In the spring of 2017, I applied to join the In My Backyard (IMBY) team for the summer. I remember finding a quiet place on University of Washington’s campus to take a phone interview in-between classes. My heart raced a tad faster and my palms got clammy from the nerves because interviews will do that to a person!
Pretty sure most of my interview was spent chatting about my two miniature schnauzers. Nervous tendency to start talking about how cute my dogs are? Maybe. Actually, yes, 100% yes. The next week, I got a phone call back saying that the team would love to have me! Maybe the team secretly wanted to meet my dogs and that’s why they wanted me around. Little did I know that the gal who interviewed me on the phone and chatted about dogs with me would play an integral role in my life since I accepted the internship. This gal is named Kelsey.
Cheesy? I think so, but I really like cheese, so here we go. My undergraduate version of myself had no clue what I was doing after school. I studied landscape architecture; I tried doing internships in the field and dreaded showing up to stare at a computer all day, measuring the circumference of trees in AutoCAD. They call these lovely people, “AutoCAD monkeys” who do the necessary work that no one else wants to do and bless the souls who power through this phase of architecture-office hierarchy.
I joined In My Backyard the summer before senior year of undergrad and boy was the experience refreshing. My worries of line weights, file management, and more vanished and I was immersed in a colorful, crafty space. I guess I didn’t know what to expect my first day in the office, but I definitely was not envisioning stuffed fish to be hanging up on the wall and to share a chair next to a stuffed animal bear that costs more than what I spent on teriyaki that month (which is a lot, by the way). Along with the bear, I was soon joined by four fellow interns: Aaron, Mattie, August, and Erin.
These people along with the rest of the IMBY team had a heck of a summer together. We attended many community events where we repeatedly told people that they can’t buy our awesome IMBY t-shirts off our backs but we will tell you about how great the program is. We also created ten weeks worth of curriculum for high school students from scratch with the guidance of Chanara, Klondike’s HBCUI that summer. The following summer of 2018 was going to be when the curriculum was implemented with the IMBY program.
I’d never done anything with curriculum before that moment: never made a lesson plan, didn’t know how to facilitate a group of high school students, and I didn’t know much about Seattle since I moved here for college recently. Why the team wanted me there? Once again, I think it was my love of dogs. I really hope you’re catching onto my sarcasm by now.
Somehow, I was lucky to stay at Klondike after my IMBY internship ended. I was extremely vocal about what I wanted with Kelsey; I knew I didn’t want landscape architecture, which I would have to plow through the next year. Klondike needed some help with graphic design and my landscape architecture classes more than prepared me for this gig: photoshop, illustrator, and indesign is like a second language to me. Along with the new graphic design gig, I continued through school. Plant identification here I come! I got a 2.9 by the way, which isn’t too shabby for someone who can’t even identify himalayan blackberry (which seems like a requirement to live in western Washington). Maybe I shouldn’t be mentioning that I still can’t figure this out?
After doing my graphic design gig, the opportunity to mentor the next set of IMBYs came along and I happily accepted the role thanks to Kelsey! From on-boarding, making pretty excel spreadsheets, and collaborating with awesome people with similar interests as me was pretty fantastic. I felt human; not a robot typing in commands to a computer which seemed to be the future for landscape architecture and me. I could have conversations, face-to-face with people, who didn’t think they were better than me and I never thought I was better than them. It was genuine, it was real, and I wanted more.
From the mentor role, I transferred to the role of Community Volunteer Coordinator. Can’t keep up with these position changes? Don’t worry, it’s not super important; just know at this point I have been at Klondike for a year now and I was happy. Summer of 2018, I poured all my energy into the IMBY program for our first season with high school students. I mentored four individuals with the help of Amanda and continued finding my voice. It was comfortable knowing I had a gig lined up after graduation as the Community Volunteer Coordinator. This position granted me a full-time job through June 2019. Landscape architecture faded more and more, some skills tapped into the IMBY program, but I was finding myself more drawn to community, planning, and partnerships rather than plants. If I sound like a hater of landscape architecture, I’m sorry, but I’m not. I chose the major to begin with, but sometimes you have to try stuff out to know it’s not for you.
But look where I am now! I’ve been at Klondike for over two years now and have yet another role which will keep me on through June 2020. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that you may not know what you want to do, especially in a huge transitional time such as college, but it’ll line up how it should; I swear. I got incredibly lucky to have such a supportive team who values me. I want to show up to work everyday. I wake up knowing that I am going to walk into the office and the people around me are happy that I am there contributing to the team. People thank me, people want my opinion, and people are smiling. I don’t know how much better it can get than that? Maybe an office dog and a cheese platter? A side of gyoza? If you’re worried about next steps and your heart starts pounding a little faster and your hands get clammy, or you start making some tears, this is good! This is a sign! You’re scared and that’s okay because EVERYONE has felt this way! Take the leap, find a support system that suits you, and trust that things are just how they need to be. A phone call seems simple, but that’s how it all changed for me.