In which the clock strikes midnight.

Yesterday marked my last “official” day as the On Leadership and Innovations intern. I still have some work to do before I go, which hopefully means one or two more bylines, but my school calendar tells me Nov. 22 was the final day I was required to go into the newsroom.

How bittersweet it is.

Photo by Gracie Ferrell, one of the greatest, most wonderful Southern Belles I know

Here are my top 10 Washington Post memories, the good and the…mostly good, that I’ll carry with me beyond this semester:

10. Getting caught in the pouring rain without an umbrella after my very first assignment, lost in downtown at night wearing heels and a dress. At the time, it was not a pleasant experience, but it’s funny to remember. Oh, how little I knew…

9. …Coming full circle and being unprepared for rain on the day I interviewed FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg. Sorry I’m soaking wet, Mr. Chairman, ignore the dripping; there’s just a small monsoon outside.

8. Editing other writers’ columns for On Leadership and realizing that my experience as editor-in-chief of The Falcon last year had paved the way for this chance. My editor, Lily, trusted me to improve (or at least not ruin) other people’s copy. For an intern, knowing that I had her trust meant a lot.

7. Seeing my mom’s face light up with pride when she came to D.C. and got to tour the newsroom where I work. She just kept saying, “This is so cool, Melissa, I can’t get over how cool this is!” I know, Mom. I still think so, too.

6. Working with Emi and Lily to improve my stories and seeing firsthand how an online section comes together on a daily basis. Learning how to publish a story to the Washington Post website using an aggravating and too-simplistic computer program called Methode. Here’s my summary: It’s very stressful.

5. The adrenaline rush that came when I picked up the phone and heard, “Is this Melissa Steffan? This is Thomas Friedman calling for you.” (Same with Premal Shah. And Bill Drayton. And Rep. Jo Bonner.) 

4. Meeting Ben Bradlee (whom I consider journalism royalty) and watching him jaywalk across 15th Street in mid-afternoon traffic. I guess it makes sense: When you’ve already edited and printed the stories that broke the Nixon Watergate scandal, you might as well jaywalk for the thrill of it; everything seems like less of a risk when you’ve already brought down one president. (File that life lesson away for future reference…)

3. The moment I saw the byline of my first On Leadership story. I definitely screamed with excitement. Then I called my mom. 

2. Seeing my byline in print atop my social entrepreneurship article, which received nearly a full-page spread in the Sunday Business section. Many hours of interviews, outlines, edits and even a few tears built that story over the course the semester. It was worth every moment.

1. Interviewing two of the Chilean miners (who were rescued after the 2010 mine collapse in Chile) at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. They told me they shouldn’t have lived, that they shouldn’t be getting these opportunities to come to the U.S., to be interviewed by the Post, to speak about leadership and courage. But God rescued them, they said, and now it’s their job to remain thankful that He did. 

I think that’s my favorite Post memory because that’s how I feel, too. I shouldn’t have gotten this chance to work at the Post, but I’m grateful and humbled that I did. I’m staying thankful to the Lord for blessing me with these amazing memories, which have shaped me both as a writer and a person.

The last 11 weeks have seemed like my own amazing Cinderella story, but now the clock has struck midnight, so to speak. My carriage is actually just a very loud, crowded WMATA bus that alway runs late, if it shows up at all. The palace is just a stone building on 15th Street where I no longer work. I’m not a Post reporter; I’m still a college senior who has little idea where her life is going.

But although it’s time for me to return to “real life,” in which college students from SPU just don’t get published in the Post, it happened. Every moment of it happened, and I am different because of the challenges, the heartbreaks, and the successes. Maybe, to continue the metaphor, I get to leave a glass slipper at the Post, the connections and friendships I’ve forged with my editors and the people who supported my journey.

And that means I don’t just go back to being the person I was before this experience. Eleven weeks ago, I walked in the newsroom of The Washington Post, pretending to be a confident, young reporter. When I walk in now, I’m not pretending.

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4 thoughts on “In which the clock strikes midnight.

  1. You’re good Melissa. Good at writing, good at taking the initiative and being bold, good at returning the glory back to God. You talk about going back to being a senior SPU student with little idea where you’re going, but that’s not really something to worry about is it? You’ve been blessed with so many talents and opportunities it will be exciting to see what amazing places you end up.

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