When I thought about myself working outside of teaching, I imagined getting a job in an office where I’m the most junior in the team that’s only part of a larger department doing things like running a marketing campaign for instance. I pictured myself being the clueless person taking notes, following instructions given by senior staffs and doing the menial, humdrum work aka Sai Kang that no one wants to do. I thought I’d be sitting through the whole process and learning from people who have done it a thousand times over and know what they’re doing. I think a part of me still thinks I’m in school. 😅 Now that I’ve put my thoughts into words, it sounds totally uninspiring. That’s of course not what I expect of myself. It’s just how much I believe in starting from the beginning.
The truth is, I didn’t even get a job. I got an internship. My internship could not have possibly been more different than my imagination. They are literally polar opposites. First of all, I jumped into a startup, not some large company with dozens of departments that I can be a small part of. Secondly, most of the time my team consists of 2 other people who also run their own one man team for probably every other aspect of the business. Thirdly, there isn’t a process that I can copy off or follow. Finally, add that to the fact that I’m completely inexperienced at my job, and all I have to rely on is what my boss calls common sense, I find my current situation quite hilarious, really.
Common sense isn’t actually common. I came to that conclusion a long time ago. What’s common sense to someone may not be to the other, not because that person is nonsensical, but it’s really basically just different perspectives, focus and priorities.
So I threw myself into this, willingly of course, and basically try to survive on common sense while acquiring the oh so coveted/demanded/sought after experience. Here’s basically what internship 101 is like for me.
1. I learn a lot, but I need to be three times faster.
The learning is exponential. For a long time, I’ve felt like I haven’t been using much of my brains. It’s like throughout school my brain was bombarded with knowledge and philosophies to think about then when I started teaching: radio silence. (Not that I didn’t need to think when I was teaching, but because it got more routine and the learning curve eased out) Suddenly, that part of my brain got reactivated and used intensely. Whoa, I knew I missed it, but I didn’t know I missed it that much. Learning is so much fun. I feel like a nerd, in a very good way.
2. I feel very lost, but I wish I wasn’t.
I feel lost all the time. I don’t even know where to get my bearings. All those times in the outdoor education department doing orienteering can’t help me (sorry Mr R). More than half the time I’m not sure if what I’m doing is right. I’m just feeling my way around in the dark, equipped with Google as my light source. You know what’s the best part? Google gives advice. And advice comes in the form of theories from everyone and everywhere, but nothing actually concrete that says okay, step one do this, so I have to make my own assumption. I can’t think of anything worse than to sabotage the company with my misjudgment.
Which makes me wonder, if everything is mapped out for our kids in school, how will they survive a future that’s so vague? Can they deal with being so lost? Have we provided them with the tools to find their bearing and work their way out? I mean the jobs of the future don’t yet exist. Why are we teaching as if we already know what they are? My teacher brain is still on, I don’t think there’s a switch to turn it off.
3. Self-doubt is now my constant companion.
I don’t trust myself. Every time I do something I wonder if I’m doing it right. Sure, there’s no actual right or wrong. But to screw something up for a startup is to screw people’s dream – one that those people worked their butts off building. There’s no cushion to fall back on in this market. Large corporations have the luxury of the getting the performing department to cover for the screwed up one. Small startups, it could be a death sentence. I feel so small, yet so big at the same time. I can’t afford to screw people over. Which is why it still surprises me that they agreed to let me try things out anyway.
4. I reflect a lot but don’t have enough the time to complete my reflective thoughts.
Maybe I enjoy history so much because I’m a hindsight kind of person. I believe that hindsight builds better foresight. So I’m generally reflective. This amplified after I started interning. I’m not sure if I should be spending so much time rethinking my every decision I made or the lack thereof (refer to self-doubt) so I feel guilty wasting time and stop in the middle of it. It’s been happening so often.
5. There isn’t enough time in a day.
I still sleep an average of 3 to 4 hours daily. Which I suppose teachers are used to. I’m still busy way into the night, and surprisingly, I still don’t have enough time. If you’re wondering, here’s what it’s like. After work, I arrive home around 2030 because it’s about an hour away and I have to get dinner. I have dinner, shower, turn on my laptop continue what I couldn’t finish (because I’m twice as slow) then I watch a lecture/listen to a podcast, zone out, read a chapter of a prescribed book, plan out my schedule for tomorrow, pack my bag – yes I still practice what I preach, then go to bed. By then, it’s about 2/3 am. And sometimes I can’t sleep because my brain keeps going. I think I got excited by what I learnt. So I start typing a blog post on my phone.
6. My future is still uncertain.
I guess getting an internship isn’t quite the same as getting a job. I don’t know whether I’d do well enough to get an actual job. If I do, great! But is this what I want? If I don’t, great – not so! But did I manage to learn something and add it to my CV? So everything is still a grand question of what am I doing with where I’m going in life. I’m still standing in the vast unknown.
7. I get tempted to quit.
I know. I must be kidding. But there are days where I hit a brick wall and beat myself up for not being faster, not being able, not knowing enough, not doing more. I was once told that I should lower my expectations of myself. But I still stubbornly refuse to. Why should I expect anything less of myself? I should be able to do this!
So I guess that’s why I sometimes think about quitting and want to crawl back into my comfort zone. It’s because I feel defeated. It’s like being right-handed, but writing with your left hand. I feel stupidly elementary.
But there’s this quote that keeps me going.
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
– The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
Side note: I love this guy. When I read that book, I told myself I would visit his grave someday to tell him how awesome he is and to thank him for leaving his words of wisdom behind. I’m a little creepy like that, but I’m grateful beyond words.
8. I wake up excited.
I can get very very excited when I wake up and I can zoom around like a hyperactive monkey. I don’t drag my feet and dread working. I’d say that’s a win. I like going to work. I like doing what I do. I may feel insecure and scared, but I get a kick out of it. It’s quite disturbing. 😅
This is how it is like, at least for now. My first ever internship at the ripe old age of I’m-not-going-to-tell. So far, so good.
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you wake up excited about something too. 😁