It wasn’t supposed to happen. For the entirety of the LIVE-IN program at MORIUMIUS, the summer experience in which groups of about 20 children stay at the facility for a week, the sub-guides (our version of camp counselors) had been following an every-other week schedule. I had already been a sub-guide the week before my last week, so for my last week, I should have been free. However, on Friday of my work week, after a very suspicious two and two half days off, I received some unfortunate news: I was going to be a sub-guide again.
It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t do it than that I didn’t want to. I mean, the kids were sweet, the staff were all working as hard as ever, and I was capable, both in terms of energy and experience. Yet a week with the LIVE-IN kids was always devastatingly draining; especially here, where they promoted independence. Ironically, it was harder to let children be than to guide them each and every step of the way. More than anything, I was upset that I wouldn’t have be able to spend with the staff or with the animals, to take in MORIUMIUS for the last time.
Naturally, the more I thought about this, the worse I felt; and throughout the week I drove myself into a deeper and deeper rut, stewing about all the things that could have been. All the other interns had been allowed free time at the end of their internships and left on a nice note. None of the interns had ever worked as a sub-guide for two weeks in a row–only the staff.
Yet I knew that they had asked me because they knew that I was capable, and because they needed help. This had always been a weakness–whenever the times got tough, I complained and complained and complained, and eventually quit. I think my problem was that I’d never known what it was like to have someone relying on me to this extent… So this was a chance, I thought, to show the staff, and myself, that I could handle it.
As the week went on, however, I only got more and more tired, and felt worse and worse. One day, I got stressed to the point where I started panicking. I ran to the office and started crying, and from then on, the tears never really stopped. From time to time, I would think about the week and start crying in the middle of whatever I was doing. I felt taken for granted–just because I could do it, didn’t mean that I should. I felt like maybe they didn’t know that it was my last week; or if they did, maybe they didn’t care. Perhaps, I even thought a couple of times, I never was a big help to them at all…
Weighed down by these thoughts, I began to spiral. I was devastated that my impression of this internship would be destroyed; that all my memories of the happy times here would be overshadowed by this one week that I didn’t want. At the same time, though, I didn’t want to tell anyone. They needed me, and to quit would show all of the staff members, who had been working so, so, so hard, that I was a lazy, slow, spoiled complainer. Worst of all, quitting would be a guarantee–I for sure wouldn’t be able to end on a nice note. And yet, regardless, the days felt too long, and the nights felt too short. One morning, nearly as soon as I got to work, I broke down crying in the linen closet. I felt backed into a corner.
After breakfast, I had been complaining to a fellow intern as we stepped into the office. There, our favorite staff member, who had been like a mother to us during our time here, was crying. Her grandmother had passed away, and she had to leave MORIUMIUS as soon as possible. She wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to us when we left.
Once she said that, we all wrapped into a huge hug and began to cry. I felt like the only one person who I absolutely wanted/needed there when I left, was going. It was just about the worst thing that could’ve happened at the moment. Eventually, we broke off the hug; but once I started crying, I couldn’t stop. All the things that had happened, all the feelings and stress and sadness I had kept pent up for so long, had reached the surface, and was pouring out. Before I knew it, I was crouched in the corner on the office floor, sobbing–and I never cried in front of people.
When she saw this, the same staff member started apologizing to me about how hard they had been making me work. I kept trying to shake my head or say no, it’s OK, but my voice would only come out as a whisper. I felt like I had turned one tragedy into the other. I had dragged down one of the sweetest people here into my problems, when she had just lost her grandmother. It was terrible.
In the hours after, the intern I had ranted to spoke with our bosses about what I had been feeling. Immediately, they called the guide with whom I had been working, and took me off as a sub-guide. Before I was dismissed, my guide spoke to me about the nature of work here, and how hard it had been for her in her first year–she had gotten so bent out of shape that she had caused a car accident, which some of the children remembered. I got the rest of the day off, and was told I could spend what was left of the week doing whatever I wanted. Soon, our favorite staff member left.
I made eye contact with as little employees as possible, and then walked home. But I still didn’t feel okay.
For months, I had worked at a place that didn’t feel real. I was in a beautiful place with beautiful people, surrounded by the sweetest staff and the sweetest animals. Here, I had learned some of my most important lessons, and was both proud and absolutely amazed at how I had grown. Yet now, right before I could make a happy exit, it all came crashing down, back to reality–and it hurt. I couldn’t hold it together for long enough to be someone that they could really count on. I couldn’t say a proper goodbye to a staff member who I really loved, who had been like my mother during the time I was here. I couldn’t stick it out for one week, not for the kids and not even for the staff, who had done so much for me. I felt like the worst person on Earth, and it would be a while until the feeling went away.