…but to teach us a good lesson.
When first reading this poem, my first reaction was literally, “What did I just read?” I took out a highlighter and a pen and then read it again. I highlighted what I wanted to contemplate more. These are the quotes the stood out to me, and my thoughts about them:
“Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.”
In my initial reading of the poem, this was the first stanza that stumped me. The author of this poem has taken great time to discuss the beauties of nature and the seasons, to only end it off by saying that the frost will eventually show “its crystal teeth.” The surface is appealing. Nature has this methodic rhythm that emphasizes order. There is a sense of security knowing when “the sun [is] warm but the wind [is] chill” that we are in the month of May. However, beneath the surface of what we see, could be a different reality. There is a difference between what we desire and what is necessary, and both might not accurately reveal themselves to us if we are not cognizant of intentions.
This led me to consider how we consider the intentions of our actions. How do we evaluate ourselves? Are we helping the old lady cross the road because it will earn us brownie points in the minds of our colleagues, or are we present because helping the elderly is what we should do? Not only should we consider our actions, but we must also be aware of those around us. Are they making decisions that benefit only them?
Here in Washington D.C., I have come to learn that a situation is not always what it seems. When it comes to personal endeavors, or in a professional setting, I have learned we must always ask the “why” and “how.” Politics can be very misleading. What is always presented to the public is not what is actually happening in the boardroom. What people say might not always be what they mean. In our personal lives, it is necessary to evaluate if people only desire friendship for personal gain.
“They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.”
I think of this as the “in-group” portraying the “out-group” as undeserving or unworthy. Perhaps it can be better interpreted as entitlement. Those who come along the life path may feel as if they deserve the job or the promotion above others. These lines of the poem emphasize the importance of knowing one’s ability and worth. I liken this to the idea that the world of politics is a man’s world. It will only be a man’s world if we allow it to be. Some may only judge my talents on what they determine is the “appropriate tool.” But, I am aware of bias and the harsh realities. This was one of the first lessons that Marcus, one of many of our bosses, instilled in the interns. We need to stop discounting our abilities based on age, where we came from, etc.
We are all at different places in our lives, and I am firm believer that comparison is the thief of joy. I appreciate the author’s slight jab towards the two tramps by using the term “appropriate tool.” Essentially, he is taking a jab at all judgers and nay-sayers.
“My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation.”
This is a sophisticated/artistic way of saying that we should strive to pick a career that we love. Because of this internship experience, I believe that I have been able to find what ignites my passion. I am not sure if the lobbying world is quite the fit for me, but I believe that I am one step closer to finding where I belong. I hope that someday I can finding meaning and enjoyment in whatever path I choose.
“As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.”
It is sometimes crazy to think that one can work and love what they do. And, it is even greater to find purpose and a deeper meaning in one’s career path. That is what the author of this poem desires: the ability to love his career and to be doing it for the common good. The poet questions his ability to accomplish this when he states, “Is the deed ever really done…” but I think it can be done. Look at those who are truly satisfied in their jobs (First, we have to assume that they are satisfied for good and moral reasons). One will just have to ignore the individuals (the two tramps) who have judged us. In a way, I think the poet is giving us all a call to action to find what you love and do it for a greater purpose.
My time in D.C. has proven that if you do not have the desire to work in this industry, you will burn out incredibly fast. Money cannot be the main driver. You have to have the passion and the optimism that your small impact is making a difference. Although many people think that D.C. is a cynical place, it cannot be portrayed as a simple black or white issue. People come here because they have the drive to do something more, and that alone is a noble cause.
This poem taught me to strive for greatness, but greatness will be defined by my own terms. I will be discouraged at times, but the poet reminds us that our purpose is for a greater purpose.
I am sad for my time here to come to an end, and I will cherish these memories forever. Thank you, Washington D.C., for giving me the experience of a lifetime and lifelong friends. Thank you for giving me the “tools” to define my own path, and the courage to seek out my “love and need.”