THE BLOG

An Open Letter to the D.C. Interns on My Morning Commute

06/24/2015 09:52 am ET | Updated Jun 23, 2016

I look down at the sidewalk every morning, watching the stream of twenty-somethings dressed in ill-fitting J. Crew suits, a coffee in one hand, umbrella in the other, completing the look with headphones to somehow hide a total fear of whatever is at the other end of the metro stop. I have to admit: I am one in the same. Wearing a pencil skirt a size too big and blouses I purchased only the week before, I spend most of my time worrying about looking grown-up instead of actually learning how to be a grown up. I intentionally do little things like buy sink cleaner and actually use my stove, as if this somehow brings me to a new state of maturity, one that could reaffirm the fact that I am supposed to be here. That's all we really want, anyway: someone to tell us the reason why we were here.

Maybe that's the whole point, the learning experience of being alone in a city for a summer. By late July, we're supposed to find out that no one really knows how to be an adult. We're all pretending, throwing glances to either side of the metro car, comparing our qualities and hoping to fit in until the intricacies of our best selves whither away.

To mask our uncertainty, we wear prouder, stronger versions of ourselves that no one really cares about nor sees. We start to believe our careers are at stake, that every email we get from our bosses with the subject line "Networking Event!" is the one that will put us on the fast track to achieving our goals. We are sure if we succeed in this city, we will make a difference. So we stay silent on our commute, throwing a side-eye, believing our jobs to be the most important. We find confidence in the clacking sound of our flats against the pavement and walk with our shoulders back, heads high.

They told us to change the world, and while you can't tell millennials what to do, we faithfully complied.

I'll back up. Maybe I am generalizing too much. Maybe you all aren't pretending to be adults, and that's just me projecting my own insecurities onto you. Because the truth is, I really do want to look like I know what I'm doing here. Looking like an adult is not just a matter of appearances. The more I convince myself that I belong, the more I can convince everyone else the same. All I want -- and I think what we all want -- is to fit into this city, to have the wit and nuance that is supposed to succeed. But I then create a tension between my two selves. There's one side of me that wants to be real, while the other is determined to follow a protocol for success. I'm never quite sure when I am trying too hard to please or being overly authentic, struggling to balance the two in a way that is both honest and impressively headstrong.

So here I am, desperately trying to become a Real Adult Human while raging against The Man who told me to become a Real Adult Human in the first place; showing the authentic side of myself without quite knowing who I am yet; trying far too hard to be appealing and unique while just trying to fit in with everyone else.

We see each other every morning and remain in our small bubbles, already on the defensive, trying to look like we know everything. We don't smile, we don't relax. We play a character without first understanding the script.

Let's take off our masks while waiting for our train. Let's be honest with each other by first being honest with ourselves. You might not know what you're doing. I sure as hell don't know what I'm doing. And I think that's okay.