Being in college is all about learning to find home and comfort in the little things you can carry with you – a tattoo you share with your mother, a meal you can recreate in any kitchen. The most constant thing you can expect in college is a perpetual feeling of transience – of people falling into and out of your orbit, like sand slipping through your fingers, grasping at things eternally out of reach.
Going “home” starts to lose its meaning. Home can be a friend’s couch, a group of people, a rooftop – it becomes more of a feeling, of comfort and familiarity, rather than one physical place.
Figuring out college is easy in a way. You learn the acronyms, drink the koolaid (or jungle juice), establish your routes. But no one ever teaches you how to do summers, because there is nothing cookie cutter about the way they’re spent during college. They exist in an alternate universe that doesn’t have rules and the consistency that you can find on campus. Summer is like the great equalizer, and the great divider, scattering the little familiarities we hold during the year across the world.
For intern hubs like NYC and DC, new worlds materialize. Out of the heat and humidity, thousands of young people appear, knitting together entirely new communities, cultures, and ways of being. The heat seems to break down barriers as you meet people on the street — quickly trying to fill the void of friends in faraway places.
The days stretch on endlessly, and not always in a good way. We build collective narratives of grunt work and prestige, exhaustion and exult. Relationships of convenience abound, as intern “besties” are born, friendships forged of shared frustration and trading office gossip on g-chat.
Summer nights are a smorgasbord of some of the most fun and most mundane moments you will ever have. Random and absurd tend to be the summer’s best descriptors as something about the time of year encourages these things. People on the periphery of your social circles during the year may take up starring roles in the summer, even just for a night. You may find yourself at a think tank happy hour, or trolling the streets for Pierce Brosnan, or on the couch of a house you’ve previously never seen during the daylight.
These people that have suddenly become the center of your world though will disappear just as quickly as they came in. They were never your best friends, not enough time has passed for them all to take root in the deepest parts of your heart, but that doesn’t mean it meant nothing.
So what now?
Everyone is fading away. Back to parts of the country their parents still call home. Some will say goodbye, but others will suddenly pop up on social media surrounded by their childhood home and childhood friends and it’s like you never spent a night walking around in the heavy mosquito laden air shooting the shit about the meaning of life.
And while you question what these summertime relationships meant, and whether they will play a role in the future, or just hold an earmark in your past, you can’t help but think about your internship and your future and your professional contribution. Because despite the summer shenanigans, ultimately you were here for the job, for the experience, to try and gain a little more clarity on the murky path that lies ahead.
Maybe you confirmed that what you’ve always wanted to do is what you want to continue pursuing, maybe you learned what you don’t want to do, or maybe you fell in love with something you’d never considered before. Love it or hate it, lessons were learned, which is good.
I wonder though if I really made a difference? Probably not. Interns constantly flow in and out of these establishments doing of them what is asked and then moving on and I sometimes imagine the employees simply seeing us as an amalgamation of all the young faces passing through over the months.
To think of yourself as useless though, is not entirely correct. The job you do does need to get done and even if you don’t get to stand out as unique, if you don’t do it, someone else will, so it might as well be you. The best way to think of internships is as a symbiotic relationship where the company gains man power and you gain experience. To treat is as anything more or less would be to do a disservice to the job and also lead to disappointment.
So the summer is finally coming to an end. Intern cities are emptying out, leaving behind an oddly hollow sadness as we miss the relationships and jobs that sustained us through the long hours and even longer nights. It’s a rare and powerful mix of emotions, and although it doesn’t leave the same sting as college or high school ending we still feel something. The infinite nights – opportunities, experiences – are becoming a little chillier, a less infinite. The world spins on. The summer fades with the heat into a hazy sun-soaked blur.