by Santiago Cirnigliaro, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group
As Easter came and went, I was able to go home and see my family and friends for the last time before session ends. Even at 4 months into this University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work internship with the Texas Legislative Study Group (a legislative caucus), and after explaining several times what it is that I’m doing here, none of my closest friends or family truly understand why I’m here. That’s why it’s hard to explain the relationships that are also formed through this legislative process. Everything within the legislature is fast tracked. In 6 months, legislators have to pass laws and a budget for the next 2 years. Which means they have to cram 2 years into 6 months. Consequently, over 6 months, most of our lives are crammed with the amount of new experiences and people which should technically occur over 2 years.
It’s hard to explain to someone who has not done this before what this could do to your mental health. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to not know anything about the Texas budget but yet have to become an expert in it and work for 60 continuous hours to analyze over 300 amendments collectively. It’s hard to explain to people that you may get called into work on a Sunday at noon and not know when the next time you will be off again will be. It’s hard to explain that we had to spend the night at the office and literally sleep on the floor because the workload was so heavy that we did not have time to go home and sleep. However, in my opinion, the hardest thing to explain to people is the relationships that are formed within the short 6 months that we are here.
Since January 7th, the beginning of the legislative session, all 10 Legislative Study Group Policy Analysts (all social work students) have been consistently stuck in a room barely bigger than a conference room, with no windows or direct sunlight coming into the room. For the past 4 and a half months, we have been consistently in this room other than when we go to committees. It’s hard to not form a bond with someone who you spend over 12 hours a day with every day of the week.
But what’s hard to explain to people outside of this realm is how fast a friendship can progress. From living with 3 fellow LSG members to creating a small caucus within a caucus with my “corner friends” (the 3 of us within the LSG who sit in the back half of the room). These friendships progress at a speed that is not normal. We are forced to establish a trust with each other because of the workload and the stress that comes with it. We rely on each other for support in our personal life as well as rely on each other for help in our work.
There have been times during this internship where I have entrusted confidential information to some of the LSG members that I would never share with anyone that is not a family member. But I was glad to. I was glad to because entrusting in my coworkers has given me a peace of mind that allows me to finish this internship. In the days that we do stay until midnight, one in the morning, or even overnight, I can’t call anyone to explain what is going on with me. Even if I could, they would not understand, and I don’t think they could really help. Relying on the people next to you in these situations and being completely honest with them has been what got me through those nights. It is what has forced me to become close friends with them and allow me to have someone in Austin with me that truly understands what is going on and the frustrations I feel.