I am a white male autodidact with significant amount of ego and confidence. Coming out of Oregon in my early 20s, lightly educated, and confident as fuck, made me pretty invincible. I could accomplish anything. I could understand anything. Point me in the direction of a new industry I had no training or experience in, and after a week I could help deliver a website, mobile application, or other system to help solve all the problems that sector faced. I knew my shit. I was confident that I could tackle almost any problem, and come out of the other side successful.
It wasn’t until I went to Washington DC, and began tackling bigger problems, that I realized the scope of what happens in this country on a daily basis, and I began to change my tune. As I worked to map out the benefits systems for veterans, the national park system, the student financial aid process, how the census worked, and other common functions of our government, my mind was expanded, and my eyes were opened. Leaving me with the realization that most of my confidence came from inexperience, ignorance, and privilege. I felt that I could accomplish anything because I hadn’t really accomplished much, and problems seem solvable because I really didn’t understand the scope of the problem. Most importantly, I really didn’t have the exposure to different types of people to realize the scope of the problems that government works to solve on a daily basis.
It is really easy to sit back in our armchairs across this country and speculate on what the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of the Interior, Department of Education, or the Census Bureau does, and dream up problems they create. It takes a lot more energy to actually understand what each of these federal government agencies do, and actually get involved in someway, so that you can actually get a taste for the scope of these challenges, and how much is involved with governing a country. What it takes to actually keep the world moving forward, allowing us to live the existence that we enjoy today. Which affords us the ability to have a home, education, healthcare, automobile, cell phone, television, food, energy, and carve out the free time to have our opinions about what government is or isn’t.
While I still have moments of confidence, and suffer from privilege syndrome on a regular basis, I’m much more humbled, and cautious in how I approach my stance on government, businesses, and any other layer of our society. I’m much more respectful and understanding of what people in government service face. While I still scrutinize the motivations of any politician, government agency, employee, or contractor, I am much more aware that there is a lot going on that I may not be aware of. Learning so much in the last five years of working with government, is making me more confident in the fact that there is so much that I do not know, or understand, and that I need to always be much more cautious in how I form my opinions, and talk about how change in our world can happen.