The Intern Who Only Picked Up Coffee Once

Posted on: Aug 23, 2017

The Zimmerman family and I go way back.

My mom tells the story of me as a one-year-old, pointing to my cheeks, waving my hands wildly, and exclaiming “ghee, ghee, ba, ba” (translation: “cheek, cheek, ball, ball”). I was referencing the mime makeup and juggling of the one and only Curtis Zimmerman who had performed at our house. When I flip back through old scrapbooks, I find pictures of Elle Zimmerman holding me and pictures of me a few years later holding their son Noah. I have fond memories of joining the whole Zimmerman family at a beach house across the street from Traverse Bay. Every New Year’s Eve, our families watch the ball drop together and reflect on the past year.

Now, I’m making new memories with the Zimmermans on a more professional level. I’m their college-aged intern Grace Milligan. And I’ve only picked up coffee for them once.

When people ask me what I’m doing this summer, I find it hard to put into words what I do with the Curtis Zimmerman Group.This is usually what it boils down to: “I’m working with the Zimmermans’ this summer as an office assistant. I mainly write blogs and work on social media posts but occasionally I’ll do the menial tasks of organizing boxes and transferring information from paper to an online database.” So, that’s my job as an intern in a nutshell. But there’s more to it than that.

I don’t do the same thing every day, and that is one thing I love about this work environment–it’s always changing. As someone who would rather avoid change of any kind, I surprise myself by saying that. But, I do love it! Some days, I’ll be given the task of researching examples of product descriptions on websites and, other days, I’m on my feet all day labeling boxes that will be sent to McDonald’s General Managers. I’ve learned to take whatever job is given to me and perform it with gusto (one thing I still need to improve is my energy level when I ask people over the phone if they’re “living the dream”, but that’s another story).

I think what I’ve loved most about my time here, though, is how I don’t have to look outside my work for inspiration. Working here doesn’t suck the life out of me–instead it gives me energy! This is because what we are doing here improves the lives of people. We are empowering employees of other companies to take control of their lives, to lead others well, and to be grateful.  And when I remember that, my work starts to have a whole new meaning. Yes, I’m working here to gain job experience and pay for college. But, my main purpose is helping others to live the dream which translates into enabling them to recognize and declare that they have much to be thankful for. And that is a purpose anyone anywhere can have. With that perspective, work of any kind should be life-giving. The more you say you’re “living the dream”, the more you’ll believe it.

Now, I’m back to the sidewalks and dorm hallways of my college campus. I’m no longer the Zimmermans’ intern. But I’m confident that, wherever I am, I can live the dream–not because life is a dream but because I can choose to view it that way, even amidst the hard conversations with close friends, the two-foot tall stack of assigned books (I am an English major after all) , and the scrambled “eggs” in the cafeteria.

Thank you, Curtis and Elle, for giving me this opportunity! I’m grateful for your examples of leadership, for the inspirational messages I can take with me, and for new memories with you to place in my life’s scrapbook.