(Internship) Musings: Being elevated by others

I remember when  I interviewed for my job as a writing adviser Center for Learning and Undergraduate Enrichment (CLUE), a late-night study center at the University of Washington, worked from 7 p.m. to midnight to help students brainstorm, outline, revise, and polish their academic assignments, personal statements, and cover letters.

When I walked into the interview room, I was prepared for every question about my tutoring philosophy (bonus points for using language like “non-directive tutoring” and “peer to peer pedagogy” to echo CLUE’s mission statement) and examples when I worked on effective teams (I could pull from my experience as an editor and resident adviser). I remember walking into the interview room and bringing all of myself to the table, and the most surprising question was the following:

How do you practice self-care?

I remember blinking in surprise at Adiam, the interim CLUE director at the time, and the current tutors in the room. Wait, what about the questions about my favorite resume experience? Or my prior work as a tutor? At the time, I was surprised to see that my future supervisor and coworkers cared about my mental health. This was indicative of CLUE’s larger desire to care for its tutors as people, and I didn’t realize that the people I work with, and the values of the organization, are just as significant as the job title itself.

Up until this point, I’ve worked with nothing but amazing people. At CLUE, all of the other tutors were available to debrief tough sessions or discuss how we approach a brainstorming session for courses we had never taken. I absolutely loved this culture of frequent collaboration and communication, and it made me a better tutor because I got to pick each other’s brains and unpack some of the emotional labor that comes with supporting people in the writing process. And now, I get to work with amazing coworkers at Microsoft who want to see me thrive and validate my identity as a storyteller

People want to hear your perspective, so put it out into the world / speak that ish into existence. Tell people that their words and stories matter because if you don’t they might not believe it. I realized this after having a conversation with a new employee in our organization. We talked about how there’s always someone out there who will resonate with your story, but you have to share your story for people to read.

My writing is the most authentic or vulnerable thing I can share with others – and I’m so lucky that my tribe has been receptive to it. It’s taken a lot of courage to write these things into existence, the fact that I can feel like so much of an outsider and right at home in the exact same place – it all depends on a deliberate choice to believe in my own abilities and be validated in these choices.

Today, at a women intern signature event, I heard from 4 amazing women executives, each with their own quirks and unique stories to tell. There were all beautiful and powerful and resilient, and it reminded me that I could become a leader like that one day – maybe I’ll sit in front of a room and inspire a roomful of game-changing women in tech who fight to feel valid and produce meaningful work. And talking with other women in the room reminded me that being thoughtful and reflective shouldn’t occur in isolation – it should be in conversation with everyone else. So cheers to all the friends and coworkers and strangers who are responding to my writing and sharing a little piece of themselves in the process.

Even though I do feel empowered, I’m scared that I don’t do enough. I don’t want to do the bare minimum, but I can’t accurately gauge if I’m picking up enough responsibilities or helping my coworkers do their jobs better. I can’t tell if I’m actually as bad as I think, or of I’m recognizing genuine opportunities to bridge my tactical and desired goals.

I don’t know how to be great yet – but I’m still trying.

Recently, I lost an important person in my life. They were the one who taught me how to value myself and that I deserved opportunities like this internship. And now that they’re gone, I needed to learn how to tell myself these stories. I’m trying to see myself as inherently valid and someone who’s worth investing in. Maybe losing them was a reminder that I can be resilient / powerful / strong all on my own, and the most anyone else can do is compliment. So don’t be with someone who’s selfish because they just might take all the pieces of you with them if they leave, but maybe that was happening the whole time. I’ve realized that I can be wrong about people, and that’s okay.  I just can’t believe that the person who taught me to value myself and how significant I am to my friends is the one who dropped me with such ease.

Everything will always be right in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end. I gave my intern presentation today and I think it went well, but I was mostly amazed by people’s intentionality throughout their process and those hi-fi prototypes have me incredibly excited for my upcoming HCDE coursework. I’m thankful for Rupi Kaur’s new book (slated to be released on October 3!), friends who let me come over to their place and cry and laugh and debrief, leather skirts and velvet crop tops, and computers covered in stickers that make me smile.

Keep your head up because you’re a dope Microsoft employee with an ever-expanding resume that includes content publishing, journalism, and your new gig as a course assistant. You’re presenting in an engaging and fun way even though your slide deck template hasn’t changed since third grade – and you will do better / learn to be great / meet people worth trusting. How lucky am I to have mentors who care about enough to create a safe space for me overcome one of my greatest fears of giving presentations.

 

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