August 6, 2012 by Drew Stelljes
Guest blogger: Adriana Green writes about her first day as an intern at the DC Central Kitchen. Adriana graduated from William & Mary in May 2012 and participated in the DC Summer Institute on Leadership in Community Engagement.
Some days the wind is blowing, the rain is falling and you’ve tripped up every broken escalator from Springfield to Gallery Place.
So much for a great first impression.
The start of Intern Orientation Week had me disheveled and attempting the impossible task of sneaking into DCCK (DC Central Kitchen).
I didn’t make it 30 seconds.
“Girl, why don’t you walk in the regular door and let everybody see you.”
I smiled, high-fived and shuffled into the break room, thus started orientation. Last week was filled with field trips. From a day organizing utensils and chopping kale at the nutrition lab, to visiting one of the only high school campus kitchens, to happy hour with the development team, we got to see so many DCCK nooks and crannies all the while being mildly disheveled.
Throughout the journeys I couldn’t help but remember our DCSI (DC Summer Institute) advice: “network, network, network”. And while it’s hard to pass out cards in an apron and a hair net, I did everything I could to remember names. One lesson I unintentionally learned is that you’re biggest obstacle may not be working with those above you, but with other interns.
Our group was wonderful, I met a young woman who is so much like my childhood best friend that I had to call and make sure she was okay because my fellow intern would make a wonderful case for reincarnation. I also had to realize that there are people in this world who are money driven, and as DCCK is one of the few organizations that offers stipends to their interns, not everyone is in it for the experience. I was put into an incredibly tough position when I saw a fellow intern stealing hand lotions that were meant to go into care packets for women who are suffering through homelessness each and every day. I’m still not sure how to handle what I witnessed, but it was a reality check I needed: it’s important to know why you, and those around you, are doing the work we’re doing because one of the biggest set-backs in the non-profit industry may not be the type of work, but some of the people involved in it.
So why am I involved in DCCK? Am I a positive addition to the organization? I’m still working on the first and the second I believe is, “yes.” I’m passionate about helping people, but I have no idea how to direct that passion. I’m slowly learning that while I love case management and social work, my skills may be underutilized and that’s a good realization. Two weeks ago I told my Mom, “I just can’t imagine sitting at a desk all day.” And believed it. In fact, two weeks ago, I looked down on those ‘desk-jockeys’ and wouldn’t have taken a job that involved the word ‘cubicle’ if James Earl Jones himself offered to follow me around and narrate my every move for the rest of my life (you would be appalled at how many birthday wishes I used on that one). But when I found myself typing away happily an hour past the end of my shift on a *Friday* I had to have a heart-to-heart with reality (in my best Mufasa voice of course).
I knew this internship was going to introduce me to many things beyond the realms of my past experiences, but I had no idea that I would be re-introduced to the parts of myself I thought I knew already. In the past few weeks many unexpected aspects of my personality have been shaken; such as my hatred of cubicles and my moral compass. Especially after I witnessed my fellow intern stealing, that shook me. After thinking and going over the tiny DCSI business card covered in the things I wouldn’t sacrifice for anyone, I know that next week I’m going to have to do something scary. I may have to alienate myself because I know, in my heart, that I can’t leave this organization knowing that that type of behavior is acceptable and I’m going to have to make a convincing argument that could change how they handle donations in the future. Basically, I’m happy and excited, but also, mixed up, turned around and confused, and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why they call it orientation.