It’s been a year and a half since I left the life that I knew in Washington to take a leap into a world that I had only dreamed of from my desk.
With the release of “This Town,” an inside the beltway book revealing all sorts of dirt on Washington’s political elite, I was recently asked a few questions by a reporter about why I left Washington, my motivation for leaving and what I’m doing now that I swam out of the swamp.
This is what I sent him.
I left the District in January 2012 after a decade of working overtime for the Democratic party, politicians and an international non-profit. The world was bigger than an office with five TVs blaring news of fiscal cliffs and Congressional stalemates. Every day felt like the movie Groundhog Day. It was time to hit the road across four continents and 11 developing countries alone and armed with a backpack.
Traveling was hard and humbling, enlightening and enlivening. I didn’t read Politico’s The Playbook anymore. The drama of the 2012 election cycle and beltway gossip faded from my day-to-day. I read the Game of Thrones and the Hunger Games series (yes, all of them). I built websites for guesthouses in exchange for free room and board. I went on safari, learned Spanish, visited development projects in the field, bummed around on beaches and wrote about all of it in my own voice for once – and not as a spokesperson.
After a year on the road, I returned to one of my favorite places from my travels: India. For a few months, I helped run the international media operation for an environmental non-profit at the largest spiritual gathering in the world, the Kumbh Mela. It was like working for a campaign again at a chaotic Indian pace, but infused with an Eastern influence of meditation and yoga.
I look back at Washington as a memorable chapter where I cut my teeth and grew thick skin. At times, it seemed like life was ripped out of a script from the West Wing. Riding in Black Hawk helicopters and casually chatting with the President backstage at an event. It was exciting and exhausting, but the problem with getting wrapped up in Washington’s game was that I lost sight of what brought me there ten years earlier.
I came to Washington at 18 because I wanted to be the White House Press Secretary and help make the world a better place. I worked for people and causes that I cared about and believed in. My reason for leaving was to get out of the bubble and experience the real world. To see how people were making a tangible difference outside of Washington, DC. I left mildly disillusioned and disappointed in government and media, but proud of a few accomplishments and grateful to work for some passionate public servants.
I’ve been in San Francisco since March, where I launched my own public relations firm that works with social good start ups and non-profits. While I may not be in politics anymore, the experience of engaging an audience and building influence translates from voters to consumers, congressional offices to companies.
There is an entrepreneurial spirit here that is action-oriented. An entire start up industry around social change, education, and development is emerging that rivals Washington in impact and access to investment. So while I look back at my time in D.C. favorably, the swamp was not meant for me so I sailed around the world and dropped anchor in the City on the Bay.
Pictures from the past to come! Posting from Seal Beach, in LA volunteering to promote International Mandela Day and the unveiling of a mural in his honor.
Did you take a leap into life or want to? If you’d like to be a Featured Leaper, please contact me. Let’s build a community together.