My 2015 Resolutions (Do people still do these?)

Regardless of whether people take resolutions seriously or not, I like to start each year with a fresh set of goals. I’ve done pretty well in the past and am on track to fulfill my “Where I want to be by age 30” plan (hint: well settled in a career and living a happy, fulfilled life in either LA or DC).

As I wrote about a couple weeks ago, the past year was a monumental one for me. From my internship in Washington, D.C. to growing on an interpersonal level, I’m happy with where I’ve ended up. Even though I didn’t land a job after my internship, I still feel accomplished and eager for the new year.

Here are my resolutions for the 15th (or 16th, depending on who you ask) year of the 21st century (order doesn’t necessarily denote importance):

First, I obviously want to start my career within the first couple months of the upcoming year. Congressional staffer, communications associate at a firm or non-profit, some other yet-unspecified job in the communications/writing arena…I’m both picky and open for anything. I’m working hard on making this a reality very soon, so stay tuned.

Second, I want to do more than simply donate to advocacy organizations and charities. I love donating to causes and organizations I strongly believe in. Sure, I can pay them lip service by advocating their goals and blogging about it. But because of their intrinsic non-profit quality, they rely on supporters going above and beyond word of mouth. It’s very fulfilling to be able to look back and know that I had a little hand in their success. It’s also incredibly fulfilling to donate one’s time to charity and advocacy by actively supporting an organization’s goals. Planting trees, serving at a homeless shelter, marching in a demonstration – whatever it may be, I want to do it in 2015.

Third, I want to keep up the great progress I’ve made in improving my physical health. From July to the end of the year, I lost 25 pounds. I feel better. I look better. I’m more confident and, most importantly, down a couple pant sizes! 😉 For the first time in my life, I’m starting to see the beginnings of “abs,” too (no, I’m not going to prove it – this isn’t Grindr, you guys). All these body improvements have got me excited and motivated for another year of improvements.

Fourth, I want to take the time to read more novels. Arthur C. Clarke, the greatest sci-fi author of all time (in my opinion) produced some incredible works of speculative and philosophical fiction. I’ve read several of his novels and I want to read many more. I’d also like to read more from other sci-fi greats – I hear Stephen Baxter is good, too. Why am I writing about this? Because a steady diet of non-fiction and current events – while vital to what I want to do for a living – can become incredibly depressing if not balanced by light-yet-complex fiction. The best thing about sci-fi: It frees the mind to consider what humanity’s future may be like. In a time when progress can seem slow, imagining where we’re headed as a species is a favorite pastime of mine.

Fifth, I want to blog more! For those of you who have followed me for at least a year or so, you’ll notice that I’ve blogged more recently. What can I say? I feel inspired and don’t want to repress it? It’s self-promotion? Well, both: blogging is therapeutic and my writing is appearing on  other sites now, too. Thanks to the people at Bilerico and Gay Fresno! I even did a Q&A during my internship at The American Prospect earlier this year. I’ll work on expanding this list.

Lastly, I don’t want to hold back from letting those I love and care about know how much I love and care about them. My understanding of relationships deepened in this year, something I have continued to explore. The friends I’ve gained and lost have given me an intimate understanding of the human heart. Life is too short to act invincible and discard people. I’m a relatively affectionate person, something I’m not shy of or ashamed about. But I don’t want to feel like I have to hold back from letting those I care about know how I feel about them. Every day, I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing people in my life – they have all helped mold and shape who I have become. My parents, cousins, friends, extended family…if you want to know who Micah Escobedo is, talk to them (after asking me of course 😉 ).

Bring on 2015 and endless cover versions of “Auld Lang Syne”!

My dad and me at the Capitol building in DC - May 2014

My dad and me at the Capitol building in DC – May 2014

I became pretty familiar with DC's (infamous) metro system during my internship at The Prospect

I became pretty familiar with DC’s (infamous) metro system during my internship at The Prospect

The Spring 2014 interns were The Prospect's best, if I say so myself...

The Spring 2014 interns were The Prospect’s best, if I say so myself…

My parents liked DC and it was great exploring it with them at the end of May

My parents liked DC and it was great exploring it with them at the end of May

I wish you all a happy, successful, and fulfilled New Year!

I wish you all a happy, successful, and fulfilled New Year!

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This year’s journey

This year’s journey

This has been one of, if not the, biggest year of my life. Granted, I’m only 25, the age considered “old” to annoying teens and “kiddie” to people collecting Social Security. But it’s still been a significant year. I lived in DC for several months while working as an editorial intern with The American Prospect. I connected with some incredible people. I improved my skills. Hell, I even endured my first snow storm (I now hate snow) and lost 25 pounds (hello again, pant size I haven’t seen in 5 years).

But perhaps the biggest impact of the year has been more self discovery and a deeper understanding of the connections that bind friends and family. I can truly say that I’m a different person than I was during December 2013. Then, I was about to finish college with a BA in Communication and was eagerly awaiting my internship with The Prospect. I was sure that I would move to DC and end up staying there – I just knew that I’d somehow get a job by the end of my internship. I was so sure that I packed up my room before leaving, that way my parents wouldn’t have to pack my room for me when I inevitably got a job (it’s still mostly packed, by the way).

I was confident that I’d land a job – I had met plenty of “important” people and connected with DC natives. Through a then-friendship, I had been able to score an incredibly low monthly rent rate. Everything was falling into place. I had worked hard to make sure it would all happen…and it was about to.

I should make it clear that I did accomplish a lot and have achieved most of what I wanted to during this year. And I really am close to landing a job in DC or LA – I’ve applied to several dozen different positions with a plethora of organizations and elected officials and met and connected with great people who have helped me along the way. But after living on my own in a completely different environment, coming right back to California afterwards, working side jobs here and there to keep some cash coming in, being (essentially) unemployed for half the year, and losing some friendships, I’m in a different place. Life threw me a bit of a curve ball. And that’s okay.

My perspective and understanding of who I am and who my friends and  are has changed. Aside from a sense of impatience (a result of job searching for several months) I feel more at peace with myself and life. I challenged myself by living on my own in DC. I improved my writing and research skills. I’ve learned more about the world around me and been exposed to different, vibrant experiences. Being without a full-time job has given me plenty of (if not too much) time to critique my priorities. I’ve realized that some people in my life were only passing attractions on my journey. Without the pain from being blown off, ignored, or rejected, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I know, now more than ever, that I am enough and that I have the talent and skill to make my future. Plus, I still have some incredible, amazing and lovely people in my life that are there for good. Their presence leaves me ever-grateful.

I feel stronger and more confident. Even my politics have changed, though just a little bit (yes, I’m still a “lefty”). I’m going out of my way to be challenged in my thinking and it’s made me a better citizen. I guess you could call me a center-left liberal who enjoys reading The American Prospect and Mother Jones…as well as The American Conservative and Reason magazine (I’ve also come to find the liberal websites Mic and Salon to be insufferable, pretentious messes – yeah, I said it). I don’t want to be a robot and I don’t want to worry about censoring myself within my own political camp or in other areas of my life.

The uncertainty of the future doesn’t terrify me like it did. After all, life is about learning, growing and making your own meaning, pursuing your own happiness. Will I be living in DC or LA by next month? Maybe…and maybe not. Am I rambling? Maybe. 😉 All I can do is keep living my life and loving who I am. There’s no other way to live as I make this journey.

 

 

It’s the Turnout, Stupid!

Conventional Beltway wisdom says Democrats will get walloped in November. Reading the pages of The Hill and Politico, one would think the elephant in the Capitol has already trampled its donkey counterpart. Even MSNBC’s screeching Chris Matthews has called the Senate for the GOP.

But Why?

Based on previous midterm elections during a president’s second term (where his party usually loses seats in both houses of Congress), the prediction is that Republicans will gain a larger majority of the House and possibly take the Senate, even if by a bare majority. There are rare exceptions to this rule: 1998, when the GOP lost ground in Congress after flirting with (and later getting) the impeachment of President Clinton; and 2006, when Democrats took the House after American dissatisfaction with the Iraq War reached new highs. Other than that, the president’s party takes a “shellacking,” as President Obama (in)famously said in 2010.

But the future is unwritten. It sounds cliché, but when it comes to historical precedent, we should simply acknowledge that that was then and this is now.

The world has drastically changed. That’s an understatement. For one, the unstoppable proliferation of the Internet across the planet has led to previously unfathomable connections. Breaking news, scandals, leaders’ faux pas, grassroots campaigns, Instagram pictures of cats in tuxedos – these have all reshaped how we see ourselves and our world. The fact that the two surprise elections of ’98 and ’06 happened within the last 16 years should only strengthen that point. The stats and recent history back the Democrats up.

More of us are connected to a global information network and for better or worse, we’re more aware of what’s going on in the world than we have ever been before. DC bigwigs and VIPs seem to ignore this important little fact. Young adults are at the forefront of this massive change. The elections of 2008 and 2012 brought out record numbers of us, mainly because nearly all of us have a social media account of some sort. When Mitt Romney made offensive comments about the 47 percent or when Rick Perry made a Moral Majority-esque video decrying the inclusion of gays in the military, young people noticed and turned out in droves to vote for President Obama…by 67 percent. As Gallup recently found, a large majority of us identify with the Democratic Party, even more so than previous generations did when they were our age. The challenge this November is making sure we turn out in high numbers, something we usually don’t do.

The youth vote isn’t the only necessary ingredient for a Democratic win. It’s no secret that the country is becoming more diverse. Seventeen percent of the nation is Hispanic (myself included) and nearly 65 percent of Hispanic voters cast their ballots for Democrats. In my home state of California, often seen as an “omen” of things to come for the rest of America, Hispanics make up nearly 40 percent of the Golden State’s 40 million residents. In both houses of the California legislature, Democrats have a supermajority and they have the governorship.

The Party of FDR also has the upper hand when it comes to registered voters in general. Forty-seven percent of registered voters identify as or with the Democratic Party (compared to 42 percent who are registered/lean Republican). In 2012, more votes were cast for congressional Democrats than Republicans. But thanks to gerrymandered districts, the GOP still held control of the House…but they did lose a chunk of their majority.

Since midterm voter turnout is typically older, whiter, wealthier and more conservative, the diversity of the country and Democratic Party don’t amount to much. In 2010, when Tea Party Republicans swept the House and several state legislatures and governorships, the number of registered voters who did not vote was substantially higher than the number who did. That year, four out of five voters were white. Seniors made up 21 percent of the electorate in the “Tea Party Tidal Wave” of 2010 and supported the GOP by nearly 60 percent.

The crop of newbies that went to Congress in 2010 pulled the GOP further to the right. From one manufactured crisis to the next, Tea Party extremism and incompetence have resulted in sluggish economic growth, a downgrade of the national credit rating, a government shutdown that siphoned billions of dollars out of the economy, unnecessary and burdensome restrictions on reproductive rights, and millions of low-income Americans left without health care insurance at the insistence of Republican governors. But hey, at least Ted Cruz got his fifteen minutes of fame, right?!

The ineptitude of the modern Republican Party has left quite the sour taste in the public’s mouth. Most Americans disapprove of the Republican Party. Though the GOP has largely recovered from the image-battering it got over the shutdown last year, it is still a very unpopular party, particularly in the eyes of young and minority voters. Congressional approval continues to hover at historic lows (it was higher when Democrats were in control of both chambers) and Tea Party quacks in the House and Senate continue to make excellent segments on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

To be fair, President Obama’s favorability has suffered, too, thanks in large part to the disastrous rollout of the federal exchange website. But now that the website has (mostly) been fixed and nearly 10 million people have health insurance under the ACA (7 million enrolled in private plans), the president’s approval rating has stabilized and approval of the ACA itself is creeping upward. As more people discover the security of not playing Russian roulette with their health care by actually getting coverage, I’m pretty confident that both the ACA’s and the president’s popularity will continue to rise.

But, for a thought experiment, let’s say the President’s popularity declined to the low 30s and the ACA’s approval dipped as well, with even more people misunderstanding/not even knowing its basic provisions. Even in that scenario, it would still be possible for Democrats to retake the House. If enough voters turned out, it could be done.

That’s the usual problem – turnout. It is crucial that the young and diverse turn out in mass this November. Historical precedence may be against Democrats, but the possibility and diversity of the future is definitely “for” it. It seems like a Herculean task, but if Democrats can keep the focus on the benefits of the ACA, what it’s resulted in (hint: no commie takeovers or putting grandma to sleep), and continue to point out how extreme and out of touch the Tea Party-run GOP is, they should be able to drive a substantial amount of us out to cast our ballots on Tuesday, November 4th.

The Phoenix Rises (July 2011 Edition)

The new World Trade Center is rapidly taking shape in Lower Manhattan. One World Trade Center (formerly “Freedom Tower”) now towers 74 floors (105 when completed) into the sky and the rest of the complex, including Four World Trade Center (which has risen to 37 floors), is finally coming together. One World Trade Center is scheduled for completion in November of 2013. It will be the tallest building in the United States, soaring a patriotic 1,776 ft. Opening is scheduled for January 2014.

Below are a few stunning pictures, captured by the British tabloid Daily Mail, that show the progress of the World Trade Center site.

WTC as seen from the 70th floor of One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center as seen from the bottom of one of the memorial reflecting pools

Four World Trade Center rises

The New World Trade Center 2014

The Daily Mail story

Official World Trade Center Website

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey WTC Progress Website