Saturday, July 23, 2016

Reflections From a Junior Counselor on Changing from Red Polo to Blue

There’s something about slipping on the polo. The Polo. That indescribable mix of polyester “Cool Wick” technologized fabric that refuses to breathe or soak up the sweat coaxed out by the Maryland sun. It hangs on my shoulders and brilliantly captures what a Nation girl should be while refusing to translate that fact into tangible words. Words that could explain how the reckless, fiery red of 2014 says something different than the more mature, royal blue of 2016.

But that’s the point isn’t it? You can never put into words what your week at ALA Girls Nation has done. There is no way to articulate or translate or sum it up. It’s always a “girls’ mock government camp” or a “leadership conference for young girls.” Flying into Baltimore I sat across the aisle from Michael from Memphis. I had to try to explain to Michael from Memphis what ALA Girls Nation was. It was ironic that, while on my way to a political camp, two sides of an aisle couldn’t communicate. I also wasn’t surprised when I couldn’t communicate through the gap in age, gender, and backgrounds the essence of ALA GN.

What has surprised me is that in recent months I haven’t been able to articulate it to myself. I have never lost the message ALA Girls Nation sent me. I can be anything. I can do anything. I can achieve anything. It’s just that some of the details are fuzzy. The buzz I got when my speech hit its stride or the nervous, edgy feeling of an opponent approaching to discuss your bill. In the past 48 hours I have felt something akin to someone topping off my coffee. Giving new legs to a classic. Reminding me of the little room where I deliberated over keynote speakers or the table my family within a family of senators always assumed at meal times. I am reminded of the details, and there is beauty in those details.

However, Katie Cochran (government staff) put it best when she said,“As much as you may want it to be, this isn’t 2014.” There won’t be a state call card at my desk when I walk into Senate. There isn’t a goody bag with my name on it. Other things have taken their place. Things like big leather conference room meeting chairs with dispensers of coffee, agendas, and USBs. Things like the knowledge that there is a group of women out there sacrificing time, energy, and all kinds of things in order to look out for and inspire the girls that will come after them. This also means I now have the heavy responsibility of leading my girls in a way that is true to that legion of women, to my own memories of ALA Girls Nation, and to the specific needs and wants of the girls who I adore even before they walk through the door.

I will have the charge of a dozen young ladies that will somehow manage to knock my socks off while simultaneously make me want to pull my hair out. I will be overwhelmed in a whole new and different way. I will be keeping track of the right questions to pose and the wrong comments to make. I will calmly dispense information regarding the times, days, schedules, and bus departures that are whirring in front of my face faster than a lotto machine. It is that pressure, regardless of the source, that gave electricity to being in state-named rooms surrounded by girls in red polos. There are many things here that demand reminiscing and things here that leave me too busy to think about anything but the present moment. I’ve been too excited to sleep the last few nights, and all I know for sure is that I’m going to regret that at the end of the week.

Hannah Moore, Michigan 
Bethesda Junior Counselor

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