A Message to All The Interns

A Message to the Interns

The other day I found myself giving a teary retirement farewell to two people who’d worked at the Rodale Institute since the early 1970s…since I was an intern there!

I hadn’t really prepared “remarks”—after all, it was just a good-bye cake. I hadn’t expected to get so emotional, either. But a few days later, as I was digging out some very persistent weeds from my garden, I got to thinking about that moment, and the room full of hopeful, new interns who had come for the cake. And, as is often the case when I’m working in the garden, this blog came to me…stemming from the wish that I had given said interns a bit of advice.

So, here it goes:

1.    Time flies; so appreciate the moment you’re in right now. It seems like only yesterday when I was working a summer internship at the Rodale Institute. It was probably 1978 or ’79. One of my most vivid memories is standing in a hot shower after a long day working in the fields—the window was open and a summer breeze was coming in. I was filthy dirty in the best way, and the mud was running off me and heading down the drain. I had an ice-cold beer on the ledge, which I was drinking in the shower. I believe I was listening to “Thunder Road” on, like, you know, a stereo, which is what you play “vinyl” on—but in those days we just called them records or albums. I felt strong, happy, and like anything was possible! Fast-forward 30-plus years. I stopped drinking long ago. My body has changed significantly. The good news is that I still get filthy dirty in the garden, and I still listen to Bruce Springsteen. I still feel strong (although not quite as strong), happy, and like anything’s possible. But oh, what an adventure it’s been. It doesn’t feel that long ago.
2.    Find your purpose and stay true to it. The interns at the Rodale Institute have a head start on finding their purpose, since it’s such a purpose-driven organization. But finding a purpose is important for everyone. Your purpose is like a song in your head or a rainbow that comes and goes: It won’t always be loud or visible, but you know it’s there. You should always work toward it and be ready for it because when all is said and done, it’s what gives life meaning. I can’t tell you what yours is, but I can sort of tell you what mine is: making the world a better place by creating positive solutions. OK, that took me 40 years to articulate so easily, but that’s the basic thing. You will get all sorts of distractions and diversions thrown in front of you; always ask yourself whether what you’re doing feels true to your purpose.
3.    Trust your body and your gut. Get the hell out of your head all the time! Think of it this way: Your body is your antenna and radio receiver to the universe. And your head is the channel you’re tuned to. Just because Howard Stern is on the radio doesn’t mean you have to listen to him. Your body will tell you so much more than your brain ever will. It will tell you if you’re in the right relationship or not. It will tell you if you’re eating right or exercising enough. It will tell you if you love your job or hate it. Use your brain to pay attention to the signals your body is sending you, and you’ll know you’re on the road to true health, healing, and happiness!
4.    Focus on the positive, not the negative. There will be bad sh*t in every situation you’re in, but the more you focus on the bad stuff and dwell on it, the more you will embroil yourself in it and make yourself miserable. Always look at your own behavior first and see what you might be doing to contribute to the negativity, but then focus on and move toward the positive. Use the negative stuff to learn about what you want and don’t want in your life. You will find that the more you focus on the positive, the more positive you’ll feel!
5.    Everything you learn along the way will come in handy at some time or another. I know there are moments as an intern when you’ll be asking yourself, “Why the hell am I doing this?” Some day you will be surprised how useful everything was. Even if it’s just to say something like this to your kids one day: “When I was your age…we had to mail things on paper and put them in envelopes and lick them and stamp them because the Internet didn’t exist!” Trust me, things like that feel wonderfully useful when you’re an old lady like me. And another thing: Learning to pull weeds never goes out of style.
6.    Life is hardly ever a straight line, a ladder, or a stairway. It will zig and zag, backtrack, detour, and divert, occasionally going in circles. But remember, it’s a journey not a destination, and the whole point is to enjoy it! If you have the mistaken belief that your purpose is to get somewhere very specific and life’s going to go directly there, you’re in for a big surprise. My best advice? Be open to the adventure and savor every minute of it. Even the hard parts. Because without the hard parts, you might not appreciate the truly good parts when they come.

So farewell, Eileen and Dave. And remember this…you can be an intern at any age!


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12 Responses to A Message to All The Interns

  1. Lorna Donaldson June 4, 2014 at 7:14 am #

    Maria this is beautiful……Eileen and Dave I wish them the best. So many wonderful memories and such love and purpose they both demonstrated. I miss you and them.

  2. Donna in Delaware June 4, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Yep, time surely does fly! Sometimes I too feel old, but I know that I am not. I know that I should always trust my gut feelings, for it has been so true to me. Every time I dismissed it for my head, I got into trouble, and I mean every time!!! Do trust what your gut tells you, let your head follow, and I think that you will be better off for it! You are correct in listening to your body too. It gives you signals, and it would behoove you to listen to those signals. It could be a matter of life or death! I experienced this two nights ago.

    Everything comes full circle. Just when you think you’ve gotten it all together, it comes around again, sometimes in a different form, sometimes the same as before, but it comes. Life always throws you a ‘monkey wrench,’ just when you think things are going well. That’s just life! If you live long enough you’ll find this to be true.

    Trust me, stay away from those who can’t let go, honestly forgive and/or move forward. They and their drama will surely wear you out and bring you down, and yes, I have asked myself what did I DO to either start this, or contribute to the bad situation. When the answer was truly nothing, I started backing away from the situation, and doing my own thing. I keep away, and I have been at peace and better off. No DRAMA!!! Only progress! You’ll find this to be true also.

    Ah life, it’s a journey, as Maria have stated. It may not be always full of promise, or all that you hope that it will be, it may not be smooth sailing, or even fun, but try to enjoy it along the way. It could make for a smoother passage.

  3. Alice Green June 4, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    Maria, I hope all your interns will get a copy of your message. Even if it doesn’t all sink in now, somewhere down the road, they will say “Aha! This is what Maria was talking about!” And they will appreciate even more the good advice. The only advice I would add is: Take very good care of your health — you need it even more as you get past 65!

  4. Dana B June 4, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    I love this post! All very true advice. I’d also add listen hard. The more you can pick up from your company, coworkers and job, the better prepared you’ll be to use that fuel to back up your thoughts, ideas and questions when you share them.

  5. Rajini June 6, 2014 at 4:20 am #

    True, I am overwhelmed by your post, Luck are the people around you and may god be with you for all your endeavours

  6. Tracy Herz June 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm #


  7. Leanne Koepke June 11, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    Here is an addition to your list. Never lose your connection to the natural world outside your door. Cultivate it in some way, no matter how small.

  8. Alexa Felckenstein June 11, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    Be kind.

  9. Joe Lehan June 11, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    I thank Rodale Corp. for a lot of things. When I was married back in the late 70’s and early 80’s we had an organic garden and did a lot of remodeling on the house. We subscribed to Prevention, Organic gardening, New Shelter and bicycling. Thanks for all the tips and ideas!
    And a tip for your list: Just because something doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth your while!

  10. Maria Dingjan June 11, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    Here’s an addition for your list: Life needs to be elastic sided to make way for the unexpected.

  11. IveA June 12, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    This week was an eye opener for me. I am readibg “Emotional Spiritual Spirituality”. Is the one & only book that make me re-think many things & also the one that make me suffer.

    For all: I preper to had both: healthy emotional spirituality & be emotional healthy. No matter if you assist to church (anyone, anywhere, your beliefs), be a healthy emotional person!!!

  12. Jeanne June 12, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    Here’s my tip: Don’t overcomplicate things – I have a sign over my desk I made years ago that says simply “Do the best you can with what you’ve got”. I’ve found time and again that what I have is more than sufficient to accomplish the job at hand.

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