Written by Nikki Quinn.
Anxiety (noun): an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it
On April 2nd, 2015, I started my first day as an intern.
I knew I needed an internship if I wanted an entry-level job. I needed to have experience, even if it was unpaid experience. I had just turned twenty-two a few months prior; I was finishing up my last year in undergrad as an English: Writing major with a minor in Spanish; and, I had severe depression and an anxiety disorder.
My internship required me to answer & make phone calls and to speak to new people — both were amongst many of my paralyzing fears. In my undergrad classes, I was silent; my participation was scarce and my grades suffered due to that. My anxiety was so overwhelming that I couldn’t make doctor’s appointments or order my own food. What could’ve possibly convinced me to contact Gotham Writers’ Workshop for an internship that required me to do these things when I couldn’t do it for myself? Who knows.
On my first day, I woke up early to do my hair and makeup. I dressed casually with a hint of formal just to make a good impression. I made sure I had my morning cup of coffee, which could’ve possibly made my nervous jitters worse, so I would be fully awake by the time I arrived at 555 8th Avenue.
I don’t remember much of my first day, but I do remember the fear that washed over me when the phone rang while I sat at the intern desk. I wanted to answer, I did. But I couldn’t move. I made someone else do it.
In the following weeks, I knew I had no choice. And what made it a little easier was knowing I had people around me who didn’t care how many times I asked the same question.
By the end of the month, I was answering phones. Still nervous, yes — I had an abnormal fear of being wrong. But I accomplished something that held me hostage for years.
I graduated in June of 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in English, a 3.1 GPA, and as a member of Sigma Tau Delta: International Honor Society of English. I was also in the midst of writing my Statement of Purpose for graduate schools, specifically Master of Fine Arts programs across the globe.
Now, before I continue, note my GPA. To many, that’s an average GPA, a GPA that says “Eh, could’ve done a little better, but okay.” To me, that’s a perfect score, a 4.0. How? Why?
That depression & anxiety didn’t just come along shortly before becoming an intern. No, that had manifested way earlier while I was in my second and third years of undergrad. And my grades suffered because of it. There were many days the previous night’s panic attack drained me: emotionally, physically, mentally. I missed days of classes and days I didn’t miss, I wasn’t mentally there. I failed an entire semester.
After putting myself before anything else, including school & work, slowly but surely — I became a functioning person. My anxiety wasn’t debilitating; it was still there, but I was in the midst of learning coping mechanisms. As for my depression, it was better than it was before. And so, I made the decision to retake all my failed classes and graduate a year later to boost my GPA.
Back at Gotham, I was constantly throwing out ideas for my Statement of Purpose: the first book I read, the first time I wrote something, the day my fourth grade teacher told me I had a unique talent of writing creatively, so on & so forth. None of them seemed to work. My drafts were all over the place and I didn’t feel like I genuinely meant most of the things I said. I was about to say “Eff this!” and throw all my drafts up in the air at any moment.
“Write about the semester you failed.” Alex, the president of Gotham, told me.
“Write about what??”
“The semester you failed.”
“Wouldn’t that make me look bad? I’m trying to cover that up with all my good grades.”
“You’ve graduated, you failed a semester and still have a high GPA, and you’re part of an honor society. Write about your lows, what you did to change that, and highlight your accomplishments now.”
I would like to note that he told me this while sitting cross-legged on the floor with his laptop in his lap. That’s just how it is here: chill.
And with the help of Carter Edwards, my MFA Mentor, and of course — the Gotham staff who had to listen to a thousand different ways I could say one sentence — I got into Kingston University in London, England for my MFA.
At the same time, I was being pressed to find a job. I was twenty-two, living with my parents, and still expecting them to give me a weekly allowance. However, finding a job in New York City wasn’t the easiest.
During my downtime, in between answering phone calls and writing my Statement of Purpose, I was looking for a job. Alex and Dana, the Director of One-on-One Services / Dean of Students (oh, and the interns’ supervisor), knew I was struggling and did one of the greatest things that not only helped me, but helped them, and that was creating Blog Launch. I became the instructor for Blog Launch, a three-hour One-on-One service where I teach clients the in’s and out’s of the blogging platform of their choosing and get them from nothing to something.
The staff at Gotham weren’t just coworkers or my superiors. They are my friends and my Gotham family. And especially that: family.
Families are those that want the best for you, that will help you achieve your goals, that see your ups and downs & still know the great person you are, that understand you have weird obsessions like Harry Potter, Sharpie markers, and stickers but love you regardless.
And that’s Gotham.
In the early summer of 2016, I found out that I wouldn’t be able to head to London for my MFA. The expenses were too much, and I’d be in debt until… well, basically, my children would have to pay my loans. I wasn’t becoming a doctor or a lawyer, a profession that guarantees me a wealthy income and one where I could pay these ridiculous loans back in ten to twenty years. No, I was following my heart, my passion, and becoming a writer — a career path that the brave travel down. Why the brave? Because from the moment I was suggested an MFA in undergrad, I was told that it’d be hard to find a job and, although not impossible, it is rare to become to the next J.K. Rowling. I understood that the thousands upon thousands will not just roll on in; but, I knew I had a story that needed to be told. I knew I needed to write the book for those who were in my position at 15, the book I needed at that age.
And so, I began to apply to MFA programs in and around the New York City area.
Within two weeks of my devastating withdrawal from Kingston University, I was granted admission to the Children’s Literature and Young Adult Writing MFA Program at the New School with a $7,000 Dean’s List Grant.
Throughout this entire time of finding MFA programs, writing/re-writing/editing my manuscript & Statement of Purpose, finding a job, dealing with personal issues… Gotham was there. And Gotham became my safe place, the place where I was at peace, the place I felt more supported than anywhere else.
Evolve (verb): to change or develop slowly often into a better, more complex, or more advanced state
Today is August 2nd, 2016.
Today is my last official day as an intern at Gotham Writers’ Workshop.
And I can proudly say it was through this internship that I became the person I wanted to always be.
I was never a confident person. I continuously doubted myself and my strengths. At Gotham, if they heard a slightly negative remark about myself, I was made to say three positive things to counteract all that negativity. And from that, confidence started to build.
I was always fearful of meeting new people, those awkward small-talk conversations and not knowing what to do with your hands. By the end, I was able to smile without fear and say, “Hey! I heard you like ____. So do I!” And start a conversation.
I learned to laugh at mistakes and myself when needed.
Thank you, Justin and Alex.
I learned to breathe through difficulty, honor my soul, and overcome one fear at a time.
Thank you, Dana.
I learned to be positive & kind for every person you meet is fighting a battle & to not let this world make you hard.
Thank you, Kelly and Melissa.
I learned to be proud of your quirkiness and of yourself, embrace it (even if you do know way too many facts about Friends).
Thank you, Britt.
I learned what it is to be a helping hand at all times, no matter what you’re in the middle of.
Thank you, Charlie.
I learned more about myself in this year and a half than I would have anywhere else, even in the comforts of my own home. I arrived scared, felt powerless, and drained of self-esteem. And now, I leave confident, powerful, and more content and tranquil than ever.
Peace out, Gotham. ✌️
You know I’ll be back.