Target’s fluorescent lights beamed down on me as I stood awkwardly between aisles, scanning for my first random target. I settled on a young woman browsing the throw pillow section. Fumbling over my words and certain I was visibly sweating, I questioned her about Evanston restaurants’ no-cash policies.
After 72 seconds — which felt like 72 years — I fled Target like a soldier leaving a battle zone. Devoid of her age, occupation, hometown and anything remotely resembling a usable quote, my interview was a certifiable failure.
Although I felt like crawling into my twin-XL and never seeing daylight again, there was something at play more that was important than my feelings: a deadline.
What followed was a series of conversations with complete strangers. Eating a sandwich, examining fruit, walking down the street: no matter what they were doing, they weren’t safe from hearing “Hi, I’m a summer journalism student…”
I would be lying if I said my nerves disappeared as I jumped from assignment to assignment. But, my introduction improved. I collected the required information and I took rejection in stride.
I talked to people who reminded me why I love journalism. People invited me to sit with them, told me about the things they love and shared their time and expertise. I’ll walk away from Cherubs much differently than I walked into my first interview: now, I’m confident there are people who have a story to tell me. And I’ll be ready to ask.