Life Lessons from the Polka Dot Mama Intern

As summer starts up, my time as media intern at Polka Dot Mama begins to wind down. I remember in elementary school at the end of the year, the class was typically tasked with writing an essay on what we learned doing the school year. I’ve now had 17 years of school experience to write one that I hope is transparent, and gracious, of my five amazing months at PDM.

To me, this never felt like an “internship” in the common sense. I wasn’t going on tedious coffee runs, never was I asked to make copies and fax sheets to clients, and most, if not all, work was done from the comfort of my Spongebob pajamas. (No, you can never be “too old” for cartoons. Especially if it involves a talking sponge.) But in this time, I learned more about the community, myself, and the melanoma world than I had in any other opportunity. It is certainly hard to articulate in words, as my internship contained unexplainable feelings and emotions. But, I felt it was imperative to share my words as an insider at Polka Dot Mama so others can see just how freakin’ amazing this organization is.

Believe in the power of positivity.

I have to admit, I tend to see things glass half empty when things aren’t going my way (and even if they are). Hearing stories, and interviewing individuals for blog posts, I saw how positivity was one of the key indicators for their success. Yes, I recognize positivity does not cure cancer. But, it completely transformed their outlook of their diagnosis, cancer treatments, and life post melanoma. We are given a certain amount of time here on this precious earth, so one of the biggest changes we can achieve immediately is a more positive attitude. Accepting what I can control, and what I cannot, freed up a lot of my mentality for positivity. And that was liberating.

“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of our ourselves. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great.”

As the saying goes, “You are who you hang out with.” The team at Polka Dot Mama individually, and collectively, are such dedicated leaders and motivators of the melanoma community you can’t help but find you want to emulate their positive, and hardworking attitude. Tracy never rules with an iron fist; instead, she makes collaboration key to the nonprofit and establishes an uplifting environment which her team at PDM follow suit. At times where things went wrong, or she had to resort to Plan Z, it was with complete grace and positivity. I found that radiating quality to permeate my attitude outside of work. At the same time, I was thrown into the Facebook melanoma communities where I found this same attitude was present. People were raw, and real, with their melanoma experiences and the out pour of love and support from internet strangers was astounding. By continuing to surround yourself with those who are gracious, accepting, supporting, and loving, you begin to emulate those same qualities. Let’s become the people we want to interact with in the world.

Change does not happen without hard work.

Tracy puts in a lot of hard work. I mean, a lot. And there has never been a moment where Polka Dot Mama’s major successes was not contributed to the long hours, motivation, and determination behind her work ethic. It has allowed me the opportunity to understand that in your career, personal life, and passions, nothing will change unless we cultivate what we wish to change and put them into action. At the same time, change doesn’t have to only entail big, momentous efforts. I found that it can begin quite small. Don’t like melanoma? Well, lets do something about it. Retweet a picture that shows melanoma surgery scars. Remind your friend to put on sunscreen before you all hit the beach. Share this article!

Bittersweet is the exact feeling when I think about ending my time here at Polka Dot Mama. To all of the readers: what Tracy, and the whole team do behind this nonprofit, is purely for the love and desire to enact positive change.  It’s hard to not only try to shed light on an issue that is far overlooked, but also tied to a strict, and pervasive trend that recognizes tan to be beautiful. But, if there is anything else that I have learned, is that as humans we are unknowing of the potential impact we can make on one another. I think what holds us back is simply fear; fear we won’t reach our goals, fear we can’t make a difference, or fear that we won’t be enough. And while fear is a totally normal emotion, it also limits us to develop our magnificent potential. So, let us cultivate this amazing-ness we innately hold as humans, and make it a mission to enact positive, real change, by being the people we were meant to be, all the while wearing SPF 30.

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