My 30-day Ventra card expired this morning, and that's when it hit me — I've lived here in Chicago for a whole month.
That's 30 days of riding the Red Line downtown, living in Wrigleyville during (really, really loud) Cubs games, still not realizing how unpredictable midwest weather is after 21 years, learning my way around, working with the graphics team at the Chicago Tribune, watching Netflix, missing my greyhound, missing my family and friends, missing my boyfriend, watching the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, eating out too often, exploring, touring, meeting (a few) new people, learning tons, etc.
There have been some really awesome parts to my last month ... and some not-so-awesome parts.
THE STRESSFUL PARTS
As my friend Miranda so poignantly put it, sometimes I want everyone to think I'm having fun, even when I'm not.
Do not get me wrong — all in all, it's been a good experience. I'm learning lots. But it's most definitely an experience that's coming with some growing pains.
My internship is stressful. It is probably more stressful for me than it would be for a normal person. And four weeks in, I'm still adjusting to the learning curves that come along with it. After talking with several of the other graphics producers during the last few weeks, I now realize everyone struggled with the speed at first. So I'm not alone there. It's still pretty frustrating for me not to be able to do my research/reporting and design as quickly as everyone else, but so it goes — I'm still an intern who's learning.
Also, research/ reporting and story idea generation are not easy. There's a reason why people go to college for four years and major in journalism ... because it is not easy. I don't know why people think it is. I'm realizing that now more than ever before.
I'm also weirdly struggling with not knowing anyone? But I also don't want to meet people? I have never really had an issue being alone or eating alone or doing anything alone, really. Until now. Perhaps it is because I've been working long hours, and when I'm done with work, seeing new humans sounds exhausting. So I want to see the old ones. It's a weird time to be alive.
THE AMAZING PARTS
All of the above isn't that big of a deal because I am truly learning so much. During the last three and half weeks, I've learned countless Adobe Illustrator tricks, how to use Arc GIS software (which is a really powerful mapping program), different charting techniques and how to build basic HTML story pages. I've learned the questions I need to ask myself when I'm visualizing data, like: What's the most important information? What's my goal? How do I not confuse people? What does the reader need to know? Those might sound like obvious questions, but I'm sure any journalist would tell you that making yourself ask those questions second-nature takes time.
I'm also getting published. Here's a sampling of some of the more time-consuming work I've done.
Hockey goalkeeper's equipment: The evolution of Rule 11 The first call I made identifying myself as someone who works in graphics at the Tribune was to the NHL headquarters in Toronto. So that was cool.
Race for the Triple Crown: How close they came I "drew" the horses in Illustrator and designed the jerseys for each of the jockeys. I also compiled and updated old information. All in all, this was a fun project. I pulled the jockey graphic from an old graphic. I did not make those guys. Yay for archives! (Note: American Pharoah won the Triple Crown — first horse since 1978. So that was cool.)
More than a century of Chicago championships I did the research for this, not the online design. I did create a graphic that published in the Blackhawks special section after they won the Stanley Cup. So that was cool.
And here are some graphics (mainly charts and other data visualizations) I produced that published in the print edition and online.
The not-work parts
Aside from the "work" side of work, our internship class has done some cool stuff. Two Thursdays ago, we got paid to get to know one another, and the city, a little bit better. We started the day off in the Page One conference room, where we played awkward get-to-know-you games and learned everyone's names. Then we sat in on the 10 a.m. Page One meeting to see which stories editors deemed most important and when those stories would post to chicagotribune.com. That was a cool process to absorb. Next, we ate lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern, which is famous from a Saturday Night Live skit. It's also where reporters from the Trib and the Sun-Times would meet after deadline, eat dinner and talk about the day's news. It was an average cheeseburger but a cool experience nonetheless.
After lunch, we took a walking tour of Chicago. We started at the corner of Wacker and Wabash, then went to Michigan Avenue and walked south. Our tour guide gave us a decently thorough history and architecture lesson. We stopped at the Chicago Cultural Center (which was the original Chicago Public Library after the Great Chicago Fire) and also at Millennium Park ... because what's touring Chicago without a Bean selfie?
Soooo the night before this intern-outing, I could not sleep. No, it was not from excitement. It was from dread. Our internship coordinator sent us all an itinerary a couple weeks in advance, so I had two weeks to dread the fact that we had to take an improv class. It gave me so much anxiety. I did not want to go because I did not want to be put on the spot to be funny or clever or whatever. (Little did I know that improv is definitely not like that, but one day I might learn not to go into situations thinking I know everything.) As it turns out, the improv class was the best part of the day. Well, maybe it was second only to the improv show we attended later that evening. Wow. It was hilarious! We saw Shakespeare Improvised at the IO Theater. Seriously, if you're in Chicago on a Thursday or Friday night, go see it. Well worth the $16 ticket. We also ate dinner at Dinosaur BBQ. (It was no Oklahoma Joe's, but not every place can be. So it goes.)
Aside from the intern day, I've done a decent amount of solo-exploration, most of which has involved a food destination. Mmmmm. There is so much good food here!
The realization part
It hit me that I am in this weird phenomenon where I'm living the dream I thought I had, but now that I'm here, I'm realizing it's not exactly what I want anymore. To clarify, I absolutely love Chicago. I would love to live here eventually, and I definitely want to live in a city after graduation. I'm not 100 percent sold on a career focused on news graphics, though. I love journalism and the news industry; I'm just not sure graphics, specifically, is where my heart lies. I am so glad I'm learning all of this now, before graduation. It's super cheesy, but I know the skills and lessons I'm learning in this internship will apply to anywhere I work in the future.
Until next time, Internet.
Ps – Did I mention that I love Chicago?