Every experience is a lesson

By Melissa McCall

It is so easy to classify our experiences as either good or bad. The harder task, the task I consistently struggle to embrace, is finding the lessons hidden in all my experiences. My internship at New York Family magazine is no different.

I wish I had some wonderful story about my love of magazine writing or journalism that led me to New York Family magazine. No, rather my approach was far more clinical: I wanted to finish a program I had started.

I knew there would be no bells and whistles; no great, exciting features; not even a computer (I was encouraged to bring my own laptop). I also knew that my experience in the SOJ had been disappointing, yet with a few credits remaining, how could I quit?

My internship at New York Family magazine was about fulfilling a requirement, in the same way removing our shoes at airport security fulfills a requirement. In both instances, these requirements are necessary to achieving a goal of reaching a destination–irrespective of how we feel about the destination.

The internship itself was as functional as my decision to accept it. Many of the tasks I completed were necessary for the magazine to, well, function.

In many ways, it was quite fitting that I interned for a “family lifestyle” magazine. Parenting is full of mundane (and often thankless) tasks that simply must get done: cooking for picky children, chauffeuring them to endless activities, helping with (Common Core) homework, the list goes on. It was the same with my internship. Every week was the same: I came in two days a week and churned out a few tasks that, ultimately, were necessary for the magazine to function.

I updated the events calendar (and now I know all the cool places to take children in New York City); I wrote pithy pieces about museum openings and exhibition previews (who knew pigeons descended from dinosaurs?); I pitched small science-related pieces. Most importantly, for someone with absolutely nothing to lose (and quite ironically, nothing to gain), I didn’t quit.

Did my writing skills improve? Unlikely. Yet, there is something to be said for the discipline of writing (almost) every day of the week. Did I grow as a journalist? Not in any measurable way. And yet, I refuse to consider this a failure. I worked with smart, kind, generous people. My writing skills may not have improved, but my interpersonal skills certainly did. This was not a wasted experience.

I got to see how a print magazine functions in a new media reality. I experienced a new level of humility–what could be more humbling than squeezing yourself into a tiny space, one-fifth the size of your first office? I learned that, at my core, I am more a writer than a journalist, that I love writing far more than I will ever love a “big scoop” or a “good get”.

Before I started this internship, I wish I knew how greatly I value intellectual stimulation and challenge. I was frequently bored–which was no fault of my editors. Coming up with creative ways to describe a new “Mommy venture” or the new exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Art holds no intellectual appeal. Yet, these were tasks that had to be done and I hopefully discharged my duties with as much dedication and respect as if my piece were running in Time.

Shakespeare’s admonition in Hamlet rings true here–” This above all: to thine own self be true, and then it must follow as the day the night, thou canst not be false to any man.” (Hamlet Act I, Scene 3, 78-81).

So, to any SOJ student considering this (or really, any) internship in the future, I would advise to know yourself, know what it is you want and despite what you are told or advised, go for it anyway.

And if, for some reason, you don’t get what you really wanted, don’t be afraid to embrace a new, different experience. I promise there is still something of value waiting for you. Truly, every experience is a lesson.