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Who has the best summer job in D.C.?

Sometimes work can be fun
Sometimes work can be fun
Photo by Janette Pellegrini

I often wonder if summers in D.C. could be more fun. People in Washington take themselves very seriously because quite often there is serious stuff to consider. On any given Monday, if you are involved in policy or budget work (in which 70 percent of D.C. talent is involved), you are dealing with putting out a fire (K Street lawyers), starting a fire (policy advocates), or running from a fire (disgraced pols). So other than natural heat and controversy, it seems that Washington summers are filled with not much else to do. We don't have beaches. We don't have fountains like Rome or Paris. We don't have salsa playing in the streets like San Francisco. Are we consigned to being stuffy and dull? Not so fast. There may be fun things to do that you had never considered.

Find your muse. And I don't mean that in the empty-headed way that it is usually portrayed. I mean that sincerely. Find what makes you happy and then go do it. There are some very interesting companies and agencies in the DMV that don't require background checks and Top Secret clearances. You might be able to do something more fun than you ever thought possible. For example: volunteering.

There has never been a better time to volunteer. The nation's Capitol is filled with volunteer organizations and volunteer opportunities and some of them are centered around having fun. There are marathons to run, children's faces to be painted, and tons of other programs whose organizing principle is how to help people who may be impoverished, ill, or otherwise challenged to HAVE FUN. I always recommend that people first follow their own instincts and true calling and do that. If you love to read and your speaking voice doesn't sound like gravel (or you're in the throes of a bad cold), then maybe you should consider your local library and volunteer to read bedtime books to young children. If you enjoy the outdoors and horses, there are therapeutic equestrian programs for children suffering from abuse or emotional disorders. There is something for everyone as long as you are willing to roll up your sleeves (and not your eyes). The trick to being a volunteer (I've been a Junior League of Washington member for over 15 years) is to want to volunteer. I've been a little lax these past few years because of a young adult fiction book project I'm working on with my daughter, but she is active in the League and I'm very proud as she finishes out her first year! You don't have to join an official volunteer organization, pay dues, and attend meetings to volunteer in D.C. You can just go online and take your pick of choice opportunities to learn a new skill, make a new friend, and help someone. Go for it!

And then there's interning...Serving as an intern is a little trickier because you have to consider the goals of the business, how much of yourself you want to give away for free, all that good stuff. I didn't see the Google intern movie, but I would imagine it's pretty much like what you would think of adults interning with 20-somethings. However, having said that, I would say as I said for volunteering - go for it! If your summer schedule is flexible (some jobs end early on Fridays if you work longer through the week), then find a place that could use your skills, passion, and sense of adventure. Most people want to be around sunny people in the summer, and if you are doing this willingly, you are bound to be one of the happiest people in that office.

Many summers ago (in my not so-misspent-youth) when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I worked part-time for a yachting company and we, the staff, would dine for lunch everyday on the yachts. Needless to say, work was hardly dull!

Another summer I taught creative writing, at a local university, to school children and put on a final theatrical production. That was rewarding on so many levels. One young student, who was terrified to perform, found her courage through the words she had written in my class. How awesome is that??

If you create the summer job of your dreams and pursue it like a pre-summer sale at DSW, you will be as summer happy as a hot hog in mud. But the catch is that you must define happiness for yourself and then be relentless in its pursuit. Most of us feel as if we are trapped in jobs, like gruesome specters out of a Stephen King novel, when you could have something far more pleasant to consider. I'm thinking along the lines of William Faulkner's, Long Hot Summer with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward or Tennessee Williams', Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Summer only comes once a year, and as transplants have discovered the hard way, the nation's Capitol gets snow as cold and as deep as New England.

So, to answer the question of who has the best summer job in D.C., I would suggest that after careful consideration of what you are willing to do to make that happen, that would be YOU.