Caitlin Berg is one of my best friends from high school. She is a caring, intelligent, and witty individual who keeps it real. Through hardship, she has always showed strength and courage and has been someone I admire (minus her glee obsession). Caitlin is a theatre lover just like me and I miss the days when we used to rush shows on school nights. She always makes me laugh, she’s my favorite person to follow on twitter, and is now pursuing comedy full time! She also loves to write and is QUITE good at is as you will see below! For this piece, she discusses a vulnerable topic about how she lost her love for politics, something that most of the people in her life knew as her one true love. TW: Bulimia.
I figured out how to log into the laptop I used in middle and early high school in January. The content was exactly what I expected- folders full of photos of actors I once adored, singing videos sent to theatre camps I was auditioning for, and old iChat messages.
I looked at most of the content with a mix of embarrassment and endearment; it was ridiculous and insane but also full of passion and joy. For every second that I cringed looking at gifsets I had saved of Broadway actors (some of whom I call my closest friends now), I also was reminded of a time in my life, ten years ago, when all I wanted was to create. My throat quickly closed up. I started to feel butterflies in my stomach that wouldn’t go away. Rather than laughing at how insane it was that I still remembered nearly every line to certain Glee episodes, I was nauseated. I shoved the laptop closed, hid it under a table, and a few days later, found myself calling out sick from work and sobbing in the shower. I usually am pretty good at understanding why I am upset- but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why, until it hit me a few Sundays later, when I found myself, yet again, sobbing in the shower (I suggest crying in there. It is so easy to clean up), wishing I didn’t have to wake up and work the next day. The answer was simple: I was unhappy with what I was doing and who I was, and I missed the stupid 12-year-old me.
On January 20, 2021, I woke up, straightened my hair, put on a navy t-shirt that featured Joe Biden and Kamala Harris fist-bumpingat their November victory night rally, and decked myself out in every piece of 2020 campaign merchandise I could find in my closet, from buttons to a pair of sweatpants which read “JOE BIDEN” on the side. We had reached the peak of a rollercoaster and were about to have an exhilarating four years, hopefully longer, of progressive policy making. As I drank my venti iced latte with oat milk from my local Starbucks, I envisioned soon-to-be-President Joe Biden sitting at the Resolute desk, signing bill after bill into law. The past four years had been so damaging and traumatic that I naively expected him to be able to fix everything- not that I would have been able to define for you what “everything” was or should have been.
I had always been interested in politics- very Connor Roy of me- but starting in mid-High School, I became obsessed, especially with, for lack of a better term, neoliberal girlbosses such as Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Kamala Harris. At the time, I had very little understanding of my own beliefs. I knew that I thought everyone should have equal rights and, as (correctly) drilled into my head by my parents from age three, that the War in Iraq and Republicans were bad. Other than that, I did not have much to go on, leading me to adopt the beliefs of powerful women I assumed I should idolize. Because of this, throughout college, I never was able to strongly articulate why I supported moderate candidates who leftists rightly called me out on my support for. I settled on simple answers, such as “it’s not that I don’t support more progressive candidates, it’s that they can’t win in a general election, but moderates can.” This is obviously not true. Look no further than Hillary Clinton.
I spent the past six years of my life working on campaigns, usually in fundraising. Campaigns- and in no way is this a reflection of many of the employers I had who, for the most part, were incredible people- trap you by convincing you that if you don’t work hard enough, you will be the reason your candidate loses. And if your candidate loses, you are the reason for any policy put into place by the victor. This is an incredibly toxic mindset, which I often found myself bent over my toilet with my fingers down my throat over. To me, if I did not spend every moment I could working, I would be both replaced and the reason my candidate lost. If you are a young campaign staffer reading this, please know that neither of these are true. You can take breaks. You can breathe. You are not replaceable. You will not be the reason for someone else’s loss. You do not need to always be working. Be stupid.
Stupidity is one of my favorite things. I love being absolutely stupid- I love watching reruns of Glee and quoting the monologues I memorized in middle school. I love making fart jokes and making the people around me laugh. I love not being serious unless I absolutely have to. I love wearing crop tops to places I shouldn’t and obsessing over random scenes in movies and painting each of my nails different colors and using funny accents at restaurants and inventing stories with my friends that we have to act out all day (most recently, it was our “anniversary” at Benihana) and staying up all night harmonizing to the Legally Blonde the Musical soundtrack. This is who I am. This is who I always have been: Obsessive and stupid and happy.
These parts of me disappeared throughout my time at The George Washington University, where I studied political science. While I originally dreamed of getting a BFA in Acting or Musical Theatre, I was especially inspired by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, thus leading me to abandon my dreams of Broadway for dreams of politics. GW is a great school for spending college as a 35-year-old (which is wonderful for some people. Ultimately, I’m not sure if it was the right choice for me). At most schools, when you graduate, you start seeing posts of your classmates getting married or pregnant. At GW, they start to run for office. GW prides itself on its proximity to the Hill and White House, encouraging its students to intern full time while also taking their classes, as I did for three years of my time there. In turn, I graduated with a full resume, a closet full of preppy clothes, and a Twitter full of obnoxious posts like this:
By the way, if you went to college with me and ever disliked me, I would have too. My God.
I was a totally different person than I had been prior to college- one so crafted by my desire to be successful in a political career that I hid everything I truly loved about myself. I wanted to be perfect, just like the women I was working for (who, in retrospect, were far from it). This led me to a years-long battle with bulimia and depression.
Back to January 2021. The craziest thing had happened that past March, and I was locked in at home, looking at photos of 12-year-old me and wondering what happened. I’d lost friends because of my staunch hatred of Bernie Sanders (don’t even mention it. I regret this more than anything). The roller coaster of progressive policy I envisioned was nowhere to be found. Sure, Joe Biden has done some good things. But, much of what he said he believed in isn’t happening. Families are still being deported. We are still drone striking other nations. There has been little to no action taken against our police forces. I know I was naive to believe Joe Biden was our savior, but he ran a campaign promising a change in this nation which I have yet to see. I quickly became radicalized, the words of people I once adored, such as Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton becoming empty. Politicians do an excellent job at convincing you that they will help you. But what is the point of promising that if you will be met with leaders who will block any good idea you have? What is the point of campaigning for the Democrats if Nancy Pelosi is going to make fun of the Green New Deal and student loan forgiveness? Of course, I still believe that Democrats are better than Republicans. I do believe in harm reduction. But do I think that our system of governance is good? No. Do I believe that we can continue on this way? Not at all.
I find myself at a loss of where to go next. I do know that I am happier than I ever have been, having quit my job in politics to pursue comedy and theatre production full time. I work at a SoulCycle as well. I’m being stupid all the time and adoring it- but this is all personal. I also find myself wondering what I can do to help good policy get passed in the United States. Ultimately, I’m not sure how possible that is. As of now, I hope that whatever art I create helps change an audience member’s way of thinking. It took a lot of Glee reruns and a failure to see any real change in our country post Joe Biden’s inauguration to get me to fall out of love with politics, both on a personal and global level. I hope that if you’re feeling lost in what you’re doing and the world around you, you remind yourself of the shit you liked when you were 12 and go chase that. You’ll be a lot happier.
This resonates with me so much, thank you for writing this. Love you Caitlin!