Saturday, July 26, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice is sitting with her sister outdoors when she spies a White Rabbit with a pocket watch. Fascinated by the sight, she follows the rabbit down the hole. She falls for a long time, and finds herself in a long hallway full of doors.”

The story of Alice in Wonderland keeps buzzing in my mind. Why? Well for one, I watched the National Building Museum transform into the whimsical world with checkered floors, life-sized mushrooms, and a Mad Hatter room, with hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds scattered about the room. Cookies begging, “eat me” and drinks adorned with “drink me,” decorated the tables.

The Washingtonian’s biggest event of the year, "Best of Washington," hosted DC's top restaurants dishing out samples to festival goers, while sponsors like AT&T and the American Beverage Association displayed their products and funded prizes. I was truly blown away by the coordination of all the event’s logistics, and even more astonished that it was all conducted by the Washingtonian, and that I got to be a part of it. 

I spent my night working the event at the “private publisher party” or VIP section, following around the photographer and taking names. The ambassador of Italy gave me his business card (no big deal), and I was in the presence of the heads of some of America's biggest companies. I truly felt like I had fallen down a rabbit hole.

But that isn't the only reason why the novel was stuck in my head. I was also reminded of the most important metaphor in the story: one of growth. Alice is constantly shrinking or sprouting up when she eats or drinks something. One thing I have realized, is that growing up is about changing size—in all capacities. Your mind, your responsibilities, your willingness to accept change, your compassion, your values, your friendships, your education, and your learning.

Since moving to Washington, DC, I’ve grown. I came to a city I didn’t know, started a job in which I had no clue what to expect, and dove into a group of people who, at first, weren't even sure where Iowa was.

But as the Washingtonian's Fashion Editor Kate Bennett says, "I've never taken a job I knew how to do." This was comforting to hear.

At times throughout the summer, I’ve felt really big. Like when I saw my byline first published. There were also times that I’ve felt really small and unimportant, like getting story pitches turned down. 

I’ve had the opportunity to write for the Well+Being blog, Best Bites blog, and even have an article coming out in the print magazine in September. I'm currently working on another story for the October print edition and am getting in touch with my super girly side, writing an article about wedding trends for our wedding blog. I now know way more than I ever planned to about the CIA’s secret mission, Project AZORIAN, and could tell you almost everything you would want to know about "vaping," thanks to fact checking.

The Washingtonian welcomed me with open arms and has provided me with so many learning opportunities. And so many friendships.

Everyday, I hear Kate Bennett—our fabulous fashion editor—yelling from her office about a photo shoot or more interestingly, thank you letters from Kate Moss and Gwyneth Paltrow. 

Deadline week at the magazine, I will admit, was tough. The interns were responsible for fact checking every story in the magazine, and those two weeks were long. Very long. But we all battled through it together and I know so many random facts now. Not to mention, my Googling skills are top notch. I’m going to miss the intern bond I have with my three other summer interns, who I’ve learned to love and make jokes with. They definitely got me through the internship and they make work worth going to.

Last Friday I got to venture to Strasburg, VA, which is about an hour and a half away from DC to tour our magazine’s printer. As soon as we ventured outside of the city limits, I felt like I could breathe again. The forests, mountains, and wide open space were so refreshing for me and gave off a Midwest feel (minus the mountains).

One of the best parts of the internship was listening to the editors and senior staff writers tell us about their backgrounds and how they got to where they are today.

Some wise words from Washingtonian staffers:

"Allow yourself to write a shitty first draft." - Bill Sullivan, Senior Managing Editor
"Do crazy things. Say yes, before you say no.
Find your balance.
You can have it all, but you have to find out what ALL means to you.
Listen to yourself.
Be eager, be helpful, be willing. Be hungry."
- Kate Bennett, Fashion Editor
"You have to be confident and curious." - Harry Jaffe, Senior Reporter
"A good story is what makes the reader say 'holy shit.' " Michael Shaffer, EIC

With a new EIC taking charge at the Washingtonian last week, it’s been a really interesting time to be at the magazine. New visions, philosophies, and ideas are going to shape the magazine and I’m interested to see the fruit.

Going to lunches at different magazines for the ASME program is another one of my most favorite parts of the internship program. I can’t believe I can say I’ve been to National GeographicSmithsonianAARPKiplinger’s, and the Atlantic, with more soon to add to my list. 

Some of the best words of wisdom this summer were from AARP’s EIC, Robert Love, who said, “The great thing about journalism is that you’re surrounded by people who are interested in the world, not by people who are interested in themselves.”

I could not agree more, and I think that’s why I love journalism so much. The Washingtonian has opened my eyes to journalism in a different light, showing me how to produce service journalism and get creative with DC.

I've done so many "touristy things" while being in DC: visiting the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Monument, the reflecting pool, tidal basin, the White House, Capitol, Old Town Alexandria, Georgetown and the Georgetown water front, Holocaust Museum, National Archives, Museum of Natural History, Sculpture Garden, National Gallery of Art, Air and Space Museum, American Indian Museum, Chinatown, Arlington National Cemetery, Annapolis, and the Washington monument… the list goes on.

But after all of this, I've realized it's much better to live than be a tourist.

The other ASME DC interns, you guys rock. I’m so glad we were all in this together and I can’t wait to see where you all end up in the future. Midwest takes on DC.

As the summer comes to an end and I emerge from my rabbit hole as a more well-rounded, seasoned journalist and person, I consider myself much more grown up than when I left.

I learned so much about where I want my journalism career to go, where I want to live, how I want to live, and the person I want to be.

For now, I can confidently say that I’m ready to return to school at the University of Iowa. It's time to trade my business attire for a Hawkeye shirt. Bring on senior year. Go Hawks!

-- Written by Dora Grote, University of Iowa, The Washingtonian
-- Edited by Lauren Masur, Cornell University, Food Network Magazine

No comments:

Post a Comment