I distinctly remember asking my father what I needed to do to succeed when I was 6 years old, and his simple answer has stuck with me all these years:
“In order to succeed, you have to do things others won’t.”
So instead of lying out by the pool all day, every day like most of my friends, I’m spending my summer before college working at a kick-ass, innovative online advertising company.
The Starting Point
How did I get here? Probably because my dad put the fear of God in my brother and me when we started high school by kindly reminding us that if we didn’t have a job for the summer he would have no problem making us pick up trash around the lakes for six hours a day.
But in all seriousness, my professional journey started a month before the end of my junior year. My entire class was instructed to create a resume so that we would have them the next year for recommendation letters, scholarships, etc. When I sat down to write mine, I had a monumental realization: I wasn’t that different from everyone else. As I tried to think of clubs that I’d been a part of and awards that I’d received, I came up blank—and trust me, it was not a nice feeling. Staring at that blank screen feeling disappointed, frustrated, and helpless, I realized I needed to change.
I started thinking about what I was good at: making people laugh, cleaning, studying…and writing. I had always loved to write, it was a nice escape from reality — and I was that one girl in the grade people would send their papers to for editing. I decided to take that and run with it, so my dad and I sat on our couch night after night spitting out article ideas. There was everything from the best gluten-free restaurants in the South to how knitting changed my life; weird topics, I know.
The Aha Moment
And then I had one of those light bulb moments—why don’t I write about something with meaning; something that’s actually influential? If I’m so consumed with the idea of success and how to be successful, why don’t I interview women who have already made it there to see what their secrets are?
And boom — just like that, a project* was formed.
For the next month, I went around to magazines and newspapers in Little Rock, talking to editors and writers for guidance. On my fourth meeting, I struck gold. AY Magazine not only loved the idea but also offered me a place to foster and grow it at their office. I was overjoyed and saw this as my chance to put my name out there and begin to make something of myself.
For the duration of the summer, I road tripped solo around the South — from Hot Springs to Atlanta — in my silver Subaru legacy and met amazing, inspiring, fierce women. This experience taught me so much about what it really means to be successful, and that money doesn’t always guarantee a happy life. And let’s be real, running loose in big cities wasn’t half bad either. I ended that summer with infinitely more knowledge — and close to a thousand more miles on my car.
I kept writing throughout the school year, but it seemed like I never had time to fit everything I needed and wanted to into a 24-hour day. However, I continued to implement the advice I was given from those 12 women: Go after what you want, don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve, pave your own way to success, and — most importantly — don’t forget that you can achieve extraordinary things. I took those nuggets of knowledge and applied them to every avenue of life — and surprise surprise, I became a better person.
The Big Break
Fast forward to February of my senior year, one of my friends’ dad’s told me about this internship. I was immediately interested in the position and thought it would be the perfect fit for me. So, after a few months of following up (or nagging, whichever word you’d prefer) I finally got my shot — and, like the best love stories, the rest is history.
At first, I didn’t know what to expect coming into this internship. I mean, a company that has a ping pong table in the kitchen is just too good to be true, right? Wrong! They all took me under their wings and piled on the work. I’m now editing for four different websites ranging from celebrities to health issues — I can tell you way too much about kidney stones, and I’m not sure if I’m proud of that (jk, I totally am).
A Change in Perspective
Before writing this article, I’d honestly never thought my situation was that unique; my first job was data input and analysis for a pathology company. I was never given the option to be a lifeguard or a waitress. I was always expected to have a job that would help me gain experience in fields that I was interested in — like writing and journalism. I’ll be honest, at first I resented my parents for not letting me have an easy summer gig, but now I couldn’t be more grateful.
I think one of the most important things I’ve learned from these internships is that opportunities rarely fall in your lap. If I had never set my mind to meet with the local magazines, I would’ve never gotten that chance at AY, just as if I had never built my portfolio of writing I would’ve never landed this job.
You’re the writer of your own story — and however much effort and practice you choose to put in will reflect in the outcome. I’ve just recently realized how beyond blessed I am for the experiences I’ve been able to have. And when I grow up, I fully intend to extend the same grace and opportunity to another wide-eyed, determined teenager, because one chance really can change your life.