I can trace my fear of inadequacy back to when I lost a pie eating contest in the sixth grade. In case you were wondering, it is only cool to be in an eating contest if you win. When you lose, as in my case, you feel a great shame as you walk away from the scene, pecans encrusting your hair and staining your t-shirt. I began to wonder how I was supposed to achieve anything difficult if I failed at the primitive task of rapidly eating a small dessert. Even after I was scrubbed clean of the pie, the mentality remained.
Eight years later, my inadequacy concerns had extended beyond baked goods and into the realm of career prospects. My peers were scooping up internships the way small children scoop up piñata candy. I needed to get an internship. After a bit of a hunt and the assembly of a proper resume and cover letter, I began my time as the news intern at my local TV station.
I worked with a group of reporters, Maria, Fred, and Dan, who were quick to inform me that they all had all been knighted after a story they had covered the previous month. I became their squire, lugging a sizable tripod and camera bag across the county rather than swords and shields. I learned the ropes pretty quickly. The station paid for food if the reporters were on location so the reporters would always try to be on location between 11 and 2 o’clock. No one said anything when the manager’s hairpiece was askew. Everyone had to eat meat for lunch to make Dan, a vegan, feel unwelcome in the workplace and in the State of Texas in general. The more time I spent at the station, the more I learned about the people I worked for.
Dan the Vegan cared more about political injustices than he did the speed limit. He screamed down the highway at eighty miles per hour using his hands to talk about everything that was wrong with the current system of government. I wanted to tell him that it would be difficult to make a difference in the world if we both flew straight into a concrete road barrier and died because he wasn’t holding the wheel, but I kept that to myself. He continued to say that he knew he was just in local news but the small size of the operation did not bother him much. Even if viewership was low, he wanted to do his best teach people what was going on in the world.
One day I went downtown with Maria to interview some local business owners. As I struggled under the weight of the equipment, she explained that she had never used the new camera that was giving me back pain and screwing with my posture. After we found a mom and pop perfume shop with owners that were willing to be interviewed, Maria began to set up. After testing her mic, it became clear that the camera’s audio was not working. Maria fumbled unsuccessfully with knobs and buttons while the perfume shop employees watched. Dan the Vegan had to be called to the site to push a small button on the camera’s underside. Maria apologized to the woman she interviewed for making her wait and to Dan the Vegan, whose on location lunch had been interrupted. She was obviously embarrassed that she had been unable to do something seemingly simple on her own. A concept with which I was familiar.
While working for the local news, I saw that everyone has the potential to feel inadequate. Paid professionals struggled to use their cameras and recognized that they were working for a local station rather than ESPN or MSNBC. I also saw them learn from their mistakes and do their best to make a positive impact in spite of their positions. I still am going to struggle with not feeling good enough for the work I want to pursue or for the people I am around. However, I am coming to see that there is something to be said for trying to set my insecurities aside for a moment to learn everything I can no matter where I am.