Two Years: A Reflection

Last month marked my two year anniversary working for Dream On Youth. I became an intern in February of 2013, just a few short months of having DOY come into my life. It was an exciting time in my life--I'd tried blogging on my own with varied success, and finally I was writing for something. I had purpose in my writing, and it came with a community attached. I was pursuing my interests, and was trying something new, which was a rarity for me. And two years ago, I'm not sure that I was thinking far into the future. I'm not sure that I expected the journey that I had embarked on. 

The past two years with DOY have been filled with ups and downs. I'd love to sit here and write about all the good times we've had, and just fill a post up with that, but that wouldn't be the whole truth. The truth is that DOY has struggled. We've all struggled. We've lost interns in every season we've gone through, and some have come back while others haven't. One of the biggest things that I wanted when I joined DOY was the community that I saw everyone talking about on Twitter. The intern group chat seemed like this special place filled with laughs and nonsense, and I wanted to so desperately to be a part of that, even though a lot of the interns at the time intimidated me.

But once I was able to join that group chat it wasn't as easy as I had thought it would be. I don't know if you've ever tried to join a community that already exists, but it's difficult. People have relationships and friendships, and when you don't know many people and are still trying to figure out your place in this world, it's easy to feel lost and overlooked. But I also find interest in observing people and their relationships, so sitting and just watching the group chat unfold in front of me was fine. And once I had been around for long enough, and felt confident enough to text the group first and participate in conversation, we started losing interns. 

I joined the team because one of the interns had to step down, but I considered that before my time, and it didn't necessarily impact me. But all of a sudden we had some of the original interns stepping down, and new people coming onto the team. Don't get me wrong--I love every single girl who has worked with us, and who currently works with us, but building and maintaining a community is difficult when it's constantly changing. And I also had close friends on the team telling me that they wanted to leave, and I was left feeling like I didn't have many people on the team with whom I could talk to. 

And I think that this is one of the biggest places we've struggled as a team. Creating and maintaining a consistent community, and letting people walk in and out of it without changing what it is at its core. Community and relationships and friendships take work and you can't expect them to just fall at your feet, ready for you to just step into. So if you're reading this, DOY team member and readers alike, I want to challenge you to work at your community. It's one of the most important things you can have in your life, and if you're not actively working at it, it can and will fall apart. Hold fast to it and work at it. Don't let change seep into the cracks and break you apart. 

Coming off of that, it's been really easy for me to feel stagnant as writer for DOY. We've undergone many rebrands and relaunches, and each one needs time and effort put into it, which often means that we're not communicating or writing. And we've gotten better about this (Cydney thankfully knows not to physically make herself sick from coding the site again), but its frustrating when an important thing in your life feels as though its constantly changing.

We've spent a lot of the past four years trying to figure out our identity. There are things we've done well and have kept (#selfworthwednesday) and things that we haven't done so well at and have left behind. And I think this is natural--as our group has tried to figure out who they are, the site has reflected that. But it's been frustrating. 

And I think that brings me to now, with having just relaunched again. None of the "original" interns are left. Cydney, Maire, and I have been in this the longest, and we still have a fairly new team. It's not bad, just different. Unexpected. 

If I was going to use one word to describe these past two years at DOY, it would be that: unexpected. 

A girl whom I was absolutely intimidated and afraid of has become one of my best friends because we had to co-write a post together during my first summer, and I have absolutely no doubt that she'll be with me at my wedding, dancing to Shake It Off with me. I've been exposed to so many important organizations and interesting people that are a part of this community, and it's shifted my worldview. People are working hard at changing the world, you just have to take the time to look for them, and seek it out. It's actually pretty awesome. 

I know that no matter what, I do have a community here. It's shifted and it's changed, and it's not what I expected coming into this two years ago, but it's here and it's important. My words are heard, and so are everyone else's. It's a place to lean on when times get tough, and a place to laugh when things are good. It's a place to challenge one another and grow together. 

The power of words has just grown in my mind. Being honest is one of the best things you can do, and more often than not, people are going to surprise you with their responses. Cydney will somehow always know what to say to you before you yourself even know what you're asking. When I lost faith in humanity, Cydney's words lifted me up. Reading Cydney's story for the first time helped me realize that I was allowed to have the feelings that I was feeling, and that they were valid. She's believed in me since day one, something that I haven't necessarily recognized until recently. But I cannot stress to you the importance of having someone in your life who believes in you and what you can do, and who won't hesitate to remind you of that when you need it. 

The biggest thing that I've gotten from my two years has been hope. DOY has been a consistent source of hope and light in my life. It gave me a reason to hold on when things got rough, and gave me purpose. I've been exposed to women who have undergone difficult things, but who are still standing here today, trying to make their way in the world. DOY has grown from the ground up, and even though it may not be as successful as we'd like it to one day be, it has come so far, and shown me that you just need to keep working at things. Not losing your hope is key, even when you don't know where you're going. People are going to show up for you, whether you're the boss lady or a Twitter follower. 

I hope that if you're someone who's been with us for a while that you've gotten something out of this, whether it's a friendship or inspiration, or something to read while you're bored on the toilet. I hope that if you're a new reader, you're excited to dive into community with us. Things are never going to be easy, but we're here, ready to open you with welcome arms, and help you realize just how amazing you are already. I hope that for our old readers too. 

And most importantly--to our interns, past and present, I hope that you know the impact you've had in my life, intentional or otherwise. Thank you to each of you for teaching me something with your stories and your tweets and our conversations. You're some of the most amazing women I've come into contact with, and I can't wait to see how each of you impacts this world and the people you meet. I know it's going to be amazing.

Emily KarlssonComment