This guest blog was written by Alyx, a student at Binghamtom University.
With this economy and the depleting job market only a fool would utter the words “I can’t” to their superior.
When I applied to work at the Angel Orensanz Foundation, a cultural center on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I went in there with gusto and conviction. I made them believe that I could accomplish any, and all, tasks they threw my way. I assumed my job would consist of writing, editing, and maybe a little research. But never, in a thousand years, would I have thought that after only two weeks on the job I would become the official tour guide of the foundation.
One morning, when I was still a timid little newbie, my boss approached me and asked me to a compile a short summary of our buildings long religious history. Eager to please, I inhaled all the information I could from every book we had available. After two days of organizing what I thought was a rather pristine historical outline I handed it to my boss. Without even looking at me he said, “Great, now memorize it and be ready to give a tour to visitors.”
Here is the issue, I am a writer. I prefer to hide myself, snarky comments, sardonic observations, and all, behind my writing. I hate public speaking. Feeling dozens of eyes pierce your skin, waiting in anticipation for you to say something revolutionary, makes me dizzy. It’s too much pressure. I much prefer to boldly point out the world’s flaws from behind the curtain. I’m a whimp, I’ll admit it.
But, like I said, saying to my boss “Sorry, but I would prefer something else, I’m too afraid of people” was one quip he was not going to tolerate. I’m an intern, I have to do what I am told, and gleefully.
Two days later, a couple from Paris walked through the doors of the foundation. Trembling, I came down from my office, a safe haven that now seemed miles away. As I showed the couple around the building I felt my legs quiver, my voice tremble. Every word was tongue tied. The ten minute tour seemed like a long impenetrable nightmare.
After the Parisian couple left the foundation I ran upstairs and sat in my chair. Like little girl, I began to brood, staring blankly at my computer screen. I felt like a complete failure. I needed to figure out how to make myself into a tour guide, and fast. I ended up revising my entire script. Hemming and hawing away all the extra unnecessary details.
Simplified to one page of bullet points, with all the years and important names bolded, I was determined to stay calm. The next group that walked in was from Venice. They stood wide eyed in front of the old ark that stands histrionically in the nave of our building. The foundations special lighting captivated their attention. They listened intently as I carefully glided from one topic to the next. When I finished I took a deep breathe, hoping that my speech was somewhat engaging. They turned to look at me, and began to ask questions! I sparked their interest, and more importantly I made sense.
I am now considered the “expert tour guide” of the Angel Orensanz Foundation. Granted, titles around this office are like post-it, they aren’t exactly heavily weighted. But, I do give approximately three tours a day to people from all over the world. If you come in for a tour, I will be your tour guide. I have learned to engage with my clientele, and deviously deviate from my precious script. Summer internships are supposed to be about crossing boundaries, and discovering new possibilities. They are supposed to teach us about perseverance, but never would I have thought that I would come to enjoy a mild version of public speaking.