Find the red door by the loading dock and enter through it.
Turn right, go through a door.
Turn left, go through another door.
Go through a dark room until you see a lobby.
Find the Community Room.
I parked, I went through some doors, I found a room, I sat down. It was my first morning at ECHO, and I was apparently the only one to show up for the staff meeting. The panic induced by this realization, intensified by an eerie quiet that could only exist in an empty museum, quickly subsided at the sound of excited chatter. The room filled; people hugged each other and laughed. I smiled, declaring with a faux confidence to whoever asked that I was “Linda’s new intern.” I answered some questions about myself. I stood up, I sat back down. I shook hands with a friendly man who I now know as Phelan, ECHO’s Executive Director. No one mentioned Linda. But then, in an almost coincidental way, she took a seat next to me and introduced herself.
Since that morning in January, I’ve grown into my role as an ECHO team member and Linda’s intern. We’ve hosted adult science events, created new learning experiences for the museum floor, learned science from experts, kept earthworms from dying at the hands of rowdy children, decorated ECHO’s Action Lab in lieu of “real work,” prepared cheese platters, tasted German beer alongside a man with a handlebar mustache, flung mud off ECHO’s deck, and countless other tasks. We’ve shared awkward moments, confused glances, victorious high-fives and relieved hugs. One time I sat in a hot media closet clutching a radio and waiting for a voice to give me the OK to press just the right button at just the right time or else an entire event would be put on hold. One time I let some kids convince me our horseshoe crab had died on my watch. (It was really just taking a rest… on its back.) One time I thought a turtle was stuck between rocks. (Okay, fine. That has happened at least four times now; I always think the turtles are stuck.) One time I watched a hermit crab crawl into a new shell, change its mind, and crawl back into its old shell. One time I cried in the volunteer lounge because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing.
Now, with only a couple weeks left as an intern here, I realize that those cryptic first instructions were actually simpler than everything that followed. I realize that all of my achievements and contributions, some great and some minute, were the direct result of both ECHO’s complex nature and a kind of intrinsic chaos that exists only in a truly creative, passionate, and inspiring place.
“Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks