Losing touch, but never forgetting

My junior year of high school, I had two internships. I was interested in going into journalism at the time, so during the fall semester I was placed at a local weekly newspaper. For the spring semester, I went to a public radio station: Blue Lake Public Radio.

Blue Lake played classical music and was on the campus of Blue Lake Fine Arts camp, which I had attended as a 7th grader. I was a band nerd, being a member of my high school marching band, wind ensemble and the county wide youth symphony. Blue Lake was (is) my dad’s favorite radio station. So I was very familiar with the station and the music they played. What I had no experience in was radio broadcasting or working in an office.

When I was at the newspaper, everyone worked fairly independently. As long as I got my work done correctly and on time, my supervisor never really said much to me. Blue Lake was very different. I knew this from the time of my interview. I went dressed as a 16 year old thinks they should dress for an interview. My soon-to-be supervisor was in faded jeans, sneakers and an old University of Florida sweatshirt. After the interview, he said that I was dressed nicely, but that I didn’t need to dress that well to work in a radio station.

What followed was the best semester I’ve ever had. There were only about a half dozen people employed at the station, so I got to know everyone very well. I learned a lot, and enjoyed the steep learning curve that came along with the knowledge. I became the go-to person to unjam the printer/copier that was older than me. I fed the stray cat, Micetro, who would wander around the building, earning himself a name and a food dish. Mostly, I was able to learn about how an office works and how co-workers can become like family.

It has now been six years since I walked the halls of Blue Lake Public Radio. I still listen, and smile when I think of the behind the scenes shenanigans of the announcers. How Steve is probably still cursing and shoving broken printers off his desk. How everyone sleeps little and lives in the station during the bi-annual pledge drives. Mostly, I think of everything I learned about being in a work setting and how I grew as a person while I was there. I ended up not going into journalism, but some lessons transcend the field you work in.

Most of those lessons were given to me by my supervisor, Gordon, who wore that Florida sweatshirt often. During my internship, I had a tendency to show up on time and start my work without talking to anyone. Gordon informed me that while my work ethic was good, how was he supposed to know it was when he didn’t know I was there. So I started talking more, interacting with everyone and still getting my work done. Gordon also told me that everyone thought I was quiet, shy and were surprised when I talked and showed myself to be funny and intelligent. So I came out of my shell, adding my two cents and making jokes during meetings I got to go to. Those are just a few of the dozens of little things Gordon taught me that changed who I am. Over the years, I lost contact with everyone at Blue Lake, but I’ve never forgotten those lessons.

A short time ago, Gordon died at age 52. Even though I had not spoken to him in many years, I was still hit by the loss of my old mentor. He was gone too young and I wish he was still around, for his family and for the people he had not yet mentored through a high school internship. I will never forget what he taught me and the fun I had during that semester. For all I learned and grew, I will be forever grateful to the man in the old Florida sweatshirt


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