Week Ten: Reflecting on my summer

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Monday, August 7, 2017


Lisa McDonald

The time has come to say goodbye, but also to start down the next road on my journey.

You always have to love these final reflection posts that come at the end of any adventure. What did you learn? What experience impacted you the most? Is there anything you would change? These questions guide the narrative you’ll tell, but if you mask them carefully enough, hopefully your audience won’t be able to see through to the cheesy “What did you do this summer?” framework. Let’s see if I’m successful in keeping this entertaining then, shall we?

When I touched back down in Iowa on Saturday, it was half past 10 at night, so I was left watching the wide-spread cornfields fade into dusk as I drove by. I stood out on my back porch to look up at the sky, and was amazed to see the clouds and stars so clearly, expanding outwards in a blanket unmarked by the light pollution and skyward towers that masked my view in the heart of D.C. But when I woke up on Monday it was so quiet, and as I ate my breakfast alone I felt melancholy creep in to squeeze my heart.

No more rounds of “How was work?” echoing through the place as another person arrives home. No more fighting to clean the dishes after meals are done. No more walking 12+ miles in a weekend to see all the Smithsonian museums. No more weekly fire alarms that give us the perfect excuse to visit Captain Cookie.

The very first day I arrived at George Washington University where we would be staying, I opened the door to the apartment and thought I was in the wrong place. The shared living area was huge and looked more like a student lounge than an apartment space, and it wasn’t until another intern appeared to assure me I was in the right place did I enter. Over the course of the 10 weeks I came to love that common area, since it gave us a chance to mingle as a whole and realize that 14 people really can live together without driving each other insane.

When I started at AIP I couldn’t help but feel I was a youth wearing adult attire, someone who wanted to look old enough to belong but was not truly up to attaining that façade. But when I discovered some co-workers were only five years older than me, it helped me to accept I really am an adult now, and I shouldn’t feel embarrassed to wear my suit and ties since it’s not dress-up but an indicator of the real me.

I wrote five articles this summer (a sixth on the way), attended Congressional hearings, National Academies’ studies, and a science coalition meeting, and made connections I know will last a lifetime. As the final goodbye emails trickle into my mailbox and I begin receiving emails from people waiting for me in Sudbury up north, I feel myself suspended between this pathway and the next. Writing this final post has given me time to think over all I have learned, and I couldn’t ask for a better experience than this.

Thank you, everyone, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Lisa McDonald