August 24, 2009
I enter 1400 20th Avenue. Home of my work place. It's called The Bristol House...an apartment building with a few office rooms located on the first floor (I wasn't expecting much but an apartment building threw me off a bit for work, I won't lie). I asked the nice man at the reception desk the way to ACLU, "I'm a new intern there". He smiled and told me the directions. I am up the stairs and the last door at the end of the hall to my left. It seems the first walk towards a new destination, a new work place, is always the longest. I stare at each minute detail on the walls: freckles of paint on the door ways, neighboring room numbers, shifted carpet designs, thinking about what if they'll like me, what if they don't, How will my first hand shake be, questions racing through my mind, each step evoking newness, each step provoking an idea, making the hall stretch long and far, as if I was walking for miles. I finally reach it, my destination, room 117, home of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Now I've never really had high expectations for my internship. It was an almost last minute decision made because going to Asia to teach English didn't follow the timeline I had expected. I've always heard of ACLU through newspapers, articles bashing them or articles thanking them, it always seems to be here or there, never in between. When I got a call from them, I really wasn't sure whether they were right for me to intern at. I mean, I don't know very much about law and I realize their issues spring far towards the left but what intrigued me was its newness and passion. I have strong interests in civil liberties, civil rights, and government check and balances. The internship provided challenges I had yet to face in my undergraduate yet utilized my social justice work. In the end, I found that the internship could provide an environment in which to grow, where my own biases on issues could be challenged, and my values reevaluated, questioning myself as an individual with freedoms, wanting to discover new things about myself. I stepped up to the challenge, up to the plate, and am taking a swing.
I enter room 117. Slowly turning the knob, it opens easily. I see several people bustling about, the environment too much for me to take in at first. Posters of human experiences, white cubicles, brown hand-me-down desks and chairs, stacks and stacks of paper, pride flags, 'Statehood Now' banners, filing cabinets, bumper stickers....I realized at this moment, I am now here, no turning back, despite the overwhelming feeling I had to run from this chaotic office, I knew I was there to stay.
The volunteer at the front desk, I see first, announcing my self as the "new intern". Sitting next to her was another intern, Adam. Slightly shorter than me, Jewish-looking and slim, I could tell his first day was today as well, for he wore a suit similar to me, except slightly less color-coordinated. He seemed very nice and nervous as well. We both waited patiently for an introduction of some kind to the office. I had been talking with a gentleman named Don Haines, I asked for him and out he popped in the cubicle right in front of me. He was plump and welcoming. After waiting for several minutes, unsure of what to do next, I saw a woman frantically going about the office printing off various papers. She eventually introduced herself, loads of papers in her hands, "Hi, I'm Beverly." Her face gave a smile that seemed appropriate for the situation, quaint and direct. She led us to the conference room.
From here on, everything gets a little mundane. Basic first-day stuff at work I suppose. We went over the ACLU, what it does, how it differs being that it's the DC ACLU, etc. I learned my correct title is now "legal assistant". It sounds more official and special, although I'm still required to do the clerical work around the office. Beverly and Don, my main supervisors, are welcoming, definite characters. Beverly is strict and always busy while Don is long-winded, cracking jokes here and there, and a definite stickler when it comes to answering the phone correctly. There are other people around the office, the director, Johnny, 2 law fellows, a paralegal and volunteer lawyers that have yet to come back from vacationing. I can tell lots of learning will take place here, well I hope it will. My mind is open to new experiences and new challenges, the first day representing such things in store.