Dream a Little Dream

by HV Long

return to collegeI returned to college at the age of 28. I was ready to get my degree finally, eight years after having to leave school to care for my ailing grandmother. I attended part time at a local community college and following the birth of my daughter, discovered this brilliant feature the college offered: I could take classes online.

The situation was ideal, especially with an infant daughter to care for and no readily handy babysitters to cover for me should I need to attend physical, on-site classes. I’ve always been willing to try something, even when I was filled with trepidation, so I signed up for my first class, which was a humanities study on the history of the Trojan War and its metamorphosis through literature and film.

To my absolute delight, I found an instructor who not only understood the needs of students learning in an online atmosphere, but promoted communication as her number one method of teaching. She responded to emails promptly with explanations for any questions I had and in-depth analysis of work submitted.

Her name is Diane Thompson and she was more than willing to work with me when I got behind because my daughter got sick and was always ready with a kind word and encouragement. I completed the Troy class, having thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. I was still working towards my degree and I was delighted to find out that Diane taught another class that I would need to take.

I signed up for the course immediately. The same generosity of spirit and encouragement existed in this course as it did in the last. Not only did she critique the work I submitted, but pointed me towards sources that could help me improve it. One of the first assignments I was required to write for the class was an essay about overcoming a personal problem. Her guidelines required that the student feel comfortable sharing this information because the essay would be posted for other students to read as well.

I thought about the assignment long and hard, finally deciding to write about an addiction I developed to online games. I discussed the history of the problem, when I became aware of the problem and how I worked to relieve myself of the problem. It was a difficult essay to write because it exposed a flaw I felt very badly about within myself.

Diane’s comments were a profound relief after I turned in the essay. She found it thought provoking and completely understandable from the viewpoints I presented. She felt that I addressed the issue as best I could without overtly feeling sorry for myself or trying to paint a false picture. We’d exchanged a couple of emails over the content and where it might be improved stylistically when Diane dropped a bombshell on me.

She suggested that I try to sell the essay to a magazine or online publication. She felt it spoke a great deal to the common person and put a growing problem in a light where it might be better understood. I was flabbergasted. I freely admit to staring at her email and while deeply pleased by her faith in me, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.

All my life, I have been a writer. I love to write. I’ve written reams of information on countless subjects and dozens of short stories. I’d always put the idea of being a professional “writer” off in the category of someday, a someday when I might have more time to “devote” to my art. I wrote as much back to Diane and she wrote back and encouraged me to try anyway. It might not sell, but then again it might. No one said I needed to make fifty thousand dollars on a first sale.

What could it hurt?

I can honestly say that because of this wonderful encouragement this teacher took the time to devote to me, I’ve begun to firmly establish myself as a freelance writer. I’m more than halfway through a novel. I’ve taken writing courses and found online writing groups. I’ve found support and friends who are experiencing similar problems while they tackle a challenging new career and I’ve never been happier about a choice than I am about the one to take the risk and try to submit that piece.

The piece itself, to this date, has never sold, but it has led me into a bright and beautiful new world. For helping me to realize that my dream, I have to thank Diane Thompson. Diane is a brilliant instructor who shares her encouragement, understanding and intelligence with her students at the Northern Virginia Community Colleges.

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