At first glance, it doesn’t look like the congresswoman from New York’s 14th District and I have much in common. She’s from the Bronx, I’m from Buxton. She’s Latina, I’m white. She’s really, really, Instagram-model-potential pretty, and I’m – well, I know I have cheekbones in here somewhere.

On the other hand – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Victoria Hugo-Vidal (that’s me) have long, hyphenated, multisyllabic Spanish names. We’re both Instagram-scrolling, certified millennials. We’re both high-energy and have a lot of Big Ideas. And we both lost our dads to cancer at a young age. AOC was 19; I was 25. She doesn’t talk about him much in interviews, but I find myself wondering what effect it had on her work and her politics.

That sort of loss and grief lights a fire in a girl. It makes you want to take your father’s place and make the world around you better, since he isn’t around to do it anymore. You find yourself thinking about what your father would want, and you know in your heart that as his oldest daughter, it’s up to you to make it happen.

She receives a lot of media coverage – some deserved (youngest woman ever elected to Congress!) and some undeserved (all the coverage about her clothes). So I felt a little conflicted about writing a column about her. She’s not even from my state. But she is the first person in Congress that I’ve really been able to look at and go – yes, she’s just like me.

I’ve curled up on my couch to watch her live on Instagram, cooking vegetarian chili and talking policy, just like I do with my friends. Through her social media and openness about the job, I’ve learned things about Congress and the little rules and procedures and all sorts of behind-the-scenes facts that I never knew before.

I mean – she’s a millennial! One of us is officially and loudly in Congress! And she grills those smarmy financial CEOs like nobody else dares to. We millennials remember who crashed the economy in 2008. And we have no intention of allowing it to happen again, not on our watch.


I was a big reader, when I was younger. (This is probably not a surprise to anyone.) I read anything and everything I could get my hands on, which is why I used to be really, really good at bar trivia, but my favorites were books with girl heroes. I started with the American Girl books (all of them), and aged up to Tamora Pierce. I wanted to be Alanna the Lioness, champion knight. I wanted to be the flawed and wild Chieftess Kahvi from Elfquest, leading my people through the untamed North. I wanted to wield a sword while riding horseback with my hair blowing in the wind, to right wrongs and bear down justice. I wanted to save the world.

My hair does blow in the wind, so I accomplished that part. As for the others – well, swords are expensive, and every encounter I’ve had with a horse has ended in personal injury. I will probably never save the world. I couldn’t save my dad. I might be able to save myself, by the skin of my teeth (I have nine months of sobriety under my belt), and my cat was a shelter rescue. As Shakespeare said, some are born great, some achieve greatness and, well, some of us are just trying to keep our [expletive] together. I don’t have much time for reading fantasy novels right now – between the jobs, and the student loans, and helping out my family. (And the cat, of course. She requires a lot of attention, and she will let you know it). In the real world, the scrappy heroes don’t usually win.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gives me that warrior princess, sword-on-horseback feeling. She may not have been born great, but she certainly achieved greatness – and greatness has been thrust upon her. When I look at her, I see someone that I could be. I probably won’t be, but that “could” is there. That all-important “maybe, I as well.” It’s a wonderful feeling to have someone fighting for my interests in our government. (This must be what being an oil executive feels like!) There’s not really a lobbying group for broke, exhausted millennials who are scared of what climate change will do to their future children (that they can’t afford to have because … they’re broke).

Blazing a trail is hard work. Branches constantly hit you in the face, and there are bugs, and you trip on all the roots. But once a trail has been set, others will follow. The congresswoman from NY-14 may be the first true, selfie-snapping millennial in the American government. But she won’t be the last.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

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