the cut on tuesdays

When Your New Job Takes Over Your Life

Photo: ERIN SCHAFF/The New York Times/Redux

The Cut on Tuesdays

A weekly podcast from the Cut and Gimlet Media, with host Molly Fischer.

On this week’s podcast, we’re talking about starting new jobs. Which is what Lauren Underwood did ten months ago: Last fall, she flipped Illinois’s 14th district from Republican to Democrat, and in January she became the youngest black woman ever to serve in Congress.

“There is a real millennial cohort of people my age or younger,” she told us. But, at the same time, “this body was not built for young people, particularly young women.” If you don’t fit the profile of Washington’s standard politician — someone middle-aged (or older) and married — you’ve got an extra challenge coming into office. Because it’s not an easy place to maintain a support network of personal relationships, much less find new ones.

LAUREN: The life part is just different when you have a partner who has been on this journey: of the campaign, the transition, and serving with you, to provide that kind of obviously, love, care, and support — but then also logistics, keep-your-life-together support. And, you know, I’m not sharing this to like be like, oh, poor Lauren; I’m sharing this so that people understand the realities. 

MOLLY: How do you manage those connections, those relationships outside of your job? How do you handle scheduling time with friends or family or people back home?

LAUREN: I am a terrible friend right now. It is awful. I have a thousand unread text messages, literally. My friends have been so gracious with me, and they’re still my friends, and they still love me even though I never see them. What’s crazy is I started running for Congress in August of 2017, which means that is pretty much the last time that I had comprehensive, mutually sharing conversations with all of my friends — all of them, right? And so, in my mind sometimes, life has stopped based on 2017. When in reality, people have gotten married, had babies, their parents died — these major life events, in this almost two and a half years that I’ve been on this journey of running. And I feel very, very concretely that we are reaching this point right now where I am not being a good friend. All of America can now hold me to it: Lauren Underwood will be a better friend, and next time we talk, hopefully there’ll only be like 500 unread texts and whatever.

Still, Lauren said, the choices they’ve made have given her and her millennial cohort an extra sense of urgency about the work they’re doing.

LAUREN: The freshman class, at least freshman Democrats, are a group of people that took these hard pivots out of our lives, out of our careers, and away from our families to come and serve our country at this critically important time. And there is considerable sacrifice involved in the journey to get here, and while serving. I mean, it is like not friendly toward relationships and families and the like, right? So, if we’re going to be sacrificing all this time away, we need to get something done. And so, all of us are like, “Let’s just do it. Let’s do it now. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” 

To hear more about what Lauren’s learned in her time on the job — plus writer Anna Wiener on starting a new life in Silicon Valley — click above, and subscribe wherever you listen.

When Your New Job Takes Over Your Life