If you’ve been with me for a little while then you probably remember The Great Summer Internship Search of 2013. It was full of frustration and…well, mostly frustration as my resumes went into some vast void where, as far as I know, they’re still sitting. But FINALLY something panned out. I was a little bit secretive just in case there were any lurking weirdos, but now the internship is over and any lurking weirdos will have to stalk me the old-fashioned way (I don’t know what that means either). I thought I’d give you guys the lowdown on my 3 months as an intern.
To start off, the job was at Loaves & Fishes, a food pantry serving Du Page County, Illinois. This is one of the wealthiest counties, not just in Illinois, but in the United States. It sounds a like a place that wouldn’t have a use for a food pantry, but 3.6% of the population live below the poverty line, that’s over 30,000 people. That’s not including the people who may be teetering on the edge or who are suddenly on hard times and need help temporarily. But Loaves & Fishes provides more then just food. They have English as a Second Language classes, resume writing assistance and many other empowerment programs to help people get back in the black (that’s the good one, right?).
I guess I was expecting the actual pantry to be something like the DMV, but with food. It’s nothing like that. It’s bright and full of smiling faces who actually want to help you. I’ve seriously never been anywhere where the people were so consistently helpful and nice and weren’t trying to sell or convert you to something. Really, every single person. At my last job, if you said, “Good morning!”, people would glare at you and say, “What the hell is her problem?” So you can see why an entire facility of nice people would be a bit shocking. To illustrate just how nice they all were, the day I tucked my dress into my panties, someone actually told me about it before I left the restroom and didn’t even gossip about it!
Anyway, the first graphic design related lesson I learned was- I knew nothing. I mean, I know design principles and have a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, but working in a professional environment is so different from school. At school our teachers are pretty much like, “Do what you feel!!!” At a job it’s more like, “Here’s the colors, here’s the graphics, here’s the fonts. Make something out of them.” Of course, that’s overly simplified, but you get the idea. I did get to create the artwork for their Halloween fundraising campaign and that came out super awesome. I’ll share it with you guys once it goes live on their site.
One of my ongoing projects was to ask the clients to write down the story about what brought them to Loaves & Fishes. I am not good with chitchat and I’m horrible at talking to people I don’t know, so this was not the easiest thing for me. But it needed to get done, so I did it. I met professors, librarians, carpenters, students, bankers, caregivers and people from all walks of life, all races, all ages and all religions and by the second person I spoke to, I was crying and hugging her. You absolutely cannot know someone’s circumstances just by looking at them. Sometimes I’d go out there to collect stories and only get one or two because one person would keep me there for 15 minutes. They just needed someone to talk to. One thing I heard over and over again was, “I didn’t want to come here. I tried so hard to not need help.”
This is an amazing place from the top down. Everyone there embodies the saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” They care so much about every person who walks in the door and genuinely are making a difference in people’s lives. There were very little to any egos involved and such a spirit of cooperation. I would talk about people and my husband would ask, “What do they do?” I would say, “Um…I don’t really know what anyone other then my boss does.” I’m sure someone explained it to me once and I know they all had job descriptions and responsibilities, but everyone was always helping everyone else that it was a little hard to follow who did what. It was so unlike any work situation I’ve ever been in before.
Initially I kind of felt like a failure because I didn’t get a big agency internship, but- like every step in this journey- this where I was supposed to be. Maybe someday I’ll actually learn to relax and trust the process. The most important things I learned weren’t really design related at all. On my last day they gave me some very nice gifts (including cream cheese frosting with some gluten free cake underneath it!) and there were big hugs and teary eyes. I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity to be part of their world for a little while.
Next week, I’ll be back with a new paper cutting post!