When you work with Where Are Your Keys, a common question you encounter is “What do you actually do?” It’s a great question and I love to talk about my WAYK experience, but it is still also a tricky question to answer. The reason is that, in a lot of ways, to understand what we do you need to experience it for yourself. A few weeks into my summer interning with WAYK, I was reflecting on what my experience had been thus far and I thought of a metaphor that has stuck with me ever since.

Interning with Where Are Your Keys is a bit like walking down an unfamiliar path at night, without a flashlight.

I like to think of those times as a kid when I went camping with my family in a new campground. The first night there were always a few somewhat disorienting trips to the bathroom after dark when that previously beautiful, inviting forest suddenly felt much more unknown, even sinister.

An internship can feel the same. With all the unknowns at the start, it can feel like you are on an unfamiliar path and someone forgot to give you a flashlight. With WAYK there is no manual for you to read before you get here, and you are actually expected to not know what you are doing coming in. I was specifically asked not to research the language I was about to learn ahead of time. That may sound scary, but only if one focuses on the unknowns rather than the adventure.

Being a WAYK intern is an exercise in being content when you do not know what you are doing or what is coming next. It may mean making mistakes that you didn’t realize you were making, and then being able to take a correction down the road. The learning won’t always come easy because a straightforward explanation might not exist, and sometimes you just need to learn by observing and letting a lesson sink in. It can be difficult and it can be filling, but in the end, the learning is deeper for having walked in that darkness over that unfamiliar terrain. You will have gotten a much more instinctive feel for the land around you and it will make it easier to learn the next time you are in a similar situation.

Being a perfectionist, I often found the fact that I didn’t understand everything very frustrating because I worried that my ignorance meant I wasn’t doing my job well.  But it didn’t stay unfamiliar long. Pretty quickly, I found that, almost without my noticing, I had started to adjust and things didn’t feel quite so daunting anymore.

There is a technique in WAYK that says we all get there together, but maybe not at the same time. This applies beautifully to being a WAYK intern too.  We come in, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but also still very much in the dark about everything we are in for. But that is okay because there are people who have walked similar paths all around you, who will help you along, and there are adventurers alongside you that are in the dark just as much as you are. You can help each other along as you feel your way. You may all be at different levels, but you are all still learning together, growing together, and adding your own insights to the work.

Being a WAYK intern is a great experience; the people are stellar and the work is deeply satisfying. But sometimes it is also hard, and confusing. That’s okay. Those moments for me are some of the moments that I am most thankful for because that was where my deepest learning took place.

Post authored by Erin.

Written by Evan Gardner