BY QUEEN STEVENSON, PR ASSISTANT
Monday, August 1st was my last day as MEPR Agency’s Public Relations Assistant, concluding an eleven-week experience of learning, making mistakes, finding creative solutions, reading, researching, reviewing, editing and finding my own voice in the midst of it all. It hasn’t been easy — as most worthwhile things in life usually aren’t — but it has changed me in a way I never thought an internship could. I can confidently say that I am not the same person I was when I walked into MEPR’s chic, modern, stylishly white and purple-accented offices for the first time in May, and that my time here has given me much to process and reflect on.
For the past two years of college, I had focused on journalism: I was a student reporter for our English department’s incredible investigative journalism offering and was somewhat of a serial opinion writer for our school’s newspaper, the Vanderbilt Hustler, before being promoted to assistant and then Opinion Editor my junior year. Telling stories had always been the goal for me, no matter how that ultimately manifested. So as the fall semester of my third year started to wind down, I thought I would try my hand at another mode of storytelling: public relations. I felt quite nervous about applying to PR internships because I knew my resume would have a bunch of journalism experience I could hopefully try and translate into PR skills, but no straightforward PR experience. Blessedly, MEPR Agency decided to take a chance on an absolute industry newbie, and I’m forever grateful for it.
That didn’t mean that my first few weeks weren’t racked with insecurity and fear, however. Personally, I had always struggled with feelings of inadequacy when it came to even my most beloved pursuits: writing, editing and speaking. So my initial time at MEPR Agency was difficult not necessarily because of the workload, but because of the negativity taking up real estate in my mind. Lies like “You’re not qualified” and “This will be too difficult” and “They made the wrong decision in hiring you” permeated my mental space and subsequently sapped my confidence and ability.
I’d heard the mantra, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional” in online motivational circles before. To describe my time this summer, I’d remix the phrase and replace ‘pain’ with ‘fear’; I had felt the fear from entering a new space in the industry and having to learn new skills. I had let the fear cripple me for the first few weeks, but then I had to make a decision: was I going to cower or was I going to create? Because any thought leader will tell you that creativity is a radical act. I had to “feel the fear and do it anyway;” feel the fear and create anyway. Because when I held up those empty but incessant lies living in my mind against the 10th anniversary proposal I made, the blogs, press releases and media pitches I wrote, the growth of the agency’s social media followers and fans, and other cool projects and conversations and ideas I started and/or implemented, the lies started crumbling. I never felt truly ready to produce any of those things, but that’s the beautiful thing about creativity — it doesn’t ask if you’re ready. It seizes you with passion and purpose and you’re all but forced to deliver. So I did.
I struggled with fear considerably during my time with MEPR Agency, but about midway I decided that I was done suffering. It was time to get back to my core: being creative and telling stories. Now that I’ve come to the end of my time here, I can’t say how grateful I am for Kia Jarmon, our brave and fearless leader, our former Account Manager, Morgan Lyn, and Arsenio Franklin, our Account Coordinator, for being endlessly patient in teaching me the ins and outs of PR. For teaching me that there is always a solution, and that most of the time it exists outside of the box. For teaching me that producing excellent work isn’t optional but imperative. For teaching me that mistakes aren’t evil, but are rather incredible opportunities to learn and grow. I thank this innovative, disruptive and forward-thinking PR agency for teaching me that a lack of experience doesn’t have to mean a lack of creativity; everyone starts somewhere, and I am so blessed to have started here.