Carpe Weekend: Looking inward, marching onward
Inside a silvery dome erected in the gymnasium of Fulton Elementary School in Tinley Park, a nervous young reporter tries his best to look calm and collected.
Around him, dozens of kindergartners murmur eagerly in anticipation.
In just a few moments, the lights will go out and the interior of the dome will be filled with dazzling images of ancient constellations.
The kid-sized planetarium, which is built into an inflatable plastic dome kept in place by a high-powered fan, is much too small for an adult.
The young reporter sits uncomfortably, hunched over and legs crossed, with one singular thought running incessantly through his head: “Don’t screw this up.”
The tape recorder he brought to capture the moment, so technologically out of date it should be in a museum, is tucked under one arm.
His trembling hands make it nearly impossible to write anything legible in his small memo notebook, which he clutches nervously in his left hand as if it were a lifeline.
“Don’t screw this up,” he says quietly under his breath. It’s a pretty lame mantra, but it’s all he has at the moment.
Suddenly, as if on cue, the dome is plunged into darkness. It’s showtime.
Nine years later ...
That young reporter, not surprisingly, was me.
I didn’t know on that cold January day in 2004 about the long and rewarding newspaper career that was ahead of me.
I was simply focused on writing a good story — the very first I wrote for the SouthtownStar, then known as the Daily Southtown — and on not screwing it up.
If I’d cracked — simply got up, walked out of the gymnasium and never gave journalism a glance again — my life now would be drastically different.
I think of all the adventures I would have missed had I chickened out that day, and I shudder.
Thankfully, I didn’t let the self-doubt consume me. I took a gamble and soldiered on, determined to make the most of the chance I’d been given.
This leads me to my point. The title of this column — Carpe Weekend — isn’t just a somewhat humorous play on “carpe diem,” a Latin phrase meaning “seize the day.”
For me, it’s a reminder to take chances, to experience new things, to never be afraid to embark on new adventures — no matter how scary they may at first seem.
It’s a reminder that no matter how bad things get, no matter how big a rut you think you’re in, there’s always hope of better days ahead.
There’s only one only catch: You have to be willing to seize the opportunities life gives you.
Whatever it is you want out of life, begin taking the steps to make it happen right now.
Don’t be afraid to take chances. Expand your comfort zone. Embark on adventures. Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from making your life the best it can be.
Every week for the past three years, Carpe Weekend has been a soapbox for specific weekend activities.
But this time, I’m not going to suggest anything in particular. This time, it’s up to you.
Whatever adventure you decide to take, don’t let it end this weekend. Continue it in the days and years and decades to follow.
That nervous young reporter I spoke about in the beginning?
His only wish was to succeed. He did, and so will you, if only you trust in yourself and soldier onward.
I leave you with the sage advice Doc Brown gave Marty McFly in the third “Back to the Future” movie:
The future is what you make of it, so make it a good one.