Ankle weights

By Claire Dietz

“We’re gonna throw you in the deep end, with ankle weights.” We were told this on our first day.

They weren’t kidding.

I’m from a suburb, but go to school in Iowa City, Iowa. There I’m used to working for a hyperlocal student paper that regularly runs up against other papers throughout the state and beats them.

I found out very quickly Washington D.C. is nothing like Iowa City, something that would surprise exactly no one.

In Iowa City, I cover arts and culture around the city and the University of Iowa. I also work for a student radio station that covers the same sorts of things the paper does.

Over the past three years I have made a niche for myself consisting of knowing a lot of what happens in Iowa City on a weekend. But in D.C., I was pushed into something entirely different.

Currently, I’m interning at a publication called The Cancer Letter. But this isn’t any old publication. This publication is read by doctors and scientists throughout the industry. It has the power to change the industry with a few articles and has spoken with some of the most powerful names in the cancer world. Also, it helped put Martha Stewart in jail in the mid 2000s.

Talk about being thrown in the deep end with ankle weights on.

On my first day at work I was overwhelmed and terrified I wasn’t fit for this. Maybe this was a joke, or the director of the program had made a mistake. Maybe I had been placed in an internship I would inevitably flop at.

That first week was terrifying, without a doubt.

But I kept on keeping on. I kept working, I kept trying.

Now, we’re at a point where we are at about the halfway mark. It didn’t take long for me to realize how much ankle weights can weigh you down.

But here’s the thing: I’m getting stronger. Each step forward is making me stronger.

Am I exhausted? Absolutely.

Do I want to cry? Totally.

Am I learning? Without a doubt.

Am I being pushed to a breaking point? Oh yeah.

Do I regret all this? Not one bit.

Am I out of my comfort zone? Yes.

Do I think this was a mistake? No.

These past five weeks haven’t been easy. I don’t expect these next five weeks to get easier. But I can feel myself growing.

My brain is thinking differently; all my cares have all but flown out the window. I feel myself pushing myself to try new things. I am forming habits. I am learning Javascript. I’m reading more. I’m doing more things, differently.

When I got thrown in the deep end with these ankle weights, I thought I was going to drown. It certainly seemed that way.

But now, a few weeks later when I look back to where I started, I’m honestly a bit blown away.

My relationship with my own writing and editing has changed significantly, I feel more confident in the things I’m handing to my editor each week. I’m making videos for class, and learning programming on the side.

These haven’t been the easiest few weeks, but I think looking back, they’ve been rewarding in some unexpected ways.

And my ankle weights have changed. The things that could have very well drowned me in my first week in D.C. are now something I can tread water with.

In these first weeks, different things were overwhelming. Making a website with Wix  is now an afterthought. But going to a senate hearing on the National Institute of Health’s 2018 budget is an overwhelming dragon I’m going to slay very soon.

These 10 weeks aren’t easy, but you come back from them changed. You are able to handle things differently. And when you look back, you’ll be shocked to see how far you’ve come.