The key to beating fear: just keep swimming

The key to beating fear: just keep swimming

I'M. Not. Going. Says me. Yes, yes you are: I am bringing you coffee and driving you there. Says friend and partner-in-final-university-exams.

For some people, it's spiders that generate sweaty palms. Me? Exams.

No exaggeration, even now I'm out the other side just the thought of them gives me a stomach lurch.

Final year Master's degree while working part-time and being a mum. Four years of hard work. I had done the work, now this was it - I had to face my greatest fear (no less than three times over).

Just keep swimming, this same friend had said throughout the course.

So I did, doing so many laps at my local swim centre I suspect I've worn my favourite lane out. Advice sought from a teacher on how to handle these nerves included when walking into the exam room, sitting down at my allocated table and putting my feet firmly on the floor - and it helped. Grounding, quite literally.

And so I passed all three exams, spewing out as much knowledge and creativity on the spot as I could in the set time we with very patient actors enlisted to play the part of our clients then making my hand write as fast as humanly possible.

So why did I do it? I have enjoyed my 22-year career as a journalist, most of that time spent at The Border Mail in Albury-Wodonga. When I leave this career at the end of February I will no doubt miss people, some of whom I have worked with and around for many years.

It will be for reasons including why I tackled this sometimes seemingly impossible degree in the first place - an overarching professional and personal goal to just help people. And it allowed me to sate my growing appetite for learning. I've been that person needing help, needing my questions answered with empathy and patience.

Life isn't perfect, things go wrong. Not all challenges can be met in the same way because, well, we're all different.

So what have I learnt throughout my career in newspapers and through years of work with my study buddies?

To listen goes a long way, to not have one's fears belittled an important first step.

And on a practical level sometimes the phone just has to go away. To be contactable is great, but people now want and expect instant gratification like an addiction to a sugary drink. I prefer a glass of plain old water - it's good for the body and soul.

I didn't think I'd miss the study; however, I do miss the comradeship. But I'll just keep swimming well into my next vocation - because you're never too old to learn.

Jennifer Grant is an ACM journalist