Stacy Parker Aab was a White House intern and staff member, who has written her first memoir, Government Girl. I've reviewed the book, please check out my thoughts.
Stacy was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to write up a guest post about transitioning from interning in the White House and becoming a published author. Please give her a warm welcome.
Growing up, I always felt that I was two kinds of things when I was supposed to be one or the other, be it black/white, citygirl/suburban, or politico/writer. While I made peace with my heritage, and loved inner city Detroit as much as I did comfortable Troy, the poles of political and creative living have always tugged at me hard.
I think back to senior year of high school. I literally sat there with my hands in the air, palms up, weighing my options back and forth: should I try to be a writer (and go to a nice tucked-away liberal arts college)? Or should I study government and try to right the wrongs I saw all around me (meaning a school in DC)? I decided on government, thinking that no matter where my activism led, I would have enough skills upon graduation to earn a living wage. The writing life could never make that promise.
So, I began study at The George Washington University. I lived in a freshman dorm three blocks away from the White House complex. Within months, I volunteered for the Office of Communications, headed by George Stephanopoulos. A few months later, I was promoted to George’s West Wing office. I suddenly had a blue pass, giving me instant access to the complex and the ability to walk freely within the West Wing. I was living my political dream.
Yet second semester, I enrolled in a poetry workshop. The greatest happiness I knew was walking to class with a new poem in my folder, knowing that the professor would recognize it as a promising poem, knowing, even without her approval, that it was a good piece of work. This made me happy, and this happiness came from the inside. Organic. And I wanted to feel it again. If I thought I had chosen forever between “politico” and “writer” I was wrong. I was going to be both.
I continued to intern for 3+ years, graduated, went to England on scholarship for a year, came back to DC and returned to the White House as staff in 1997. I was Paul Begala’s assistant. While I loved helping Paul, it didn’t take long to figure out that I wouldn’t last as support staff—that the job didn’t challenge me enough, that I needed to hurry up and get promoted to more substantial work. During that time I kept writing. I read work by Tennessee Williams and Philip Roth that stunned me, showed me the true power of story. I realized that if my biggest dream was to change hateful attitudes, storytelling could sneak over the heart’s fortress walls much faster than the effects of any law.
Then Monica hit. For months, we lived and breathed scandal. I felt angry at the president for his role in the mess, but I was always angrier at the investigators and his outside detractors for I believed they didn’t really care about the rule of law, or perjury, or how a young former intern may have been mistreated—they only cared about beating down the president, and they’d finally found a stick they thought could deliver the fatal blow. As the president fought for his life, we staffers watched our words. Stayed quiet, if possible. Anything we said, or wrote, about our work, about anyone, could possibly be subpoenaed by investigators. I felt like we were all being choked.
During this time I was radicalized. I’d worked in government and it was wonderful but it was time to give the other part of me, the part of me that wasn’t going away, the writer part of me, a chance for primacy. I left full-time government service September 1998. Ever since, my goal has been simple: full-time writerhood. Not an easy goal, for it's hard to excel, and even if you do, it’s hard to make a living. But I’m still trying. Luckily, I love teaching writing, too. If I can keep up a life of writing and teaching, I will remain very, very happy. And if I can sneak over a few fortresses and soften some hard places, then I’ll know I took the right path.
Thanks, Stacy, for sharing with us your story. Interested in winning 1 of 3 copies of her book (US/Canada only, sorry), please visit this giveaway link.