When I was about seven years old, I already knew what my dream job was. I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. It wasn’t until later in my life that I realized I was not very science-oriented. I took Earth Science in middle school and tried to keep my eyes open as our teacher gave us a lecture on rocks and minerals. I took a chemistry class that made me feel like a fatal reaction was occurring in my mind—as if all of my brain cells were exploding from confusion. I even took a Human Biology class my sophomore year of college. I couldn’t stand learning about mitosis and meiosis. I wasn’t particularly interested in doing labs to test the pH levels of different liquids, and I absolutely hated implementing Avogadro’s number in chemistry calculations. I’m not sure when I gave up the dream of training dolphins, but I had always possessed a passion for English.
I don’t remember what made me think of working at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores here at the beach, but it was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. It combined my love of animals with my interest in public speaking as well as my strong ability to provide great customer service. I didn’t have much of a clue about what I was going to do at the aquarium prior to my first day of work. I had never stood nor talked in front of a group of people with a microphone before I worked here.
I remember how nervous I was before my first performance at the aquarium. I was part of the bird show. I had very few lines, but I managed to screw up nearly every single one of them. To make matters worse, I’ll even admit to you, my lines were on the back of a sign I was holding and I still didn’t say them right. One of the lines I was supposed to recite was “Oh, I just love southern fried flounder and bacon wrapped scallops!” But I said, “I love southern fried flounder and fried flounder”. I was so embarrassed. My next line was to ask a simple question. “Wait, what is imprinting?” I shouted out my line before they had even mentioned imprinting. I also came out way too early for my last line. Obviously, it was a disaster. However, my bosses didn’t admit to me how awful I did, which was greatly appreciated.
For the first two weeks, I felt my heart pounding profusely in my chest before I stepped out in front of the crowd I’d be speaking to. My voice slightly quivered, and I did my best to correct it before people realized how nervous I was. I talked to visitors about nearly every habitat we had at the aquarium. I talked about the otters; I gave presentations on snakes, turtles, and invertebrates. I gave everyone a spiel on the shipwreck habitat we had and explained that it was “not only the largest habitat in our aquarium, but the largest habitat in all of North Carolina”. It holds 306,000 gallons of natural salt water. One time my microphone wasn’t functioning and I still had to present in front of about 50 people. It taught me how to improvise.
Working at the aquarium taught me a lot, especially how important adaptation is, whether it is a person like me revising a script or an animals’ way of surviving—adaptation and the ability to adjust and correct is key. I learned how important it is to keep trash off the ground, because anything that ends up on the ground outside can end up in our ocean or waterways. One of the best things you can do to help the environment other than using reusable bags and reducing your plastic use is to pick up trash even if it’s not yours and to inform the people around you about how important it is to not litter. We only have one earth and one ocean; we need to do our best to protect it.
There was not a single person I worked with that I disagreed with or was not fond of. I felt like my coworkers were family, especially my fellow interns. I love learning. I love educating. I love people. I was so blessed to have been able to work at the aquarium.
Now, I do not feel a tornado twisting around in my stomach before I present in front of over one hundred people. My voice doesn’t shake. My heart doesn’t race. I am confident, and I am knowledgeable. I highly recommend you go to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, it’s the perfect place to go, especially on a rainy day.
Book your Crystal Coast getaway and experience the NC Aquarium first-hand.