Jennifer M. Ward


Excerpt from The Courage to Rekindle a Dream

Make of your life a dream, and of a dream a reality.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

As a little girl, I was a dreamer. I wanted to be so many things—a teacher, a lawyer, an author, a fashion designer, an architect. Amid these dreams, I always imagined I would be happy doing something I loved. Still, during my first year of college, it seemed my dreams had been extinguished. I couldn’t figure out where I belonged. I had no one to guide me and lost motivation. It’s easy to wish for things, but it can be a struggle to work hard for them. Later that year, I entered the workforce without a degree or a plan.

After years of working in low-paying jobs, I returned to college at 25 years old. Those dreams I had as a girl were still alive but dormant. For me, school was an awakening, and it changed the course of my journey. In my first class, a required English course, I met new people whose lives made me see the world differently. Their stories of triumph and tragedy tugged at me, pulling me into the world of writing. This time round, college became a bridge, leading me back to the dreams I had walked away from. Before I knew it, I was declared an English major. Finally, I had direction.

In 2006, enrolled in a creative writing class, I was tasked with drafting the beginning of a memoir. All semester, I shied away from sharing my work with the class, nervous to read aloud my most personal memories. Toward the end of the semester, my professor invited me to read my work at an event celebrating Women’s History Month. I was surprised since I had been so hesitant to speak up. The audience would be filled with professors and fellow college students. How could I stand up and read something so personal in front of them?  

But I did, one afternoon in a large room filled with strangers. When it was my turn to speak, the room was still. My heart pounded in my chest, leaving me breathless. As I spoke the first words of my story, my voice began to shake. Stage fright seized me. My face grew hot. Had my audience noticed my nerves? Each moment unraveled slowly like a spool of invisible thread, and I wondered if I was going to finish the reading. Eventually, I did. I was met with applause and even a few hugs as the event concluded. This was like nothing I had ever done before. When I stepped into that room, I had taken a chance, and now a fire ignited in me. The room’s energy and the power of words clung to me. The passion I once had was rekindled. I never forgot that experience, nor my creative writing professor, who saw beyond my lack of confidence to what I could contribute. 

Hey there! Thank you for reading! This essay was published in The Penman Review and featured in their December 2022 issue. Check out my personal essay here. If you enjoyed this story, please let me know by sending me a comment below or a message at jenniferwardwrites@gmail.com. Connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thank you again for your support!

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