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Setbacks and victories in my internship (thus far)

You might be thinking that it’s too soon for an update from my last blog post here. Perhaps you have a point; it’s been only a week since I last posted on Tepper’s blog and started my internship with TurnUp Activism. But already, I’ve gathered some thoughts that I hope are worth sharing.

So what exactly am I doing?

I asked this question when I got the text saying “you’d be a good fit for our social media internship position.” Honestly, I applied to TurnUp on a whim. I was frantically finding something to do during the summer and my gap semester, and TurnUp’s application… turned up. Since the app has yet to launch, there was limited information that I had to work with. Ultimately, I thought the premise was interesting and I gathered there was no harm in applying. Soon enough, I hopped on board as a social media intern.

Currently, my tasks focus on scouting Twitter to find content that’s worth sharing and filming short clips. Episode 1 of TurnUp the News is on the platform’s official Instagram, in which I give a two-and-a-half-minute rundown on the news. This is only the first of (hopefully!) many more episodes, so I’m excited to see how this experience will help me grow. I’m also glad that I’ll get to learn from others and gain knowledge through their skills and expertise.

Some challenges and potential setbacks

One might think that talking to a camera gets less awkward over time, and it’s true to some extent. Publicly uploading videos would’ve been unfathomable a few years back, and the fear of producing content that falls short from perfect has been a major obstacle for me. This is a fear that I’m regularly challenging myself, particularly on my YouTube channel.

Filming for TurnUp the News raised the bar even higher for me. On my personal YouTube channel, I’m representing just myself and those close to me. However, I represent those same people and TurnUp by filming for TurnUp the News. I hadn’t felt so worried about sharing current events as I did when I hit the record button on my camera. I’m no stranger to publicly stating my opinion or conversing about current events, but it feels different when I’m crafting an opinion piece while constantly fact-checking myself. It’s a little harder to drop links to sources and carefully choosing my words while somehow acting “natural” (whatever that means).

The two and a half minutes that are on the Internet do not show the exasperated grumbles or the number of times I stumbled on my words. I knew that I would need patience and twice as much footage as I would like to imagine I would need. Still, it’s harder to conceptualize what the process will feel like than it is to make a game plan for the process. I’m taking the constructive criticism that I got from the team to improve for the next episode.

The seemingly inevitable comparison game

Should” is a powerful word. It can help us make a game plan to reach our goals or give us a general sense of direction. But “should” can take a sinister turn when it’s treated as a parameter where anything that lies outside it is wrong. And this can be especially true to other young adults.

I’ve noticed this more throughout college. Many of us got to Carnegie Mellon because we did everything we “should”: racked up good grades, performed well on standardized exams, and filled our résumés with extracurricular activities along the way. We then surround ourselves with other brilliant and dedicated students who do everything that they “should”: excel in the classroom, enjoy the ideal “college experience”, and earn prestigious internships between academic years.

I don’t doubt some manage to strike this balance. However, falling outside this ideal often leaves me feeling inadequate and incompetent. I would begin each semester with the intent of catapulting myself to success, but things wouldn’t go as planned, and — oh look, I didn’t get a prestigious summer internship. Back to my previous life of beating myself up, wondering what’s wrong with me, and further feeling guilty for lacking willpower.

These thoughts heightened last summer. What would I possibly do in the summer before my senior year if I wasn’t anything short of being some risk analyst at an international bank? I frantically settled for selling insurance before health circumstances finally pushed me to come home. The pressure of finding a job after college and deciding on a career path soon followed, and I grew even more anxious. I wanted to be happy and celebrate my friends’ hard work pay off. I truly was happy for them, but I couldn’t help but feel a pit in my stomach: why can’t I be more like them, and why can’t I just be happy for them?

This is still a thinking trap that I fall into, but it’s one that I can usually climb out of easier. Over time, I’ve learned to shift my thoughts that begin with “should” with “could”. Sure, perhaps I “should” have done something, but wouldn’t it be more productive if I thought about what I could do? To acknowledge what’s true and work from there?

Moving forward

Internships go beyond the obvious of filling space on a résumé or the potential for letter recommendations. From my summers working in political campaigning, selling insurance, researching in academia — and now social media marketing — I’ve learned more about my strengths and interests. I needed both the highs and lows to better understand myself and where I might be able to thrive post-graduation. Doing door-to-door sales wasn’t exactly the peak of my life, but the experience gave me a better understanding of the world of sales and allowed me the chance to practice verbal communication. Will I ever do door-to-door sales again? Hopefully not. Even though I ultimately left, I am thankful that I got to see firsthand what a day in the life of a salesperson is like and gain that experience.

One of the most constructive things I learned in intensive outpatient last fall was to see “failures” or setbacks as data that I can use for the future. Does it feel great to not perform well in a task as you hoped, or to find that a certain occupation and you go together like nails on a chalkboard? Of course not. But these experiences give you data that can help you create more informed decisions in the future. An internship should be the opportunity to gain a new appreciation for different industries and your special talents. Reducing it to a few lines on a résumé or a badge of prestige is myopic at best.

I’m definitely looking forward to continuing my internship, and I’m curious to see where TurnUp goes from here. However, there’s work that can be done until it officially launches. The app is still seeking 100,000 initial users, and we are coming closer to that goal every day. The nonprofit’s IGTV won’t be a one-woman show for much longer, and I’m ecstatic to see how the series develops over time. I’m also going to further dive into TikTok (am I officially a Gen-Z kid now?), so that should be an interesting expedition. I was a little uncomfortable taking on these tasks, but a large part of me told me to expand my skills beyond written communication. If someone don’t give themselves the grace to make mistakes while learning something new now, how will they ever know for certain all that they can contribute to this world?