I guess you could say I was sort of a shy kid. I had fun with my friends, but I suffered from some pretty intense self-consciousness when there was potential to embarrass myself in front of strangers, cute boys, or the “cool” kids. (Gym class, naturally, was a living nightmare.)
Today’s sometimes crippling insecurities are masked by a self-deprecating sense of humor and years of experience teaching me that more often than not, I am indeed going to embarrass myself so I should just learn to laugh about it. I wouldn’t call myself a klutz; it’s more that I just walk around with my over-caffeinated editor’s brain never quite turned off. Being so detail-oriented leads to more than a few *oops* moments—I’m so focused on the pretty leaves that I don’t realize I’m about to walk into a tree.
I got to a point in college where I no longer wanted to hold myself back from trying new things in fear of humiliation. My roommate/best friend convinced me to go on a whitewater rafting trip with an outdoorsy club towards the end of our freshman year and I got so hooked on crazy camping adventures that I spent the rest of my college career in that club. Never would I have imagined myself rappelling down a cliff or crawling around a muddy cave for fun. (Then again, I did a lot of things in college I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing).
A new environment is always the perfect place to try new things. I knew before I even got here that I wanted to do all the things. I want to feel like I know this place. I want to meet people. I want to push my own boundaries. I want to, you guessed it, break out of my comfort zone. My first foray into doing just that: A self-defense class—but I’ll come back to that in a minute.
Being a journalist is far from comfortable. Let’s forget the fast-paced deadline-induced chaos for a minute (Forbes listed “Newspaper Reporter” as the 9th most stressful job for 2016) and instead take into account what you have to be prepared to do. If the thought of walking up to a perfect stranger and asking them an insanely personal question makes your blood run cold, you’d never make it as a reporter.
I’ve responded to house fires and break-ins. I’ve spoken to domestic violence victims survivors and parents who have lost their children to ATV accidents, disease, and suicide. I’ve visited police stations, fire stations, and hospitals. I’ve gone to court and attended more city council meetings than I can count. There have been times an assignment scared me. An interview or two where I had to fight like hell not to cry right along with my source. But it’s all for the story.
Hard news has never been my favorite, but surprisingly, it can sometimes be the most rewarding. When those sad moments are put on paper and reader support comes flooding in, the uncomfortable interview is validated with a tearful phone call and I’m profusely thanked for helping that person’s voice be heard, for giving them an outlet to find support in their community.
Of course, there are fun stories too. I’ve gone pumpkin-picking and parade-watching, I’ve photographed street fairs, I’ve been to the zoo, the farm, the farmer’s market. I’ve interviewed veterans, vegan chefs, a spiritual medium, an NFL legend, Charles Dickens’ great-great-grandson, and so many people doing good and raising money for others, it could make your damn heart burst. I’ve ridden in a fleet of motorcycles, sat in a radio booth, and checked out the projection house of a drive-in movie theater. Heck, I even jumped in a tiny motorboat to investigate a jellyfish infestation in a local river. My PA hometown was featured on Food Network once—yep, I was there. And just when you start to think I’ve done it all, I also did this. Talk about breaking out of your comfort zone …
It’s easy to forget how much I’ve done, but it all comes flooding back when I go through my clips and I am so immensely grateful for all that I’ve gotten to experience in the name of journalism. When I picked this career, I didn’t think I’d have to work quite as hard as I did, but I never gave up. My heart was set on it, so I worked my ass off and when life tried to tell me I wasn’t going to succeed, I tried anyway. I wasn’t always making awesome money—hence living with Mom and Dad, even my grandparents, on and off over the past six years—but there’s no denying I was making awesome memories. (And stuffing my resumé full of bullet points, but more on that another time.)
Moral of the story/ies: Do things you don’t think you’re capable of. Open yourself up to experiences you never thought you’d get to have. Pitch your ideas. Talk to people. You’ll learn things about those perfect strangers (and yourself). Don’t just do it for the story—do it for your story.
Oh, so back to self-defense:
The HSUS sent out a staff email that a couple of employees with martial arts training, specifically aikido and karate, were going to be offering a *free* four-night seminar. I figured, I live alone now, so maybe I should learn how to kick butts. I went, all by myself. (Yay, brave me.) I was one of three students the first night. I had to somersault! In front of strangers! We learned how to break a fall, get out of wrist grabs, and that it only takes four pounds of pressure and just the right angle to rip someone’s ear clean off their head. The second class was tonight and we learned how to break hair grabs, choke holds, and bear hugs. We topped it off with basic strike moves.
Turns out I really like punching things and now I think I might want to try a kickboxing class.