By AMBER LINDAMOOD
February 14, 2018.
I’m sitting in a middle row in my Social Work 506 Research Methods class, feeling like I’m about to throw up, hands sweating, heart racing. My phone rings. As it vibrates on my desk, I stare at it in wonder—not knowing if I should answer it or not, knowing it holds information that will change my summer….and life.
A month prior, I had just started my second quarter of grad school. I was feeling fresh, excited to be taking a different set of classes, and eager for new opportunities. Researching TedTalks for an assignment late one night, I came across an opportunity of a lifetime: a D.C. internship designed specifically for foster youth. This summer-long internship allows foster care alumni the opportunity to write a child welfare policy report that reflects personal experience and best practices. The interns present this report to Members of Congress at the end of the summer. I Googled it to see if it was legit (it was) and found out I had a little over a week to complete all of the required application materials.
I grabbed my backpack, and after what seemed like a LIFETIME, I went outside and answered my phone. I was greeted by a kind voice from a woman in D.C. stating, “This year we had a large number of applicants, and while we were impressed with your application and resume….”
Was my essay not profound? Does this agency really care about the future of kids just like me? Am I not good enough? Smart enough? Why don’t they like me?
“…we’re excited to offer you a spot in this year’s Foster Youth Internship Program.”
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June 20, 2018.
Celebrating my fourth week in D.C., I close my notebook and begin to cry. It’s been a long and emotionally draining week, and though many emotions have been stirred in my heart, I don’t feel alone.
I was removed from my biological family at the age of six due to severe allegations of abuse and neglect. Food insecurity, addiction, and physical and emotional abuse are all parts of my story that brought me into care. Many times my lived experience left me feeling isolated and alone, and I felt that no one understood or truly cared about what I was going through. All I wanted was someone to listen to and invest in me, and for the longest time, I didn’t have that—or feel worthy enough to receive it.
I sit at my desk after finishing a heart-wrenching constituent phone call, and I’m brought back to this space. In the back of my mind, I see myself as a little girl, big brown eyes sparkling, looking to my mother for some sign of visibility and recognition.
As I center myself back into the current moment, I begin to realize my past experiences weren’t all in vain, and that this feeling isn’t truly a phenomenon. The longing to be heard and valued are expressed and felt by folks all over the world, and working in my congressional office has provided me with a tiny glimpse of these experiences all over the country.
How would our world be different if we made listening and validation a normal part of life?
How would this change our families, communities, and government?
As I continue on my policy writing and self-actualization journey, I encourage you to join me by reflecting on your personal life experiences and how you invest into the lives of people around you. What are your passions? How can we use our strengths to better others? When was the last time we set our phones aside, looked someone in the eyes, and just soaked in the moment?
I truly believe that everyone longs to be seen and valued, and all we need to do is listen.