The Choices that Led Me to the TENT Project
By Robyn Miller
Would you rather fall down a rabbit hole or get swept up in a tornado? Both make for pretty interesting starts to big adventures, but if you can’t decide, maybe you’d settle on something that’ll lead you to your dream career rather than Wonderland. I might not have landed on a witch when I joined the TENT project, but it was definitely an inciting incident that led me down a path towards an exciting professional journey.
Sometimes the perfect opportunity doesn’t rush up to meet you while you’re looking for it, I definitely wasn’t. I was already working two jobs, one writing scripts for the Sheridan Production House, and another pouring coffee at the SSU Coffee Loft. I wasn’t making much, but I was happy, which made me luckier than most students working part-time to pay for school. Between class and work one morning, I was approached by Professor Glenn Clifton, who asked if I’d be interested applying for a Research Assistant position. Despite being happy where I was, I could hear a small voice in that moment, saying, “Why stop now? This isn’t the end of your story, is it?”
Answering the Call to Adventure
This might all sound familiar if you’re an English major or someone who just enjoys a good story. You have your hero, who has a normal life, and suddenly is faced with a choice. At first they think, “If I just stay put, nothing will change, and I won’t have to worry about things getting worse”. But then, they stop and say, “What the heck,” and chase that white rabbit despite it all. So, I applied and was soon offered an interview.
During the interview, I was assured that workflow would never overtake my school. But there was still something I had yet to consider: I already had two jobs. If I wanted to take on the hours being offered, I would need to let something go. It was a stressful decision,since I had never worked a job that was not ‘shift work’ before, or completely worked from home. My time at the Coffee Loft was fun, probably the most fun I’ve ever had in food service. But, I was in school to be a writer, and it became clear that I needed to start acting out my dreams instead of just visualizing them as a distant goal. So, I had a honest conversation with my supervisor at the Loft, and the support I received only confirmed that I was making the right decision.
The Road of Trials
I was crossing a threshold into a new territory, in which I would be expected to completely work from home. The switch was a significant challenge, as home is where Netflix is, and pyjamas, and sleepy-time tea. This presented another hurdle, which was that I would need to find a way to separate work and down time if I was going to get anything done. Finding solutions to this became the topic of the first blog post I wrote as a Research Assistant, and the first piece of writing I have ever had officially published for the public.
While most of my work was done remotely, we did gather for creative problem solving as our team grew. The meetings were to generate gameplans for the TENT initiative in tactile and team oriented ways that asked us to forget about limitations and be creative as we could be without fear of judgment. Though the meetings were early, Professor Brandon McFarlane was always prepared with muffins and coffee to help us work at 100%. Our team consisted of Sheridan students from diverse disciplines, from illustrators to computer analysts. When we brainstormed together, not only did we value each other’s different talents, we came together as a creative team that supported one another. I had the privilege of interviewing each of our student team members, and what I found was not only were they all individually remarkable and talented, but they all experienced the similar inciting moments that led us to join the TENT program.
Down the Rabbit Hole…
I was to writing for an online platform for the first time, so I needed a crash course on the ins and outs of running a website through WordPress. My understanding of WordPress before this experience was similar to my understanding of astronomy, because of course I’ve seen the night sky every night, but I still had a long way to go before I was ready to be sent to Mars. When writing a piece for an online platform, you have to apply Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which means you have to have the right length of words, sentences, and paragraphs to check all the boxes the online readers are drawn to.
The internet is a wide and wonderful place, and it is also a beam of pure information. If you want your content to stand out to someone who’s scrolling down their feed at 3AM, it’s important to know how to mold your writing into something easy on the eyes. With McFarlane’s guidance, I was able to master the basics of this tangled web, and now I feel confident in my abilities not only as a writer, but as a certified blogger.
…And Back Again
My experience as a Research Assistant will forever be a golden spot in my journey into the professional world. I believe that life follows story beats in many ways, in its lows and highs, and in its many wonderful and unexpected beginnings. I have had many inciting incidents that lead me to this one, and I believe there will be many more, but none quite so unique as working with TENT. My trip down the rabbit hole opened up a world of possibility, and I encourage anyone reading this to chase the chances they come across, without fear of falling.