First days are never easy when your name is spelled like N-I-A-M-H but pronounced like
N-E-E-V-E. It’s just a fact. First days are synonymous to agonizingly long minutes spent correcting the pronunciation of my name, only for it to eventually be ignored in favor of “Nim” or “Neem”
Ever since I was a kid, first days at anything- school, camp, volunteering, clubs- were torture. I was very shy. I hated having to speak up at all, let alone to correct people (usually adults). While growing up and being at college has helped me with my shyness and fear of public speaking, it hasn’t helped much with my dislike of first days.
Which brings me to my first day, and my first internship. I’ve just started my senior year as an Advertising Art Direction and Film dual major at Temple, and my graduation date (and push into the ‘real world’) looms closer and closer. I need this internship, not just for class credit, but for peace of mind. To reassure me that I’m doing the right thing, I majored in the right thing, and I can do this for the rest of my life (maybe).
All of this is running through my head in the elevator up to MANNA- the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance. MANNA is a non profit that prepares, cooks, and delivers nutritionally balanced and medically tailored meals to people with life-threatening illnesses (such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and renal disease) in the Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey areas. I’m currently ten weeks into my time as their media and communications intern, and I’m absolutely loving it. I’ve been really involved in the marketing side of their huge, annual Pie in the Sky fundraiser, which raises money to support MANNA’s operations and to provide Thanksgiving meals for their clients through pie sales. (Buy a Pie, Feed a Family!) I’ve also been involved with the development of their new website, which is something I didn’t expect, as I don’t consider myself a web designer, but I’m actually enjoying. But at that moment, in that elevator, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know anything. I just knew that I was absolutely terrified.
I didn’t know what to expect, going in to this internship. I knew a little bit about MANNA, I knew that I really liked what they do, and that the idea of being able to be a part of something so positively impactful to the community made me excited. But I didn’t know what work I would have to do, or what level of skill they really, truly needed. (Part of me was a little afraid that I’d complete my first project as an intern and they’d realize I wasn’t good enough.) And I was letting all of these fears- of failing, of not being good enough, and the pressure to do well, to be reaffirmed in my decision to go into advertising- get too in the way of letting me enjoy my work.
I soon realized that I didn’t have to worry; they were as happy to have me there as I was to be there. Every day was (and is) something new, from infographics, charts, and diagrams, to menus, e-vites and hand-drawn chalkboard signs. I’ve spent days at a desk, yes, but I’ve also spent days volunteering in the kitchen, or packaging up marketing collateral to send to PR companies. I’ve noticed that being a good intern isn’t always about doing brilliant, life-altering design work. It’s about being present, being active, and being involved.
I can’t say that there’s not still a little bit of fear. There are days where a project comes my way that I feel wholly incapable of. I recently just finished up some social media graphics that required a lot of Photoshopping, a program I do not consider a strength of mine at all. But I’ve figured out that I’m not actually incapable of doing things, I’m just so afraid of doing something wrong I’m choosing to do nothing instead of trying. Through this internship, through meeting people who smile and laugh through chronic illness and who wake up every day with the desire to keep going, I’ve learned how to try things. And not in a  “well, I gave it a shot!” sense, but in the way that I’m taking everything I know and I’m really concentrating on doing the best I can instead of on where I can go wrong. And I’ve found that while this doesn’t help me with being afraid of new things, it does help me do them anyway.
I wish I could let the terrified, internship-day-one Niamh know this, so I could have spent more time truly enjoying the variety of work (and the excitement that brings) that MANNA offers me. This isn’t the coffee-running, copy-making internship of my nightmares. It’s been a great learning experience for me to better understand myself, my skills, and my interests, and now that I only have about five weeks left, I’m realizing I’m really going to miss it when it’s over.