’Tis the season to apply for summer internships and panic because so is everyone else and how can I really impress this recruiter using only my brief handshake and why are we all carrying around leather rectangles to look professional and also I hate the person I sound like in cover letters…
Once upon a time, the other day, mid-application to yet another summer internship, I had a horrifying realization. I didn’t really want to intern there. Like ever. Yet, I was going through the motions of listing my extracurricular activities and awards to impress a person I’d never met and hope they think I’m qualified to do something, anything. Not only did I not actually want to work there, I couldn’t remember why I ever thought that I did. I know that your first job will probably not be your dream job. That sometimes you have to put in years and years of hard work at the bottom to make it to the top. But you should only do that if that is the top you want to make it to.
In college, you hear a lot of voices. Advising, warning, helping, yelling voices that for the most part, just want the best for you. But in the process, you can start to forget what your own voice sounds like. It can become impossible to differentiate all the voices telling you what you should do, from your own tired voice whispering what you want to do. It’s just too loud out here.
It’s important to remember that everyone else’s dreams for you might not be the same as your own dreams for you. And you might need to swim against the current or get out of the stream entirely to get to where you’re trying to go. And sometimes you might not know where you’re trying to go. There’s a long list of options they hand you at the beginning of college but those are not the limits for what life can be. So if you don’t want to be an accountant or a doctor or a dental hygienist, the good news about democracy is that you don’t have to be. There are a lot of careers that aren’t labeled by a noun or a halloween costume.
Listen to your own voice. Go somewhere quiet so you can hear it like a coffee shop or your bed or the middle of the woods. Write down what it says and do that thing, not the other things. I think I sound like Grandmother Willow or something when I say this but the answers are inside you. Fo real. So listen up, listen hard, block out the background noise. Take advice but not too seriously. Listen to their words of wisdom but listen to your heartbeat more. Make your own sound.