When I started as a legislative assistant for a state senator in Minnesota, every day that I walked up the huge, stone steps and entered the Capitol, I looked around me in awe: the grand marble staircase, the painted dome ceiling, the pillars and statues. All beautiful representations of democracy. This is where I get to work, I thought. My coworker told me I’d get over it, but in three years, I never did.
I had a similar awe for the senators around me–at first. I was nervous, I stuttered too often, my fingers felt like Jell-o. In meetings, I was quiet even when I wanted to speak. If the majority leader came in and chatted with me, my back started to sweat.
I seemed to hold the same reverence for the senators as I did the institution itself. Except, I learned, the senators weren’t works of art. They laughed until they cried, they cried until they laughed, they were intelligent and not so much. One popped into our office every day to grab the newspaper before heading to the john (we were right next door). Another was openly insecure about her authority. They worked hard, they lazed, they fought, and they made momentous strides in governance.
In short, they were human. (Not counting Michele Bachmann.)
My favorite lesson from that wonderful whirlwind of a job is this: No one is better than me. And I am not better than anyone. We’re all the same, in many ways. (Insert other obvious exceptions here.)
Of course, I was told similar things since I was little. But hearing a lesson is different from living one, isn’t it? That experience gave me the confidence to take risks–to direct communications for a statewide campaign having never even volunteered on a campaign before, to travel alone, attend a conference where I knew no one, write a novel, start a blog.
So — take one of my risks, if you’re partial. But leave one for me: tell me what risks you’ve taken.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
— Pablo Picasso