Exploring means taking a risk: risk of failing, looking like a fool, making mistakes. The alternative is staying put in our self-created “security.” Part of my journey is stepping out. Stepping out of routine, consistency, and the comfort of familiarity.
Last night, I stepped out and started a Journalism class at the U.C. Berkeley extension in San Francisco. New faces, new subject, new teacher. The class is small, no more than ten people. When I walked into the class, everyone had staked their territory in the rows of long tables with five chairs to each row. As each new student walked in, the seated students quickly looked up, glanced at the newcomer, and swiftly lowered their eyes. No greetings were exchanged.
The instructor, Mr. A., a white-haired, pleasant man of about 55, in a tan shirt and brown pants, greeted us warmly as he walked into the classroom at precisely 6:30 p.m. He asked why each of us was taking the class and what we wanted to achieve. He then asked us to interview a classmate to find out the answers to these questions.
I turned around to look at my closest classmate. He had dark hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and was dressed neatly in a white and blue striped shirt. He appeared nervous and shy. I engaged him in a conversation and he laughed quickly and easily at my attempts at humor. He was quite self-deprecating in his discussion of his own writing skills. I pegged him for a contracts lawyer. Wrong. W. is a graduate of the UCLA Film School and a playwright. The piece he wrote about me was elegant and precise.
I discovered that, in this small group of people, there was a fish market clerk, a Danish judge, a Chinese performance artist, an 18 year old who had interned with Rolling Stone magazine, and an active Air Force sergeant from Kentucky.
Stepping out last night resulted in benefits that I had not considered. Experiencing the diversity of this class and their very different backgrounds will most likely be more richly rewarding than learning journalistic principles.