Real Person on hold

29 July 2011
I’m seated in a coffee shop, facing the open window that looks onto Coogee Beach’s main street ahead. It’s a relatively busy street for a beach town, with cars and pedestrians traversing the two directions of the sidewalk and roads opposite the cafe. It’s my first day in six weeks that I’m free… free to plan my day completely as I wish. I’ve finished my internship and for now, I’m back to being a college student on summer break: It has never felt so good.
I had requested a half-day from work yesterday and following my boss’s advice, I chose to come in for the second part of the day…. a decision that left me with the morning to myself. Ah, a me day. I began the morning with a visit to my apartment building's gym, my well-known ploy for replacing my morning lull with a day’s energy rush. I returned to the apartment, freshened up and prepared a packed lunch of leftovers, clearing out the remaining groceries taking space in the Emma section of the fridge. Today, I was headed to the Nicholson Museum, a small but free art museum located within the University of Sydney. Nathan and I had attempted visiting the museum during his weekend stay in Sydney. The directions proved slightly tricky, however, and our plans fell through as the time rang tight. Art museums have always been my favorite and I decided to make a visit to the Nicholson Museum a priority prior to leaving the city.

I took a train to Town Hall, the Metro Center of Sydney, in order to transfer to a bus. Bus transportation in Sydney, as I find it to be in any major city, is recipe for confusion. The bus station opposite the train lacked any apparent visual symbol cuing individuals that the block of the sidewalk in fact doubled as a bus stop. I commend Sydney residents, however, for their tremendous bus stop knowledge; passersby have routinely proved a helpful aid in directing the unknowing individual (namely, me- the American tourist) as to where to catch the bus.

I boarded my bus, New York City taxicab flagged down as customary to signal you wish to catch the bus. Following the tactics of the hidden bus stops, Sydney buses lack any sort of sign, or map for that matter, alerting passengers of the stops along the way. The bus drivers are often also unaware of their stop locations, seeing as this was not the first bus driver who seemed perplexed when I asked for notification regarding the stop location.

The bus ride took about twenty minutes to reach the iron gates of the University of Sydney. It was upon entering the campus grounds that the familiar sensation settled, seeping through, tingling the tips of my fingers, embedding a bounce to the motion of my stride. I had returned to a college campus: The surroundings, the world of the college bubble… this I knew. It was the most unbelievable set of emotions, the strongest reminder I’ve had yet of my longing to return to life as a college student. And the clearest realization of how different life becomes as you take steps toward becoming a Real Person. 

The campus, perched on a hill overlooking the cityscape, reminded me of a modern Oxford (when I spoke to a friend about it later, she said it looked like Hogwarts. Which it definitely does… parts of Hogwarts were, in fact, filmed in Oxford). The architecture seemed to be an offset of a neo- gothic style, although the designs were too clean cut to be of direct descent. The buildings were colored a burnt orange shading, resembling the city center buildings that too are reflective of their British heritage’s influence.  

I perked up when I saw a sign pointing towards the “Quadrangle.” But like Oxford’s quads, the University of Sydney’s grass patches were empty of human presence. A white rope barred off pedestrians from crossing through, although a few daring souls (boys of course) dared to slip under the rope restrains to sit on the grass. They were apparently in the clear as no one shooed them away.

Students filled the gaps of the hall surrounding the quad, many with their legs sprawled horizontally on the raised ledges of the hall arches. I followed suit come lunchtime.

The campus imbued a sense of calmness. I soaked in the familiar shuffle of students ambling to and from class, the casual chatter as they went about their ways. The halls were relatively silent when class was in session, save for the passersby clinking their heels on the marble flooring or the scatter of Asian school children touring the campus, snapping shots along their way.  

I observed the college students… how similar they were to the prototypical, American college students.  I noticed the vast array of styles present, smiling as to how only on a college campus do you find sweatpants as an accepted day’s outfit.

An individual’s dress can reflect their inner pride of individuality, sometimes an attempt to stand out from the norm. (Although I find it ironic that while steering clear of the “mainstream”, you’re in fact blending in with the other students who are also attempting to do the same.) Clothing in college serves as a mode of unspoken expression. But the Real World quashes whatever individuality you once had as a college student. It’s the thin needle that pokes through your bubble of college. It’s the respected professional look in the general working environment that supersedes the cry for individuality present among college campuses. You’re at the hands of the salary, the boss, the employer, the workforce. And as a result, Monday to Friday from 9 to 5, your creative expression is stifled. Real World rids of the Real You.  

I’ve missed being a student this summer. College truly is a remarkable time in life, however enclosed you are within the bubble so separate from reality. It’s this bubble that leaves us all with the grandiose ideas of who we want to be, who we could be someday, what we wish to pursue in the battles of our lives. We choose to be ignorant of the real world’s restrictions... and for the four years as a student, we’re ok with that. The world is our oyster, I thought as I stood looking at the view of the city from the university. I worked in that city… in a small office space barely visible from where I stand. But as a college student, the view leaves the impression that the whole city is yours to choose from, to work your way through, to rise up into the success of the workforce and world.

I had gone to the University of Sydney to visit the Nicholson Museum. The museum itself was small, and unlike most art museums, was far from quiet. The chatter of the professors and visitors in addition to a handful of older women sketching the variety of pieces, added to the unique atmosphere of the exhibits on show. The Nicholson Museum displayed a plethora of Etruscan and Egyptian works, in addition to a scatter of Greco- Roman pieces. These are my favorite periods of art history… I couldn’t have been more in bliss.

My fall jacket concealed the work blazer beneath. By sole appearance, I blended in naturally among the college students.  But the time was nearing 1pm… I needed to get back to work. The Real World hadn’t finished with me just yet.

My last day of work went well… I had two articles to write which I completed in little time. My workday ended at 5:30; I had officially finished the six weeks of my internship as a marketing and writing intern for The Defectors.

Drinks and dinner with work ensued. The group of us left together, headed to a lounge about a ten-minute walk from the office. Our company’s owner ordered us a round of shots in addition to our own separate drinks. I can’t even begin to imagine an American boss doing the same.

We ate dinner at a Tapas restaurant. The majority of the employees, my bosses included, were absolutely drunk. It made for such a difference from the stiff, somewhat awkward and forced conversations present in the lounge before the drinks had settled their magic.

I sat next to Joel, the owner of the company, at dinner. I had never spoken to him prior to last night as he worked on the other side of our office space and rarely, if ever, dealt with the interns. I found myself entranced in our conversation; Joel had quit his job to begin The Defectors (the social media marketing firm I interned for). He recounted the heaps of negativity he had received from his previous colleagues who deemed his plans of opening a social media marketing firm absurd. Social media at the time, so they believed, would never take root. Joel continued with a motivational speech of his experiences: how you have to believe in yourself, have the confidence to do what you want to do and if you do so… the universe will follow, lending a helping hand to allow you to settle in the path fate has laid out for you. He was adamant about never letting anyone’s opinion sway your beliefs, that people will always have their opinion but it’s what you believe in your heart that should guide you through. I told him he should write his words down, but he responded that no, he has no need to sell his information. His information is guided by his own life experiences that have worked for him. He has no idea if they would work for others and as a result, would feel a fraud if he sold his words of inspiration. He spoke with such genuineness; It’s these moments I savor in my path of Growing Up. Learning from those who have once been in my shoes, who have worked their way through, who are leading the lives they love… they are the ones I wish to learn from.

Jenine, my boss, took a cab home, dropping Doug (the boy on my program who also worked at my company) and I off ‘home’. I stepped out of the cab, and into my apartment building. For the first time in six weeks, I felt free, back to being me. I have two years left of being “the me” of a college student. It scares me, but I’m ready more than ever to grasp the reigns tightly for the next two year’s ride of my life.  

What this internship has taught me? It’s reinforced my love for writing, bolstered my confidence of the skills I can bring to the workforce and given me a glimpse into a life that could potentially be mine two years down the road. I don’t want a job that constrains me to a 9- 5 work day. But I recognize it’s where I’ll have to begin. We all have to climb the ladder of the workforce to reach the goal we set forth as the college student. The speck of the office space in the distance is the first step to reaching the cityscape goal of our futures. These past six weeks have been vital in providing me with the insight that I will take as I continue along the road of life, the path of my future and notably, the next two years of my life as a college student. 

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