D is for dominant, for damn good.

Summer

What do you get when you give an 18 year old the same internship as a group of 21 year olds?

This is already a risky blog post to write, considering my fellow interns are familiar with my writing (I am hoping they haven’t found my blog yet). In addition to that, it’s hard to find the threshold in writing about your personal life when you know that there are people willing to read about it, but while you also know that you could get into trouble for saying too much.

I have to be careful.

I have a wonderful opportunity this summer to work in Chicago in a very tall building on the topmost floors for a really cool company whose efforts have been significant to the world of marketing. Not many freshmen are granted with an opportunity as cool as mine (given that hard work is a part of it), and furthermore there aren’t many freshmen who cop the same internship I have.

I work with people who are upcoming juniors and seniors in college. Apparently a small age difference of 2-3 years is a big deal when a girl who just finished her freshman year got an internship at the same place you did.

All sarcasm aside, I feel very embarrassed of my position right now. I know, I know, it is something to be proud of. People tell me all the time, “It’s good you’re starting early!” or “Wow, you must be smart!” when I tell them what I am doing this summer but that’s not the point. I just know what I want, I guess. Or at least what I need to do.

I was initially very confident in my ability to succeed in this internship. I knew the basics: Ask for feedback, always say yes, take on a challenge, network, etc. Unfortunately, I got into practicing these basics later than my fellow interns. I started three weeks later than everyone else. I missed the get-togethers and workshops that were planned in order for the interns to get to know each other because I was busy finishing up my final exams during my third and final term at school, because I had signed up to mentor upcoming freshman during a summer orientation day (which was the following week), and also because I knew I’d have a breakdown if I went straight to working as soon as I finished those finals.

I am used to talking to people a lot. I like to learn about people’s lives and what they like and dislike and what they hope to accomplish in their lives. I think it’s cool, and I love reciprocating that information, too. On the first day of work, though, it felt as if someone else had possessed my body and caused me to act like the complete opposite of myself. I didn’t introduce myself first. In fact, I waited ten minutes until one of the other interns introduced himself. I was quiet and reserved, and I tensed up when one of my fellow interns said something, because my immediate thought was, “You’re not a part of that conversation.” You’d think that a girl who got an internship right after her freshman year would have better social skills at work.

We had to take personality tests during this one intern event. If my age wasn’t a factor that cut me off from everyone else, my personality according to this test certainly was. I got the “Dominant” personality type (which only one other person out of like, 15 people got – and he claimed that he wasn’t anything like the description). As the description was being read out to the group, people looked at each other and chuckled and murmured how negative the description sounded. I kept my head down.

The next day, another conversation sparked within the intern group I sit with at work.

“Guys, what if our life here at work was like, a play or something?”

“Haha that would be so funny. We’d need a protagonist!”

“That would be you! You’d be the main character!”

“What about a villain?”

This voice lowered. “I mean, it’s pretty obvious who the antagonist would be.”

The three of them chuckled.

“I mean, D for dominant, right?”

I started crying at my desk. I thought about my uncle for a second and told myself that he’d be disappointed that I was crying at my desk, especially because of some dumb comment my fellow interns made about me. He’d tell me to brush it off. Mainly, I thought about my uncle because he started off young like me in a similar company, but now he’s older and he’s one of the main leaders for that very same company. An international student from India, holding a degree from a state school rather than an elite college, he’s successful but also very different amongst his peers. Did he ever cry?

I told myself I was being sensitive. People had said worse things to me and about me and I had succeeded in not crying and claiming indifference during all of those times. What was stopping me from being that way in this situation?

Still, I went to the bathroom to finish my crying session. I stood in the stall and sobbed, dabbing at my tears so I wouldn’t smudge my makeup.

I stopped crying eventually and went back to my desk red-eyed, the mascara on my lashes damp with tears I avoided wiping away.

It hurt to be singled out, especially for a reasons as inadvertent as my personality and age. But, as we all secretly know, being different has its perks. Everyone knows that the person that is “different” is usually the underdog, the hero of the story. I am rooting for myself.

I got the same internship as these rising seniors, but I got it as a rising sophomore. I say this to myself not with a tone of arrogance, but of confidence.

What do you get when you give an 18 year old the same internship as a group of 21 year olds?

The same quality of work (if not better).


Photo from weheartit.com

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