It started with the interview. The first thing everyone learns to do when preparing for one is to dress up. I find the office, park, take a breath, straighten myself out, and walk (what I hoped seemed) confidently to the entrance. I pause. Should I knock? After a few moments of deliberation I decide to open the door. What do I see? A large open space occupied by a single long table in the back with some spinny chairs, my favorite kind of chair. I see Patrick. “Hi Melissa just give me one sec.”
As I wait I take in the rest of the office. I can safely say I’ve never seen one quite like it. Shirts hanging from the ceiling, chalk boards, a chalk board wall, posters and notes by children, awards…Patrick pulls up two spinny chairs (to my delight) in the middle of the room and we sit down. In the middle of a room. No table, no clipboard. Just me spinning around in my chair across from my (hopefully) future employer.
“Sorry I’m so dressed up, I have a meeting later,” He explains. I blink. I look down at what I’m wearing—the most professional-looking outfit I could muster in an attempt to follow Rule #1 of interviews. And my potential future employer is apologizing for wearing a suit? Not what I expected.
Patrick and I talk about writing, a hobby I admit I enjoy. Okay I love. He explains he likes each intern to have his/her own unique job tailored to his/her interests. In other words, over the summer I get to actually do things connected to what I hope to do in the future. Wow. No coffee runs, no busy work. But rather a joint effort where I am able to help in any way possible doing what I am best at while continuing to improve my skills. Writing it is. I leave the interview thinking 1) Well I know I’ll have at least one thing to do over the summer and 2) I hope I know what I’m doing.
My First Day: “Has anyone seen the giant worm?” one of the interns whose name I had already forgotten asks the others. I’m following her, whose name I relearned to be Lizzy, like a lost puppy while (attempting) to help her gather supplies for tomorrow’s lesson. After seeing her check on the bin filled with live worms I’m feeling a bit uneasy. I turn to another of my co-workers whose name I had also promptly forgotten. “Um, it’s not a real worm right?” The answer was no and I was able to witness a repainting of the aforementioned creature which was handcrafted by the staff, like everything else they use.
Soon Patrick beckons me into another room with a high table and computer. He opens up his laptop. “Your dad told me you used to find mistakes in newspapers.” “I still do” I quip. “Great! Here’s a grant. Look it over and make some edits. It shouldn’t take you more than an hour.” He emails me the document and walks away. I stand frozen for a moment. Wait what? He trusts me to look and edit a grant? I’ve never seen a grant in my life! Where do I start? Okay…
An hour later: I find myself with Patrick by my side and Lauren on the phone, all three of us looking at the edits I made. I’m shifting nervously in my chair ready for them to rip it apart and decide I don’t know what I’m doing. “I really like your edits” Lauren begins. Wait really? I was prepared to go through each change and admit they’re all unnecessary! Instead we go through the grant looking at my edits one by one. They make comments and ask questions, acting as though…they trust my decisions? Like I’m almost an adult and close to an equal? Like they respect my ideas? Not what I expected on my first day. And it’s only gone up from there.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve simply stared and listened as Lauren and Patrick speak about their lifestyle and their work, in complete awe of the sacrifices they’ve made and feeling their passion begin to rub off on me. The atmosphere in the office is relaxed and casual, while still efficient, a balance difficult to attain. Music is always playing softly in the background as everyone works. The staff is friendly, funny, and incredibly knowledgeable. I admit I was hesitant to join the team, afraid I was going to have to actually know math and science. Thankfully, I am able to remain with my friends the word document and iMovie instead.
I have been learning facts about the environment though, mainly from elementary schools. Yes, the CiS 3rd graders know more about the environment than I do. I look forward to the days I spend in the office. I can be creative, I can collaborate, I can feel like I’m actually doing something important and meaningful. This tiny organization founded by two people in love who wanted to make a difference has not only impacted thousands of children, but also, I’m happy to say, me.