The Young Professional's Perspective on Life in Washington, D.C.

The Young Professional's Perspective On Life In Washington, D.C.

Meet Peter Burns.


Working in the nation's capital can be quite the experience. Movies like National Treasure and TV shows such as NCIS and Bones make Washington, D.C. seem like the place to be if you're in search of nonstop action and excitement. It very much so is, no matter what field of work you're in. There is always something to do, whether it's a networking event, a gala or banquet, a conference, or playing frisbee on the National Mall, it's hard to be bored in this city.

Since I moved to D.C. two years ago, friends and family are always asking me what it's like to live and work in such a vivacious city. I tell them of the neat experiences I've had and all that I've learned from my experiences, but specifically for this article, I wanted to get a new perspective. So I reached out to Peter Burns, another young professional in D.C., to get his take on this unique city. Peter is the Government Relations Director at an advocacy organization representing targeted Christians in the Middle East.

1. What first brought you to D.C.?

Peter Burns

I'm originally from Illinois, so I first came out to intern in the Senate. Before that, I took a gap year between high school and college to work for a media company, thinking that was the direction I wanted to go. I realized that the work I was doing wasn't what I was passionate about, so going into college I transitioned to politics and government, which was a totally new world for me. That led me to work for an Illinois state representative, and my boss there suggested I intern in D.C., so I did.

2. What made you want to stay in D.C.?

Peter Burns

The city is so electric, and you can feel that everywhere you go. People are here with a mission and they are set on accomplishing big things. Most of the people attracted to D.C. are deeply passionate about what they do and believe they will make the world a better place. So if I wanted to make a difference in government and policy, D.C. was the place to be. I once heard someone say: "Five years of experience in D.C. is worth 15 years everywhere else."

3. What is your favorite thing about D.C.?

Peter Burns

This city is beautiful, and there is some great food here if you know where to look, but I have to say, the people. D.C. attracts a lot of driven, passionate people who know what they believe. It's a fun environment to meet new people, which you do constantly. Every week I meet someone and think, "Wow, they're so cool!" The city always has something really exciting going on. It's such a focal point for convening people, nationally and internationally. You have to be pretty intentional about how to spend your time.

Yet, a lot of D.C.'s greatest strengths can also be its fatal weaknesses. People who come here come here to work, not live. Very few people "live" here. In the Midwest, where I grew up, people spend a lot of time living and enjoying the rhythms of life. The rhythm in D.C. is often too rushed to slow down and live. Your life is oriented around your career while you're here. It's very easy to become burned out if you don't guard your time.

4. What is your least favorite thing about D.C.?

Peter Burns

The air in D.C. is toxic. If you're breathing in D.C. you're consuming the message that you're defined by your job. The first question people ask here is, "What do you do?" There is a "pecking order" and people walk into a room thinking "who is the most important person in the room?...who is influential?...who can I know who can help me in the future?" People basically wear their resume on their sleeve, and what we wear begins to become our identity. A job is a terrible identity because no matter how successful you become, most of your life will be spent in the rugged valley between distant mountain peaks. As a Christian, I have to preach the Gospel to myself every day that my worth is in the eyes of Christ, not in my work. And you have to remind yourself that others' worth is not in their work, either. Don't run over people with your own agenda.

5. To students and recent graduates who are looking at the possibility of coming to D.C., what advice do you have for them?

Peter Burns

The most important thing about D.C. is just being here. Just get here. Getting an internship isn't that hard, and once you're here network, network, network. It's all about relationships. Build relationships. D.C. is run on relationships built on trust. No one can do it all here, it's impossible. So people are going to pick up the phone and make a call, and they call people they trust. You can't be an expert in everything. Pick your lane.

6. What's one thing you wish you knew before coming to D.C.?

Peter Burns

I should have been conscious of the fact that once you come here, Twitter is a very important means of communication. So much information happens on Twitter, so much of it never gets out to major news sources. Saying "Twitter's important" is the coldest hot take in the city, but I'm amazed how many interns I meet that are not on it. Start following the journalists who drive the conversation on the issues that you care about.

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To The Girl Who Isn't Graduating On Time, It Won't Feel Any Less Amazing When You Do

Graduating is something to be proud of no matter how long it takes you.


To the girl who isn't graduating college "on time,"

I promise, you will get there eventually, and you will walk across that graduation stage with the biggest smile on your face.

You may have a different journey than the people you grew up with, and that is OKAY. You may have some twists and turns along the way, a few too many major changes, a life change, you may have taken most of a semester off to try to figure your life out, and you're doing the best you can.

Your family and your friends don't think less of you or your accomplishments, they are proud of your determination to get your degree.

They are proud of the woman you are becoming. They don't think of you as a failure or as someone any less awesome than you are. You're getting your degree, you're making moves towards your dreams and the life that you have always wanted, so please stop beating yourself up while you see people graduating college on time and getting a job or buying a car.

Your time will come, you just keep doing what you need to do in order to get on that graduation stage.

Your path is set out for you, and you will get there with time but also with patience. The place you're at right now is where you are supposed to be. You are going to thrive and you are going to be the best version of you when you graduate and start looking for a company that you will be proud to work for. Don't look on social media and feel less than, because at least you're still working towards your degree that you are finally passionate about. You will be prepared. You will be ready once the time comes and you cross the stage, move away, and start your journey in whatever field you're going into.

Don't question yourself, and be confident in your abilities.

With love,

A girl who isn't graduating on time

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College Can Be Difficult, But Trust Yourself, Girl

Life can throw you curveballs sometimes, and times can get tough, but it is SO important to pick yourself up and trust that you can do anything.


I'll be honest, this school year was one of the hardest years of my life. There were lots of moments throughout the year that I just wanted to go home and get away from it all. I had to be reminded that I have been raised to try as hard as you possibly can, and I was doing that. It took some determination and time, but I didn't give up.

No matter how bad I felt, I stayed and persevered.

Now that I am home for the summer, I have been reminiscing on the past two semesters of school. At the beginning of the school year, I had a much different idea of how it would go. It was going to be "my year," but somehow while the year was going on, I felt that I had been completely wrong. It's easy to come to quick conclusions when life doesn't exactly go your way. Conclusions like "this year has been the worst year ever" and "I can never get a break" were often popping up in my head. My grades weren't where I wanted them, and I was surprised by a lot of occurrences that I never expected to happen (imagine a wild ride). I found out who my true friends are and who I could rely on, and luckily, my circle only grew. Being extremely extroverted, it was hard for me to get out and just do something. Being in this "rut" took a toll on me. I had to make those hard decisions about doing what was best for me in the long run instead of doing something just for the moment. Trust me when I say, this was NOT easy at all.

Through all the tears and change all around me, I decided to proceed to the finish line because I am NOT a quitter.

I decided that it was time for me to allow myself to fully, undeniably be me. I wanted to start doing the little things I enjoy again like working out, taking pictures, and simply just going out to do anything. I started forcing myself to take any opportunity that came my way, and it helped. One of the things that brought me so much joy was kickboxing – talk about therapeutic, people! Kickboxing at least three times a week helped my mood shift so much, and it was a start to seeing me again. I am so blessed with friends who would come over at, literally, any time of the day. Spending time with them helped me more than they could ever know. We did anything from just hanging out in my living room to splurging on a fun dinner. Through everything that I was doing daily, I was learning how to rely on myself. Looking back now, I have never really had to know what it felt like to rely mainly on myself. I did get so much help from my family and friends, but what good could their help do if I didn't want to help myself first?

Even though I felt like this was one of the worst years of my life, it taught me so much more than I ever expected. Looking back now, I grew so, so much. I learned how to smile when times get tough. I learned that it really is okay to not be okay sometimes, and it will be okay eventually. I learned that it's okay to ask for help because we weren't made to do life alone. Most importantly, I learned how to trust myself. My hope for anyone reading this, you will learn from my experience that the worst seasons get better. I am in such a good place right now because I never gave up, and I will continue to never give up. In a short amount of time, I am seeing how far I have come and how much I grew.

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