Taking an internship in New York City for the summer is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. As a professional homebody, as well as someone who suffers from debilitating anxiety, the experience so far has been a roller coaster.
The internship itself is a graphic design position with Seventeen Magazine, which in itself is daunting but amazing. Going to CSU, people sometimes treat me as though my education isn’t good enough to “make it.” This internship has proven to me, as well as others, that you don’t have to go to a big expensive school to make opportunities for yourself. When I got the call extending me the position, I was elated and proud that I had proven that theory.
So there I was three months ago, with an offer to intern at a high profile magazine in NYC, unpaid of course, but for school credit. With an amazing offer up for grabs and a room available to me at my friend’s apartment, the fates seemed to have aligned, and I knew I would have deep regrets if I didn’t at least give the summer a try. As time got closer, I began to worry more and more about my anxiety, the racing pulse, the nausea, having no appetite, sensitivity to light and sound, the overall sense of impending doom and hopelessness. My triggers involve anything out of my comfort zone, such as flying to a totally different city I’d never even visited and leaving my friends, family, pets, and boyfriend in Ohio. But I went through with it, because I needed to see if I could make myself overcome my fears and enjoy life experiences without worry for once.
This determination dissolved as soon as my parents and I shared our tearful goodbyes. They drove all but 15 minutes away before I called my mom sobbing and begging for them to come get me. “I’ve made a huge mistake. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t want this.” I kept thinking that over and over, and no attempts at breathing exercises were helping. The only thing that did help? My parents. They stayed on the phone with me for over an hour calming me down. My dad suggested we take it a week at a time, and that he didn’t care how much money they had spent to help me have this opportunity, that if I really hated it after a week he’d come and get me. I reluctantly agreed to give it the week, see it through at least long enough to start my internship and find out if I even liked it at Seventeen. In the mean time my family and boyfriend talked on the phone and FaceTimed me multiple times a day. My mom sent me pet photos, my little brother even put down his Xbox to call and see how it was going. I’m confident these people are the only reason I was able to stick out that first week. I felt nauseous, lonely, and sad the whole weekend.
But my dad made an excellent point, I am a creature of comfort and habit and so I should create my own habits and rituals in New York to give myself some purpose and security. Each day with this plan made me feel a little more comfortable, and eventually I began to gain some confidence and explore the city on my own. We made our tiny apartment a safe haven for when the city became too much. And if I ever need distraction, binge watching Gossip Girl has been my go to. Once I started my internship, I began to feel even better. While I only work Tuesdays and Thursdays, it reminded me that I’m here for a purpose. I have a goal, and I will get experience and credit out of this summer. I’m being a productive “adult.”
I still have bouts of anxiety, but my medication and support system has helped tremendously. Journaling, breathing exercises, and understanding the problems and triggers has really afforded me the opportunity to try and work past them. When it’s too much, and I really can’t handle the crowds and atmosphere of the city, I can just stay in and have a girl’s night with my roommate/friend. She’s figuring out her new “adult” life too, and it helps that we can figure it out together sometimes. Her concern and support has been another pillar in my summer thus far.
Now, to answer some lightning round questions about my internship. I got the internship by applying via email, having a phone interview, and making a mock cover of Seventeen as a design test. I applied many other places in NYC to try and get two internships, but that still hasn’t happened yet. As an intern I do some grunt work like printing and trimming spreads, running out for supplies, and updating “the wall” and “the book: with the latest ideas. But I also get to do fun stuff, like learn how to use a server with a professional company, to layout and create spreads, to sit in on design meetings and take notes on how situations are handled, and do research for art and inspiration. It’s a different kind of design from “true” graphic design, but I’m glad I’m here learning things I wouldn’t in class. Everyone keep their eyes peeled for the September issue, I’m working on it!
Although it’s still early in summer, I feel more comfortable in the city. I’m currently on a plane home to visit, and I hope it doesn’t make me start all over and miss home so severely again. But I really wanted to make sure I was home to celebrate father’s day with the best and most supportive dad in the world. My parents are my main support line. They’d do anything for me, and I’m overwhelmed with how much love and sacrifice they’re willing to make for their kids. My advice to anyone with debilitating anxiety like me is to create a support system. Be open and honest about your feelings and limits, don’t be ashamed and try to bottle them up. The Internet will tell you that breathing exercises are the only solution you need, but it’s ineffective if you don’t have a support team, some sort of therapy (i.e. journaling, seeing a professional, attending mediation), and possibly medication depending on your circumstances. I hope I continue to be ok this summer; I’d really love to see this through and make both my parents and myself proud.