It was one of those days. You know the ones where you start off feeling like a million bucks, but then one ego-breaking moment happens and your fabulous day just falls apart?
Well that's exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago on the day of a big interview.
An hour or two before I was the star of my own show, people on the streets were waving and smiling as I walked by, the sun was shining and everything was going great -- I was practically skipping to the beat of success. But before I knew it the DJ in my head hit an abrupt stop on the turntables and all went silent except for the sound of a million crickets that suddenly filled the room.
"What are your thoughts on the fiscal cliff?"
"What do you believe the cutoff income should be?"
"Do we stand a chance?!"
In that moment, reality smacked me in the face and my eyes widened to the sight of a potential employer grilling me on political questions I couldn't even pretend to have an opinion on.
Why is this man asking me these questions? What does this have to do with me getting this job?! As a 20-something-year-old who just graduated, this fiscal cliff stuff doesn't apply to me!"
I looked around the room for a moment and nope, no answers there. So, I picked my mouth up off of the floor and with a nervous/half-smile on my face, I eventually managed to scramble a few words together in a 30-second exchange that felt like hours.
After the interview ended all I could think of was this fiscal cliff.
In fact, I recited that term over and over in my head. I mean, I'd walked in a genius and left an idiot in a matter of a fiscal and a cliff.
This was before the economic debate on taxes became one of the most writte-about stories in the news aside from Rihanna's Instagram photos and Kate Middleton's pregnancy.
And so, once I got home I did what any logical person who just embarrassed themselves would do: I called a close friend to complain. I told him how irrelevant those questions were and how I didn't need to care about what was going on in politics because somehow my age and circumstance excluded me from the conversation.
What do I care about taxes or politics as a newly graduate who feels like I'm falling through the cracks? What other 20-something-year-olds do you know who are making $250,000 a year? I know I sure don't. I mean maybe my friends in business, but aspiring journalists just starting out in the industry? There's no chance in hell!
My wise friend put me in my place. He told me that he agreed with my disinterest in entertaining such strategies, but it isn't a good enough excuse to remove myself from a system that undeniably affects my life, as well as the lives of the people I love.
His words took me back to an exhibit I recently saw at a gallery in New York. The Mary Ryan Gallery in Chelsea is currently holding an exhibit featuring art by Hugo Gellert, the infamous artist who I was told believed his personal politics and artistic career were inseparable.
Gellert's indoctrinated approach to politics through art was clearly a smart way of bringing light to issues in need of attention, but making art of his politics just wasn't enough.
Gellert was an advocate of working class rights, which continues to be a major concern and the focal point of the fiscal cliff debate. But that was in 1932. It's been 80 years and issues highlighted in Gellert's artwork like women's rights, war, gender, racial and class-based discrimination still exist today.
So, do you ever wonder why we continue to fight the same battles over and over again? Is it because we believe there is no need to fight for issues that seem impossible to fix, or is it because we don't feel connected to the issues; issues that we brush off as someone else's problem because they seem so far away?
Like Gellert expresses his political views through his art, it would be impossible to separate our "art" or life's work from politics because no one can truthfully convey one without the other. They coincide because normally what we fight for comes through what we put out into this world and how we live our lives.
I'm not saying to fight for every cause, but we cannot forget that we live under one system. We are all connected and if we want to create solutions, we must stop seeing ourselves as individuals in America, but rather start viewing ourselves as a collective unit of Americans fighting for the rights of all.
Hannah Weinberger wrote an article on CNN.com asking where all the millennial feminists are during the ongoing fight for women's rights. Do you know a woman who hasn't been affected by these issues? If not by now, it is only a matter of time before you will.
Don't get me wrong; we have come a long way, but we still have a lot of work to do. In order for us to overcome some of these issues we cannot forget the importance of persistence and remaining involved in the decisions made by the people we elect.
We have to stop dismissing these issues as lost causes, or issues separate from our own. Just think about it. If we don't take the time to educate ourselves about the issues, we won't care enough to vote on them. And consequently, the ones who do will take part in the decisions made about their lives as well as yours. So, it's not just about fighting for a cause, but also exercising your right to vote for a worthy candidate not just on the national, but the local level. Let's stop being a part of the problem and work together and be the change.
My friend was right and my disastrous interview was a good wake-up call. Now I get that debates as crucial as the fiscal cliff are important for me to understand of because even if they do not affect me now -- they may later.
Like me, many of you could probably live without hearing the term fiscal cliff ever again. Believe me, I get it. It's becoming a publicized argument many feel should stay locked away within the conference rooms of the White House. But that's not happening, so we may as well be in the know.
Hopefully a decision will be made before the New Year comes around, but in the meantime I'll keep on reading and listening to what is going on -- anything to keep those damn crickets from reentering the room.
The Hugo Gellert at the Mary Ryan Gallery in Chelsea exhibit closes on Dec. 22, 2012.