I applied for an internship in a bid to break free from anxiety and depression. This is how working at The Social Space changed me.
“Hannah, help me refill the water”, Daniel asked me one day. I remember feeling anxious about the task, albeit small, thinking about how I may not be tall enough to reach the water dispenser or have enough strength to carry the water jug. “You try, I believe you can do it.” And just like that, I successfully refilled the water dispenser, thankfully with none of the hundreds of exaggerated scenarios I played out in my head happening. A seemingly small, trivial situation, yet a microcosm of what it was like working at The Social Space.
Insyirah (my co-intern) and me on our lunch adventures
I struggled with mental health in my secondary school days and was eventually diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 18. I found myself imprisoned by the constant tyranny of my mind, and at times, lost the will to live. Most people apply for internships perhaps to fulfil school requirements or to earn some money during the holidays, but I applied for an internship in a bid to, for the lack of a better description, stay alive. I applied with the hope that an internship would give me some work to occupy my summer break, forcing myself to adapt to a new rhythm of life that would not allow me to ruminate and crawl deeper into the blackhole of my depression.
Applying for an internship with The Social Space was without a doubt one of the scariest decisions I’ve made. Yet it is also one that I’m thankful I did.
This internship saw me through the many struggles in my personal life. I recall my darkest periods when I was feeling lonely in the liminal spaces of life, feeling my depression getting a hold of me again, tragically losing a friend and having to work through the grief. Tears ended up being my silent confidants, carrying the weight of emotions too heavy to bear alone. The Social Space was my happy place. It was my refuge – a place I found solace and comfort. The mid-day conversations we had with each other about life and our struggles not only helped to ameliorate the depressive state I was in, but also made me learn to appreciate how people are what truly matters, more than the work itself.
End-of-work-day pic with some of my favourite people
The Social Space was a place where I could come just as I am to a family of individuals who accepted me for what made me, me – my strengths, personality, but also my flaws and weaknesses. More than just a safe space of acceptance, The Social Space was a place where they believed that everyone is much more than their limitations or the things that they struggle with. It was a place of empowerment – where each of us learned how to transcend our own perceived limitations and have a family of individuals cheering us on as we do so; a declaration to the world that truly, we are never defined by our circumstances.
I did not merely learn the ropes of what it takes to be a retail and marketing intern. I have also gained greater perspective of my struggles and the battles I fight every day. My colleagues have been the greatest inspiration to me. It was a privilege getting to hear the stories of their valiant efforts to conquer their life’s battles and seeing first-hand how they refuse to bow down to society’s critical perceptions of them, but instead get up and try again and again – an infallible proof that they are more than what the world makes of them.
Group photo with the amazing Duo team on our last day there
The Social Space is made up of an ecosystem comprising of the cafe, the retail space and the nail salon. Though we were all tasked with our respective duties in this vast ecosystem, we also made a good tag team. With the common understanding that regardless of our formal job scopes we were all part of the TSS family, we found ourselves helping out whenever we could. The Social Space was a place where we had each other’s backs and carried each other’s burdens. It showed me that even though life can be tough sometimes, the people walking this journey with us can make it so much better. For in the end, it is the people who matter most to us and our capacity to love, understand, and support each other that makes life worthwhile.
You know they say it takes a village to raise a child. This is what my village looked like: my family who formed the foundation of this village, my friends who were my safe space where I could just be me, and my teachers who were my trusted confidants that gave me sound advice and helped in whatever capacity they could. But since this internship, I have gained so many more precious friendships from the people I have met. My village has grown and I'm all the better for it.
Celebrating birthdays with the Kreta Ayer team
As I look back on my internship journey, I see the handprints of the unwavering love and support from the people of The Social Space that have left an indelible mark in my life. Many of the things they did, they didn't have to do, but they did anyway. And I think that really makes all the difference.
I celebrate my victory in these past 3 months where I have chosen life; where I fought my battles with the borrowed strength, support, and courage from the people in The Social Space.
As my internship comes to an end and I need to take another brave step to figure out life beyond the walls of The Social Space, my battles are far from over. But I now know that through the vicissitudes of life and the many more ‘water dispensers’ I will have to refill, there will always be reasons to explore uncharted waters, to try again and again, and to be there for the people that we love.
This last blogpost I write is not a job review of this company. It is an ode to living life – to courageously fight the good fight, to stand by each other in the highs and lows, and to celebrate the beauty of our victories.
Ultimately, all it takes is ONE. SomeONE who loved me, someONE who believed in me, someONE who invested in me, someONE who changed me. But I’m glad I had more than one.
Written by Hannah, Retail & Marketing Intern 2023