Oberlin Blogs

Working Infidelity

August 12, 2010

Sam Jewler ’10

Last time I wrote here, I spilled my soul as a desperately unpaid intern surviving on frozen boxed lunches, a generous and fellow food-loving girlfriend (gotta give credit where credit is due), and the daily iced coffees from which I relearned the meaning of addiction.

Much has changed since then. Call it karma, or just dumb luck, but one serendipitous night in July I found myself at a dinner party, talking with an editor at Roll Call (a Capitol Hill newspaper). "We need someone to fill a paid internship position for the rest of the summer," she said. "Are you interested?"

"Um, yes, definitely," I said, trying to keep my cool as I launched into a monologue of shameless self-promotion. You don't let opportunities like this pass you by, especially when you can smell the finish line of college graduation. After the dinner, I got home and immediately sent her a cover letter and my resumé.

This was when I started to realize that internships - and jobs, I guess? - are, in many ways, like relationships. Through my excitement, I couldn't help feeling the nagging pangs of guilt: I was cheating on the Current Newspapers. What would my editors there think? How could I break the news to them? I was literally taking the money and running, and here I thought I was above making life choices based on the allure of currency.

When I went to work at the Current the next day, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I was a ghost, walking among the living. Everything I said was a lie - Yes I'll do that story next week, but what I really mean is no, I probably won't even be here next week. When I got the confirmation email that afternoon at work, my heart jumped, but my stomach dropped.

When I broke the news to my editor, it was about as painful as it could have been. She made me feel bad for all the right reasons: lack of commitment, poor planning, leaving them high and dry. I never wrote another word for the Current. It was a bad breakup; we don't talk anymore.

But here I am at Roll Call, where I've had a story published on average every three days or so. I've written about an Edvard Munch exhibit, the hot new documentary Gasland, a book on labor history, and more. I'm much less financially pathetic - I can now buy my daily iced coffee without scrounging under the mattress for crumpled George Washingtons.

And I've learned that internships are like relationships in the important respect that you get out of each the amount of energy, creativity and devotion you put into them. The difference is that, in the professional world, it's okay to make career moves based on selfish motives. That is not to say that all lines of work are morally equivalent -- far from it, in my opinion. But when someone offers you the next rung on the ladder, will you not reach for it?

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