In an effort to graduate a few months sooner, I’m taking summer classes at DePaul. My past life as a journalist has made my nonfiction skills strong and I decided to push my writing skills further, to other genres. Last quarter I took a short story class and this quarter I’m in a scene and vignette writing course. I have to admit, it’s not something I’m used to, and sometimes it’s easy to feel behind in comparison to those seasoned fiction and poetry writers.
Still, I think it’s important to push myself into doing those things I’m afraid of. Since my time to graduation is ticking down and I will soon begin my job search, I’ve decided to move beyond my comfort level in other areas.
As a child, I never learned to swim. I feared most normal childhood activities, and I was a little slower at learning to play at the park. I was afraid of slides, ladders, swings — anything that took me off the ground. Riding a bike was a challenge too, and even though I always had one, I didn’t ride it very often.
This summer I’ve been riding with my boyfriend on many of the trails in the northern suburbs. I’ve survived 27-mile bike rides, and my goal is to build more each week. I also bought a life jacket and got used to floating in a lake. I was a little embarrassed when the three-year-olds around me were able to jump into the water without fear or without needing to hold on to the boat, but little by little, I’m learning to trust that I won’t sink with a life jacket on. It may take another summer before I can take that life jacket off, but if I keep working toward it, if I keep trying, I can only improve.
If I learn to navigate these challenges, then my hope is I will learn to navigate my next big moves: Finish a documentary, publish some writing, find a job that will take me on the path I want — and recognize that that might not be the easiest or quickest path if I want to do something I love.
I had a breakthrough in class the other night, when a writing exercise finally clicked for me. It clicked for me the weekend after I rode 27 miles, the weekend after I made my first attempts to learn to swim. Sometimes you have to wait for the right moment, when your mind is warmed up and ready to explore new worlds.