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Local Column

Heimerman: A novice's going-back-to-school guide

It was strange at first. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel uncomfortable at times.

This wasn’t my desk. These weren’t my things, my lists, my bulging Manila folders.

After spending more than five years at Sauk Valley Media, these weren’t the faces I saw every day.

These bike paths, fantastic as they are, weren’t the ones I’d run dozens of times. Silly as it sounds, this wasn’t my grocery store.

It took a while to get comfortable here in DeKalb and at the Daily Chronicle, and it’s still a work in progress.

This is life. This is learning. This is growing, even if it comes with occasional pains. As I think about all the students and parents going through superemotional changes and experiencing so many firsts as school starts, I feel inclined to say I can relate. Life, learning and growing – they’re all good, healthy things.

We don’t get stronger by pushing the same amount of weight every day. We have to add on, build it up. We learn more if we get outside our comfort zone and take on new challenges, rather than crushing the things we’ve mastered over and over again.

It’s OK to cry, mom and dad – especially, you dad. This is the 21st century, man. Your new kindergartner, middle-schooler, high-schooler, college student, they’re going to skin their knees, fail a test, meet someone who will break their heart, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it other than prepare them the best we can and be there for them afterward.

They’re also going to find themselves and discover what lights their fire, and when that happens, it’s crucial that we fan the flames.

In the event a youngster is reading this column, finding your place in the world will not happen overnight.

If you feel as if you’re a writer as a 10-year-old, as I did, you might go through odd, sometimes fun, often misguided twists and turns before you arrive at your career. I wanted to be a rock star and gave it the put-off-college try, succeeded minimally and moved on. I settled for studying music education, and then realized that 10-year-old me was right. I wanted to be a writer.

Voila, here I am.

Our roads are often circuitous and, honestly, isn’t that what makes life fun – not knowing exactly where it’s going to go next?

That’s why as hard as change might be, I urge you to be excited and keep an open mind. Try as many things as you can. Mom was right that you should make as many friends as you can, too. Not to be popular, but to have that human connection I fear we often overlook.

That’s been my favorite thing here so far. Sure, it’s been enlightening and even fun to learn the ins and outs of covering crime and courts. Yeah, getting my hands around managing the newsroom has been rewarding, and I’m eager to get better at it.

But getting to know the personalities around the office and the community, and connecting with people? That’s been the best part of my transition.

Now, it’s time for me to set up a couple of reminders in my Google calendar: One for 12 days from now, when my girls start preschool, although that one will be pretty easy for me and harder for my wife.

The crucial reminder will be for a year from now, when they start kindergarten. I’ll keep the reminder simple: Read your own advice. Everything’s gonna be all right, dad.

Good luck out there, folks. You’re gonna be more than all right. You’re gonna be great.

• Christopher Heimerman is news editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, email, or follow him on Twitter @CHeimermanDDC.

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