LIZ HARROD

Revisiting an Old Skill

In Writing on October 20, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Seems as though now is the time for me to return to things I’ve learned before. I know I’ve slacked a bit on the blog lately, for a number a reasons, which I will get into in another post.

For today, though I’ve got two separate posts to share in this particular forum. The first is a piece of writing that I turned in as an assignment for my online writing course with the Sydney Writing Centre. It is a profile on Stevie, one of the other au pairs here, and it happens to be the first piece of journalistic writing that I’ve touched since probably my second year at Boston University.

This is the second draft, edited after receiving feedback from my professor.

INTRO: An aspiring dancer leaves her own troubled community to explore the world and find dreams of her own. I’d stop this sentence after world.

MAIN TEXT:
Sipping a café au creme in a Parisian café, American Stevie Johnson, thanks her waitress in French and returns to English, laughing and continuing to describe why her California upbringing is a far cry from the life she leads today.

“Our slogan used to be ‘Come for the crack. Stay for the prostitutes,'” she says, speaking of Vallejo, California.

Vallejo is her hometown and, in 2010, became the largest city in California’s history to declare bankruptcy.

“The [Los Angeles] Times changed it after that to ‘where hope comes to die,'” she says.

It is hard to imagine the 22 year old dancer growing up in a city riddled with poverty and crime, but under the pixie facade is a young woman with the dedication needed to carve a path out of Vallejo.

Johnson attended public school until her first year of high-school. Then, because of instability in the system, she moved to a private where she could focus on dance and prepare for college.

“A lot of friends resented me . . . because my parents let me go to a private school and were paying for college,” says Johnson.

For Johnson though, a child of two master degree holders, skipping college was not an option. So after high-school, instead of pursuing her dream to dance in Paris, Johnson picked a local university and settled for studying dance 45 minutes from Vallejo.

Living at home in the same community, the need to leave and find her own way of life grew.

“I was never normal, and I would always see [things] on TV about normal people my age,” she says. “I wanted to have that. I wanted to travel, to know what it was like.”

In search of fulfillment, Johnson spent a summer volunteering in Ecuador, where her father was born, and then left Vallejo to study political science at the University of California, San Diego.

“That was the first time in my life that I made friends who were going places,” Johnson says. “Back home all my friends and I started to grow apart. . . I don’t know if it [was] because I was moving forward and they were staying stagnant. . . but we [didn’t] really see each other anymore.

The summer volunteering in Ecuador and two years in San Diego brought new opportunities for Johnson. During her last year in university, she took an opportunity to move to Europe and finish her degree in Germany.

Now, she continues to live over 5,000 miles away from Vallejo, in Paris. Her job as an au pair for a French family provides a place to live and a flexible work schedule, allowing her to take dance classes and pursue the life she desires.

“Without really knowing it, I moved here to find myself,” she says. “I have an inexplicable force that propels me. . . [and] I’ve always had two goals: to dance and to live in Paris. Now I’m doing both.”

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