her cows, and yummy food. She is a wonderful photographer and incredibly fashionable. If you aren't reading her already, do check our her blog, along with her fabulous baby bump pics!  

Thank you so much, Britt, for joining me here!

I'm incredibly honored to be guest posting here today!  I love everything about Bonnie and her beautiful blog. She asked me a few months back about my time working in DC, so I thought I'd share a bit more about that today.

Straight out of college, I took an internship with The White House Office of Public Liaison in Washington, DC.  I was mainly in disbelief that it was even happening but was so excited that our office in the Old Eisenhower Executive Office Building looked out onto the portico of the White House.  It was a dream.  I would be a part (any part, whatever part was needed) in planning events for the President that took place on the grounds and also keeping the public informed of the happenings with the Administration.

The day before my internship started, as my roommates and I were getting acquainted with life in The District, Katrina hit.  Little did I know that the next day (our first on-the job) would be unlike a normal day a the office.  Ours fielded phone calls (Would insurance cover home damages?  How were people to find loved ones?  Would the President just call them back?)  You name it, it was asked.  And, we had no clue how to answer.  We quickly learned.  

As interns we did a bit of everything...vetting, offering tours, planning meetings...basically anything our supervisors needed done.  There was never a dull moment.  We were the office in charge of getting the Superbowl winning football team to a photo op with the President, planning a business meeting for American bankers, and getting the President's invitations in order for his 20+ Christmas parties each year.  If it happened on White House grounds, our office was part of it.

Mid-way through my internship, the assistant to our director took a new position and I filled the one he left open.  As any other assistant, I took care of my boss' schedule, gave tours to her friends and family, and did anything I was asked.  My days usually started around 7 am and sometimes went until midnight (with 8-9pm being more realistic).  It was exhilarating.  Life never slowed down.  If we weren't on the job, many of us were socializing together.  No one slept.  That was for later.

I worked with an incredible group of people - people from all walks of life and from all areas of the country.  I developed great friendships and was able to participate in things many never get a chance to.  

My sister and I in front of the West Wing.

A co-worker and I in President Bush's box at the Kennedy Center for a show...

My mom and I at a Christmas party in the White House...

The White House gingerbread house for Christmas.
White House, gingerbread house, Christmas

Marine One...

The First Lady leaving for an event.

President Bush arriving back at the White House (these Marine One landings were sometimes open for White House guests to view).
President George W. Bush, White House, Marine One

Holding Barney as we prepped for the President to meet NASCAR's Tony Stewart.


A moment of silence remembering 9/11.

The portico.


Marine one taking off.  Which helicopter is the President in?

However, the longer I stayed, the more I realized that I couldn't live this life forever.  In hindsight, it doesn't last forever - maybe not even a full term - but I got scared.  Why?  Because I could see I was becoming addicted to the rush of being important (although I wasn't), to being "in the know," to the fast-paced city life where the question "What do you do?" was far more important than "How are you?"

I started working as the point person for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.  If a child's wish was to meet with the President, I worked to set that up.  And, I can tell you seeing the President with those children was the best thing I did there - he was/is a good man.  But, that was about as far as I progressed.  As an assistant, I spent a lot of time getting guests of our directors to various events and giving tours.  There's one day in particular that I remember giving a tour to a handful of business women, their small children, and their nannies/au pairs.  As the moms were trying to get pictures with their little ones, the little ones were crying for their nannies/au pairs.  While maybe not a big deal to some, that hit me hard.  

Before moving to DC, I knew I wanted to be a mom someday...a stay-at-home-mom preferably.  It was incredibly important to me (even though I had no boyfriend or serious prospects at the time).  In DC, I barely even had time (or made time) to call my family back home.  I was "too busy."  And, I loved being busy!  It was in that moment that day seeing the children prefer their nannies to their mothers that I realized I had to get out.  Soon after, my grandfather grew ill, and I couldn't find a way to get back home to see him.  It killed me.  At that point (just 8 months in to my gig), I started looking for a job back home.  I found one quickly.  It was cut and dry.  I couldn't stay.

Within a matter of weeks I went from doing whatever my boss needed, and whatever her boss (Karl Rove) sent our way and loving almost every minute) to being dead set on getting out.  In all reality, I think I panicked.  The people I worked for were demanding, and I questioned my abilities a lot.  I loved the idea of being where I was, and I truly loved seeing the looks of awe as I shuttled people to different events and on various after-hour tours.  I loved seeing people in the halls that would be our next Supreme Court Justices and intermingling with the most patriotic of people.  I loved walking those very halls that housed some of the nation's greatest leaders throughout history.  And, I loved DC.  It was a city that had everything...history combined with the arts.  Museums for miles.  All seasons.  Something to do every.hour.of.the.day.

But, I was quickly becoming obsessed with the thrill of that way of life and less connected with what I knew really mattered to me.  In hindsight, I think I could have stayed another year or two without having changed my priorities.  Maybe not, though.  Looking back, it was an experience that I'll always be humbled and honored to have been a part of.  

Today, I'm thankful that I can look back and say that I did it (however shot and inconsequential my time there may have been).  Yet, I'm even more thankful that in doing so, it propelled me to make a choice in which my children will always prefer me.  


22 comments:

  1. So cool. Way back when that would've been my dream job. Now I can't imagine my life if I had gone that direction.

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  2. Going to the White House Christmas party & playing with the President's dog?! Soo cool.
    Thanks for sharing Bonnie and Britt...feels like I just got an insider's scoop of working in the White House, great post!

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    1. Thanks so much for the comment - it definitely was a neat time in life :)

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  3. This was fun! I went to college in DC, left for 2 years, then came back for 6 more during which I got married and had my first. I was never in the fast-lane DC crowd, nor interested in interning on the Hill or in politics really at all (save the March for Life each year!), but I can so relate to the pulse and some of the friends i knew who were in those circles, etc. Having been gone 4 years in VT (what a change!), it is really fun to imagine the sights and the feeling of the city, etc - especially from someone's point of view who came FOR the political life! What i loved about that city is that it's a really manageable one - I went to NYC after college and hated it - it just was too sterile and concrete and big and lonely for me, the pulse was way too intense - DC always felt like beauty and culture and lots of activity and importance while still being able to take it all in, find one's way, etc. (That is just as much a reflection on my temperament as anything!) The best part about leaving, once I had my son, was that I could drive places and get around so much more easily - the congestion was really starting to get to me as a mom. One more last tidbit - ironically, it was when i was in NYC in a teaching position that I got to meet Laura Bush - she was just lovely. She visited the Bronx girls school in which I taught. Thanks for sharing your reflections!

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    1. Oh wow! What a neat perspective you have. DC is one of my all-time favorite cities, too - and exactly for the reasons you mentioned. It has everything that NYC has with a more small-town feel. I bet it was tough raising a family there - I never even had a car, so I can't imagine it. So glad you got to meet her - they both really are so kind.

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  4. What a fascinating life! And yet, what a powerful image with those children and their nannies. Wow!

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  5. Your story is fascinating, Britt! My husband and I are currently watching House of Cards and we can't imagine it being as crazy as it is on the show...but I'm sure it's even crazier! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. I haven't seen the show, and I'm sure there are a million things that go on in each Administration that we know nothing about. I kind of like not knowing, ha!

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  6. I enjoyed reading your story Britt, it sounds intense and what a great experience. I also think it was very brave to give up what I can only imagine as a glamorous lifestyle because you realized you wanted something different. And such cool pictures too!

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    1. Thank you so much. I think I was more of a coward than brave (in terms of so quickly leaving), yet I wouldn't give up what I'm doing now for anything!

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  7. This is so great, Britt! It's easy to get caught up in the drama and fast-paced life....so proud of you for sticking with what really mattered to you!

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  8. I only spent one summer interning in DC, ya know, rubbing shoulders with the big whigs (har har), but I identify with so much of this! Nice job, Britt and I loveeee the pics!

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  9. Great post Britt! I always say if I didn't have Jesus I'd be in politics. I don't know if I'd been in that spot I'd be able to say know to what I knew I should do. It's really courageous of you in making that important decision.

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    1. You would. You definitely would. Looking back, sometimes I definitely wish I would have stayed longer and just been more bold in my tiny position, but I'm thankful I've ended up right where I am :)

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  10. Reading your post made me nostalgic of my time spent there. It was wonderful for two years and such a gift, but I completely relate to your reasoning for leaving! Your moment with the mom and nannies reminded me of my time spent wandering Eastern Market and Penn Ave on the weekends - lots of couples and dogs. Dogs everywhere. Even in strollers. It always made me sad how few babies, kiddos, or families I ever saw. Loved your post, friend!

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    1. Wasn't it though?! Such a neat city and a time in life when you get to experience amazing things! Yet, what we're doing now is hard to beat ;) Love you!

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  11. I'm going to college in DC next year to study politics and reading your post definitely rang true. I hear so much from alumni who go to crazy places to work like Kenya and the UAE, I forget that there are people who don't live the crazy political life!

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    1. :) You will love it, I'm sure. Take advantage of all the city has to offer - you won't regret it. Praying it's a wonderful experience too!

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  12. What a fantastic story, Britt! I love hearing other peoples' stories about what they did before they had a family. Yours is truly admirable - and exciting!! Thank you for sharing it with us!

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    1. Oh thanks, Susan! You are so kind. It was a neat time in life and I'm so thankful I was able to experience it.

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  13. What a powerful post!! Thank you!! Would love to hear the follow up of where your life went next! And how your faith impacted your decisions!

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    1. Thank you :) Hmmm, maybe I should write a few posts about that - never thought about it!

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