Mental Leg Days

I joked to my friend May May recently that the learning curve has been so steep at this new place that it’s like mental leg day everyday…

…which is probably a good thing!

So, if you’re not familiar with the show I’m attached to, (why aren’t you though? Check it out here) it’s hosted by Guy Raz. I had lunch with him last Friday and during lunch, he talked about how we usually suck when we start something new (except he said it more eloquently than that). I think that should have comforted me, but like do you even know me? Of course it didn’t LOL. I hate sucking at things (!), especially the things I like doing and I really like this job.

At this point, my job has primarily consisted of writing promos for the show to go on the social media sites and preparing a write-up on the guests that Guy will interview… which means like a two-page thing about their life story and as many questions as I can think of (these write-ups are called passoffs). I’ve written two passoffs so far. I prepare them and then the show’s editor looks over them and gives me feedback and from that, I can tell that my second one was better than my first but that they’re still not good. And here’s the frustrating thing: I know it’s not good and my editor (bless her BRILLIANT soul) tries her very best to give me constructive feedback but she and I both know that it’s the kind of thing you just get better at with experience. So as eager and impatient as I am, I just have to keep doing more of them until I get better.

Everyone on the team has been asking me how everything is going and whether or not I feel like I’m “sipping from a firehose” and on the first week, not so much. In retrospect, that was probably because half the team was away doing a live show in Seattle. But now that everyone’s back, I’m starting to get a feel for the regular swing of things and I’m feeling the uphill climb on the learning curve as they give me more and more responsibility. In some ways, it’s about learning to do the tasks correctly but the other, equally challenging thing is learning to juggle different tasks that belong to different projects and have different timelines.

I came home from work the other day and was like… ok this is the homework I’m going to give to myself in order to try to get better quickly and I kinda laughed about it a little because I was weirdly glad that my anxiety-powered intensity is back in action. It’s been what, 5 months since my last exam? So yeah, I haven’t felt this anxious drive in so long and it was just like “lol ok hi, intense Dayana is back (after the chillest summer of her life)”.

Speaking of intensity, I was reminded today of all my bad habits from college. For example, eating while doing work is like the #1 thing that comes to mind. If it wasn’t for my team asking me out to eat, I realised that my basic urge is to just microwave my packed lunch and eat it at my desk because that’s kinda how I’ve been doing it most of the time for the past few years… which is bad, right? I remember sitting down to eat and being like “oh, my eyes aren’t really needed for eating so I could probably do my readings now” (admittedly, sometimes it was Netflix instead of readings, but you know…) and I think that “I should always be working” thing is actually pretty hard to shake off. Like, I’d come home at night and the other day I caught myself looking for my usual to-do list. It’s so weird. But anyway! New life stages come with adjustments lah kan.

In other, funner news:

Us interns still have training going on. It’s a bit more sporadic now but we still have a few here and there. Last week, my favourite training session was one on the Marantz. It’s a mobile audio recorder and we basically had like 1.5 hours on how to use it, which I thought was pretty comprehensive. It isn’t directly related to what I do on the job, but I absolutely loved it because remember earlier this year when I was working on that piece about graduation? I was using a Zoom H4N which is similar to the Marantz but less sophisticated. And I had all these questions, which I’d just look for answers to on Google and whatnot but this training was great because it let me know what I was doing right and wrong and gave me answers to all my unresolved issues. So yeah, that was really cool!

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Unrelated to work: I went to see Ed Sheeran in concert last Wednesday! I went alone and it. was. so. much. fun. I bought the tickets ages ago that I had kinda forgotten all about it. And I got like the cheapest possible ones so I was on the highest possible tier but still, even though the show is basically just Ed and his loop pedal + a guitar, his voice/energy really filled the room and I just had the time of my life because I knew all the words to all the songs. Plus, I’ve heard all of his records over the years and I can remember like listening to Multiply on repeat while I was on a 7-hour layover at Heathrow and listening to Divide while I was in LA last March. So hearing everything live was definitely an experience.

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I wore an Ed Sheeran tshirt to work the next day and my editor asked me about it and asked me about the concert and she asked me whether there were a lot of screaming girls and bored parents and I said yeah but conveniently left out that I was, 100%, one of the screaming girls. It was a miracle that I still had my voice the next morning lol.

That’s all from me this week 🙂 I’m off to try to finish watching 30 Rock before it goes off of Netflix next weekend, haha. Bye!

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FIRST WEEK AT NPR!

Ok, I’m sorry this is late. I can feel the watchful eyes of Hui Jie and my dad, wondering why I flaked last week.

The truth is, I’ve just been at a loss for words, and I mean that in the best way possible. I honestly am so grateful for this past week that I don’t even know how to write about it in a balanced way. I feel like I usually write about being at least a bit busy and tired even on my best weeks, so I just wasn’t sure how to open up a blank page and be like “everything is great!!!”

But everything has been… pretty damn great.

I had quite a bit of trouble falling asleep the night before last Monday. I guess I was a bit more nervous that I realised? But the morning finally came and I wore the clothes I laid out for myself the night before, just like I used to do when I was like, seven or something.

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My first week at NPR started off with a day of orientation. I walked in for the first time grinning so hard like someone had stuffed a hanger in my mouth. Coincidentally, the very first person I met was another Penn grad in my year. I recognised her because I saw her perform at a stand-up comedy show last spring. There are about 50+ interns this semester and that meant a lot of introductions and so very much small talk. Pros: meeting so many new people from all over the country. Cons: I never know if I’m being weird or awkward or saying something that doesn’t make sense.

We went on a tour around the building and I was like, awestruck the whole time. During our tour, we passed by NPR Politics host Scott Detrow in the hallway, I saw Code Switch co-host Gene Demby’s desk and got to see all the studios they record in. Needless to say, it felt like one of the best days of my life. Also, we had free pizza for lunch that first day. Having just graduated from college, I expected that basic boxed pizza we used to get from Allegro’s or Axis but wow did they exceed my expectations (note to self: ask HR about where that pizza came from).

The rest of the day was mostly boring first-day stuff like handling paperwork, hearing from a senior exec, learning about workplace conduct and all of that good stuff. Not gonna lie, I zoned out a few times that day, but always because I just couldn’t believe where I was.

On Tuesday, I finally got to meet my team!! I don’t think I’ve ever actually said on here what I’m doing at NPR, but I’m the intern for NPR’s How I Built This, which is a podcast about entrepreneurs, and I’ve been listening to it since it’s early days… and by early days I mean last September. Which brings me to the highlight of my first “real” day on the job: ice cream! The first day I met my team was coincidentally also the one year anniversary of the show and we had some really good ice cream to celebrate.

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Hastily-taken picture, meant to just be Whatsapp-ed to my family groupchat. Ice cream served by Guy and tastes way better than it looks. Also, I love me some caramel and whipped cream.

I remember the first time I listened to HIBT. I was on a flight back from Boston after a crappy job interview, fighting the temptation to feel like the biggest failure ever. I remember listening to their episodes on Vice and Spanx, and feeling instantly inspired… like I will be okay, and that I can still make something out of myself. I came back to Philly and I wrote a blog post titled Five, in which I write that “I am not meant for more, not meant for less, just meant for different” and that “perspective is powerful”. I got that by listening to this show. So HIBT is really, really special to me and I am so honoured to be a part of it.

Everyone on the team has been so kind and welcoming, which has just made this whole new beginning so much more (forgive me for being this cheesy!) magical. It was kinda wild to hear Guy Raz speaking directly to me, because I have been listening to his voice on podcasts for so long. It was also a little bizarre to be introduced to people when you’ve actually already memorised their full names from listening to them being said on the credits of the show so many times, haha.

They’ve all been so helpful to me as I learn the ropes. I’m helping run the show’s social media accounts and prep the show’s host for interviews and stuff. Soon, I’ll also be getting more hands-on production experience by helping to produce a 3-5 minute featurette at the end of every episode but we haven’t gotten to that point yet. Still, I constantly find myself needing to run over to people for small questions and they’ve all just been so patient, which I obviously really appreciate.

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My desk, decorated with some Malaysia postcards.

Apart from my duties with the team, all the interns have been having a series of seminar-style training sessions from all over the company. We got to hear from Nell Greenfieldboyce about journalism fundamentals, from Lori Todd about social media management, from Mark Memmott about ethics, from so many others about how to find our way around the building, book the studios, borrow equipment and use the internal software. I really like that there’s this sense of structure to the program, plus it gives all the interns a chance to get together a few times a week and get to know each other.

The highlight of last week for me however, was, not gonna lie, meeting Paramore. They were such an integral part of my music interests back in secondary school… I remember listening to “brand new eyes” during form 5 while studying for SPM and like wow, 16-17 year old me would NOT believe this could’ve been possible. They were there to perform a Tiny Desk concert, which is a signature series that comes out of NPR Music. Artists usually play acoustic versions of 3 of their songs. John Legend, Adele, Yusuf Islam, Chvrches, Hozier and SO many more have performed there. The set is decorated by all sorts of relics left behind by some of these artists. Anyway. Paramore played Hard Times26 and Fake Happy. Hayley Williams was so sweet and so good live and I still can’t believe any of that happened.

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The Tiny Desk

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Paramore performing

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Me with the band!!

Outside of work, I’ve been meeting a lot of friends. I’m quite glad there are a good number of people I kinda-sorta-know here because it’s like making new friends but not entirely. There are some people I know because of Penn, some people I know from home and some people I made friends with almost purely by virtue of also being Malaysian. So that’s nice. It gives me a chance to have some form of social life without being overwhelmed at all. My new roommate is also amazing, and so is the apartment I’m staying in. So yeah, things are on the up.

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I haven’t been taking a lot of pictures with people because they’re “new” friends, but this is me with Taylor and Angie who also graduated from Penn this past May 🙂

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My fav corner of the apartment

Again, like I said, I’m just so thankful for the chance to be here. 🙂 I’ll write more soon when I fully settle into this new life. For now, the dryer is done and I have (sigh) a lot of laundry to fold.

P.S. I just want to leave this here, from 11 months ago:

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Exciting New(s)

Hello, it’s time for a quick little life update!

As I write this, I’m in bed in a new apartment in a new city for a new job. I remember from four years ago, feeling like I had to blink twice or thrice every time I looked out of a window to check that I was really in Philadelphia at an Ivy League school. It has been so long, and now I get to feel like that again.

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Even in today’s gloom, Washington DC looked so beautiful. This move has been such a long time coming. From labouring over my NPR internship applications back in March, interviews in April, struggles of obtaining work authorisation through June, to apartment searches in July… I’ve finally settled in a lovely Columbia Heights apartment and am excited to start work next week.

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Hanna took this. I joked that it felt like she was sending me off to sleepaway camp.

I got to the US on Sunday and had a short but very blissful 24 hours in Philly. I made the most out of my brief time there and got to see Cristina, so many of my MSA friends who were still at Penn (because Zuhaib & Armi had great timing and hosted a potluck that exact night!) and had a sleepover with Jamie.

The next morning, Hanna and I made a road trip down to DC. I will forever be deeply grateful to her for driving 5 hours and helping me move. That was just such a nice thing for her to do. We had a great half day together—car chats and an IKEA stop in the morning, moving bags and boxes into my room and a good lunch in my new neighbourhood.

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IKEA is so cheap????

Everything feels different. Like, even though I had an amazing summer and felt sad to leave, I also felt noticeably less dread about leaving home this time just because for once, I was actually excited about going back to the States. I arrived in Philadelphia (just because it was easier to get a round trip ticket) and though it felt weird to be back on campus, it felt good weird. Although there was still a sad echo of all the graduation madness, without the stress of school and a new semester, it was easy to enjoy the campus for the beautiful place it is. Also, the apartment I’m staying in feels nothing like a college apartment. And honestly, DC has me awestruck a little more than Philly ever has, and certainly more quickly. So alhamdulillah, I’m really thankful.

On that note, I just want to acknowledge that literally none of this would be possible if I didn’t already have all the privileges that I do. Getting work authorisation was not cheap. Plus, because I didn’t apply early enough, I had to stay in the US for a bit longer than I had planned back in May, which meant more living expenses. All of that was paid for by my parents, who literally just asked me if this is really what I want, and all I said was yes. It also helped that I was at a school where the resources were abundant and alumni network was so extensive that I had multiple people to talk to about applying to jobs in radio and working in the industry in general. I think a lot about how this same opportunity is apparently present to a lot more people than the ones who can actually take it and I’m doing my best to not take this chance for granted.

In other news, I’ve lost my phone. I don’t really want to talk about what happened anymore but I’m 99.9% confident it’s gone. To tell you the truth, it was really upsetting, especially because it happened on my first morning here. Just as I was about to feel all adult and independent about going to Target by my own volition, this happens and I had to rush back to my apartment to text my mum with my laptop to ask about what to do lol (reality check: I’m still a baby).

I managed to hold it together by reminding myself that phones are replaceable (even though some unbacked-up data in there might not be…) and better my phone than my travel documents or me getting hurt. But yeah, that’s also why I can’t really put up pictures of my apartment. I really appreciate having a phone so much more now. I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday and had to write down a list of groceries and draw a skeleton of the directions to the store. There was nothing I could do to keep myself distracted while waiting in the long line and I couldn’t even tell the time! Haha. Well, at least I’ve found some humour in this otherwise unfortunate situation.

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One of the few pictures of my room I took with my now-lost phone.

Anyway, all of that is just to say that I’ve had an eventful first few days here. I’ll write more to let you know how my first week of work goes but for now, I’m suffering from a strong combination of jet lag + post workout sleepiness so, until next time, thanks for reading. 🙂