The Statesman Journal
by Cara Pallone
Oftentimes, as a reporter, I am forced to leave my comfort zone.
I remember writing a profile on a beekeeper and interviewing him while wearing a full bee suit. Winged insects crawled across the screen protecting my face. As I took notes, a bee clung to my pen like it was riding a mechanical bull. I would describe that experience as… uncomfortable.
There have been times when I’ve knocked on strangers’ doors or cold-called someone to ask about a deceased family member. Those knocks and calls are never easy.
Thursday, I was forced to leave my comfort zone again. Truthfully, I wasn’t forced. I just didn’t think about consequences when I scheduled an interview with Dr. Margaret Manoogian’s social ties and aging class at Western Oregon University.
My story would be about the new gerontology program at WOU and the service-learning projects students in Manoogian’s class have completed.
As I drove to the college, I pretty much thought about every single topic you could imagine except gerontology (the study of aging).
I thought about running out of gas. I thought about what I would eat for lunch. I thought about how that really old barn on the side of the road would make an excellent Instagram photo and how I would stop on the way back.
When I arrived at the school, I thought about how I wasn’t going to be able to find the building and what my life would have been like had I attended college at WOU.
And so when I finally found the right building and climbed the stairs to Room 331 and walked into the classroom, I was not prepared for the 20 or so pairs eyes looking straight at me. I honestly broke into a cold sweat. Seriously, I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead.
This is the part where I remember I am absolutely terrified of public speaking. It was like walking into a trap that I had set.
I sat down and the room was quiet. I swallowed hard. I think I saw Dr. Manoogian swallow hard.
I tried to imagine the really smart college students as really sweet second-graders who happen to be knowledgeable in the field of gerontology. Some of them offered sympathetic smiles and I clung to those smiles harder than that bee had hung onto my pen.
Luckily, I had jotted down some questions in my notebook the day before and I was able to use them as a starting point.
I’m a people person (which you probably wouldn’t guess after reading this blog) so I started with people questions. Why did you choose to major in gerontology? What observations have you noticed as you’ve been working with seniors in the community? How will these experiences be useful in your future?
By the end of the 30 minutes, the students were opening up with stories about their service-learning projects and more people were raising their hands to answer questions.
As I left, the class gave me a little round of applause, which was super nice and totally undeserved.
On the way back, I forgot about that really old barn that would’ve made an excellent Instagram photo because I was too busy thinking about how good it feels to conquer a fear.
See my story about Dr. Manoogian’s social ties and aging class at Western Oregon University in Saturday’s Statesman Journal.