Don’t Fight It: The Mayhem, Panic and Reward of the iMedia Program






by Cait Vlastakis Smith (Digital Strategy at Centerline Digital), iMedia class of 2011

I was terrified of the ocean as a kid. It wasn’t the sharks or the waves or knowing my skin would sizzle like a Burger King commercial—the way Whoppers sizzle when thrown onto the grill. It was the rip current that scared me. I imaged it was an underwater creature that would wrap its tentacles around my chicken legs and drag me out to sea. Zero warning. Like a vacuum cleaner sucking up Cheerios. And no matter how hard I fought, it’d pull me out into the blue abyss where there was, in fact, no Little Mermaid.

The iMedia experience is very much like a rip current. It hides under the pretty facade of  “graduate school.” So you wade in, eager yet cautious, get waist deep—“hey, this isn’t so bad—” and then you’re moving quickly, well beyond your comfort speed, and then things are moving faster and faster and then you realize you’ve been sucked into an impossibly fast stream where there is no pause button or white flag. You struggle (theory classes). You’re confused (web development classes). You’re overwhelmed (design classes). You try to fight it (“I can still make time for [insert anything non-school related here, including sometimes a shower].”). You panic (mass accumulation of projects). Then you really panic (jobs!).

Can I make a suggestion…something I wish I’d internalized when I started the iMedia program? Well, two suggestions.

One: Hold on to your butts.

Two, and more importantly: Don’t fight it.

That’s right. Don’t fight it. Don’t panic. Give in. Give in to the rip current. Giving in means staying calm, swimming your tail off and moving with the current instead of fighting against it. Embrace that—for the next 10 months—you’re not supposed to have a firm grasp of anything that’s happening around you, both in class (remember, it’s called “learning” for a reason) and your career. You’ll get there. Open the door and invite Confusion and Stress over for dinner. They’re coming over anyways. If you don’t spend 80% of your week in varying states of confusion, then a) you probably don’t fully understand what’s been asked of you, and b) you’re selling yourself short on this incredible opportunity to learn, grow and stretch yourself beyond the constraints of whatever self expectations you’re currently living under.

So. Exhale, stretch and keep moving. It may bring you to a new level of exhaustion and sometimes—I don’t mean this metaphorically—turn your brain inside out. But from over here, speaking from someone who’s safely back on shore and very much enjoying her work, I can tell you that it’ll be worth it. You’ll make it worth it. Just don’t panic.


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