In 1994 my sister and brother in law, Eric knew I had a hard time finding work in Connecticut and invited me to live with them in their Dupont Circle condo in Washington, DC. The said I could live with them for a short time while I looked for a job. Once I got on my feet I would move out. Moving from suburban Connecticut to metropolitan DC was an exciting change and brought me out of my depression.
My brother in law worked for a member of congress as a Legislative Assistant. He used his connections to get me interviews with other Democrat Legislative Assistants for staffer positions. I was extremely clueless about politics back then despite all my instructions from Rush Limbaugh. I remember being in an interview and the person interviewing me asking if I was a Republican or a Democrat. I responded that it did not make a difference to me. He responded that it may not matter to me but to people in Washington, it does. At the end of the interview I said, “thanks for taking time out.” Many times I have thought about how I handled the interview and felt embarrassed.
I sent out lots of resumes to law firms and governmental organizations. I applied to “The White House Conference on Travel and Tourism” and got an interview with this guy Pierce. I thought the interview went well but I did not hear from him for a long time. I sent out more resumes without much success. One time my other sister (who also lived in DC at the time) suggested I call a small law firm where a friend of hers worked. The attorney I spoke to told me he thought I was “a zero” but was willing to put me “on the payroll.” He then put me on hold to talk to someone else but I could still hear him talking, working out some kind of deal with whoever he was talking to. I felt a little humiliated about this interaction and declined the opportunity.
I spent a lot of days in my sister and brother in law’s condominium making calls, sending out resumes and feeling worthless. My brother in law had Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary on video. I took me a couple of days to watch the whole thing. Having a lot of free time I explored the city. Walking around town and meeting people in social situations I always got the impression that people only wanted to know you to the extent you could provide something for them. I always tried to avoid the subject of “what I did for a living.”
Eventually I went to work for a temp agency doing paralegal work. These jobs were tediously boring. They typically involved sitting around a conference table with other temps putting binders of documents together or making sure two large binders had the exact same documents in them. I remember one job where they assigned me to load discs of data into a database. While the data loaded I had time to read but felt guilty doing it.
After a while I got the impression Eric thought I had been there too long and wanted me to move out. Things began to feel a little uncomfortable. I wanted to move out but my current income was insufficient. As luck would have it, soon after that I called the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism to see if the opportunity still existed. Pierce called me back and told me it did. They offered me a job answering their phones.