I’m sad to say this is my last hello. I will be transitioning out of the BPP as the semester comes to a close. I’ve made a list of everything I’ve learned from all of you in hopes that you can relate to it and take something away from it too:
- Slow down and pay attention to detail: I’ve always said the small things are the big things. Without the little stuff, you don’t have the big stuff. Like for example, the final reading event and the 80-page anthology were the “big” parts. Within that were a hundred smaller parts, like the participants, the submissions, planning, etc., that are all just as important as the outcome. I’ve learned that I am never going to be perfect (still working on accepting my faults) and I just need to take one thing at a time, to the best of my ability. This goes for everything in life. Corny analogy time: Stop and smell the roses because the scent is as important as the rose itself.
- Connect with people: Reach out to the people you meet. Working with the community, I learned that people aren’t going to trust you unless you give them a reason to. While co-instructing teen workshops with Heather D., I remembered my own time in high school. I remember that though I was friendly, I was closed off. I have learned how to make people feel comfortable and between my background with student journalism and this internship, I think I have learned how to engage people by relating to them to provoke a deeper conversation. Making a connection with others and allowing yourself to be connected go hand-in-hand. If you can’t open up, neither will they.
- Accept help: I got over my head a few times this semester. Abby sat me down and made a list of everything I had going on and helped me organize. Heather D. had a three-hour conversation about life with me in a Dunkin Donuts. Initially, accepting help makes me feel defeated. I understand someone trying to help me as someone saying “you’re not doing well enough so I’m intervening to tell you why.” I do not feel that people who ask for help are weak, but that is how I think I am perceived by people trying to help me. I am the only thing I truly own. I am the only thing I have power over. I am sensitive to any intrusion of me, even if it’ll actually improve me in the long run. Heather and Abby have both helped me better myself and I have walked away from conversations with them feeling relieved. They have handled me gently. I have realized that I am not a superhero. I will fall, but I will rise too.
- Keep writing: Cherish the good and the bad writing. You need both. The bad writing will motivate you to do better and provide a bank of underdeveloped ideas. It’s all a process. The more you write, the more you’ll grow. And remember, it does NOT need to be perfect! As I said in my blog entry “Excerpts of a Kitchen Notebook,” what you have to say is so much more important than grammatical correctness or flowery language. Everyone has the ability to be a great writer, and the meaning of “great” is entirely subjective. Being in college, academia has a lot of standards to define good and bad writing. Those standards are garbage. You decide what good writing is and you decide what bad writing is! Is MLA format, proper citations, and dismissing contractions important? Yes, it’s a system I have to follow. But that doesn’t mean I can’t loathe it. That doesn’t mean it is allowed to dictate what I see as good writing.
- Work harder: Nothing comes easy and as grueling as life can be, you hit your peaks as you go and it’s rewarding. The challenge makes it rewarding. Embrace that challenge because one day, you’ll miss it. I know I will miss the BPP. Will it be nice to cut my obligations in half this summer? Yeah, sure. But I’ll get bored and I’ll feel dull. I am thankful for the nights I spend up writing, the multiple revisions of flyers, the 3,400 emails (that is no exaggeration) I have in my inbox, the memories of 15-minute walks in the snow in skirts and flats just to look professional for meetings and interviews, and the feeling of a coffee-burnt tongue and a well of anxiety in my stomach before an event. Most of life is just showing up. Make the effort and be thankful for it.
- Team work makes the dream work: In most situations, I work on an individual level. I would consider myself an introvert and a big advocate of killing off group work. For this internship, it was absolutely essential that I work closely with the other intern, Heather H. She became my lifeline. She was fun to work with and we had our share of laughs. We pulled the slack together and we had each other’s backs. Working with her as helped me see the benefits of having another person on your team.
- Channel your emotions: Get in touch with your feelings and don’t be afraid to write about them. Some of my best writing has come from a place I try to avoid entering. Those places inside you are a goldmine for ideas, and writing about those things brings such a release. Good writing is subjective, and for me, good writing is something that touches me. By channeling your emotions, you can write work that both you and other readers can take something away from. Since coming into this internship, I have used this blog to write very personally. My favorite part of this experience has been sharing my insides with you, the community.
- Get out of your comfort zone: My fear is public speaking. I have gotten so much better at this, just from having to do it. Co-instructing the teen workshop was far less nerve-racking than I anticipated. My lesson plan went smoothly, as did sharing my own poetry. I had written a poem about a napkin holder that I shared. When my mother moved out, she took a lot of the house with her. My father ripped up the carpets in the bedroom and burned the king-size bed frame. He slept on the wooden floor for about a month before we switched rooms, and every room of the house looked so empty. But of all the things she took, of all the things I had lost, it was this napkin holder. This wooden, painted piece of my childhood missing from the aged kitchen table. I wrote this poem from the napkin holder’s perspective. It watched me grow up, it watched my parents’ immense love for each other. It watched my father drink his coffee and feed the birds every morning. It watched as the family separated. And now, sitting on a new table in a waterfront apartment where it doesn’t belong, it watches nothing except sometimes the cries of my mother. I have never read a personal poem out loud. Never. And I don’t know how I mustered the courage and choked back the tears, but I read it in front of these teens. I didn’t feel vulnerable; I felt like I was building a bridge of trust. How can I expect them to read their personal poetry if they can’t see mine? Force yourself to do whatever it is you’re afraid of and just ask yourself: “What’s the worst that can happen? You’re not going to die.” (Telling myself I’m not going to die works a lot better than picturing people in their underwear.) I guarantee you can do all the things you think you cannot. Take a leap of faith.
Thank you to everyone who has allowed me to work with them. It has been a pleasure getting to know the community. I only hope that you learned from me even a fraction of what I have learned from all of you.
Working with Abby and Heather D. has been remarkable.
Abby has a great sense of humor. She has this way of taking something serious and putting a comical spin on it. I have noticed this from her poetry and the stories she tells. It’s a humor I haven’t encountered before but it speaks to her personality. Abby is a soft, giving person with a hard shell. She is tough, but she is gentle. I admire her strengths and her ability to be a leader, a boss, and a friend all in one. She is unapologetic, and being a woman, that can be so hard to achieve.
Heather D. is astonishing in that she can talk about her experiences and just in listening to her, I can understand her growth. She has said I remind her of herself when she was younger, and I can see it too. I think she has come from a place of making herself small, like me, but she has grown into this self-sufficient go-getter and that gives me so much hope for myself. Heather always, and I mean always, comes across as this pleasant, radiating ball of good energy.
Both Heather and Abby are thoughtful in their feedback to the community and their interns because they genuinely care about this organization and its participants. They are both an inspiration to me and have gone out of their way to help me. I’m going to really miss working with them.
There is a song by Kid Rock, “Born Free,” that reminds me of Abby and Heather. It goes, “If you can’t see my heart, you must be blind. You can knock me down and watch me bleed. But you can’t keep no chains on me. I was born free.” That is the best way I can describe the two of them.
If you don’t already know Heather and Abby, I only hope you will take the chance. Please check out the summer schedule of workshops to continue working with the BPP during the break. There is a chance I may be staying in Binghamton for the summer, so perhaps I will see some of you. But don’t worry, new interns will be coming your way next semester!
I will carry this experience with me forever. Don’t forget me, OK? I won’t forget any of you!
Spring 2015 Intern