The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

Lessons Learned

Kristine Rodriguez
IDH 4007
Spring Semester 2005

   Shark Valley... Where were the sharks and the valley? Grass, alligators, birds...they were all there but the sharks were missing in action. Anyways, I may have missed the sharks but I did come away from Shark Valley with two lessons learned. One is that determination pays off and second that it is never too late to try something new.

    Fifteen miles sounded like a challenging ride but I figured I could do it. I thought to myself, "you're young and in decent shape it shouldn't be so bad." Lets just say that the dark sky and threat of rain were an ominous warning of what lay ahead. I jumped on my bike and the first couple of miles went by easily. There were birds to see and alligators to avoid. Then the wind started to take its toll. I felt like I was peddling and going nowhere. The wind was determined to keep me from making any forward motion. Miles started passing slower and slower. The tower, the halfway mark and my refuge, seemed a distant dream. It was frustrating and tiring. I started to empathize with Chaz's character from Skinny Dip. The everglades changed from a place I once liked to one I couldn't wait to get out of. I understood Chaz's eagerness to get home and be comfortable and away from the sweat and labor. Then I realized that I was identifying with a whining, lazy con artist and I straightened myself out. I told myself that the tower wasn't that far away and that if I kept pushing I would be there in no time at all. My mind said keep going but my legs were saying stop right here. Determination to reach my goal carried me to that tower and onto a comfortable bench. After lunch I was feeling rested and my legs were ready to go. The ride back went a little smoother because the wind was not a factor. It no longer teased me as I struggled to move forward. Not even the rain could stop me. I was on a roll and I wasn't going to stop rolling until I reached the end of the trail. It was a challenging ride for me but I was determined to complete it. Needless to say, I have never been so happy to see my car before. I couldn't wait to throw that bike in the trunk and go home. I was proud of myself for riding those 15 miles. I am not, however, too proud to admit that I won't do it again.

    Another thing that I came to realize is that it is never too late to learn something new. Whether it's learning a new language, physics, or how to ride a bike, any time is a good time to try something new. "There is no time like the present" sums up the way new things should be approached. Robert exemplified this approach admirably when he mounted a bike for the first time last Friday. I never thought somebody could go twenty-one years without learning to ride a bike. I always figured everybody learned to ride a bike in elementary school with their parents running along side them offering words of encouragement. Robert put a dent in that line of thought. He learned how to ride in an unconventional way. Instead of being gradually introduced to the world of biking he skipped the training wheels and plunged right into the main event. It must have been hard for him to start learning how to ride a bike in front of all his peers. He didn't let the laughs and giggles stop him from jumping on the bike. He didn't even seem embarrassed when the professor was holding the bike up for him while he tried to maintain his balance. That shows that if you want to learn something you should just do it. It is often difficult to try new things because we are afraid of what people might think. It's a matter of letting go of judgments and taking the bull by the horns. Robert took a few falls but learned quickly how to keep the bike upright.

   Learning and trying new things involves risks. The biggest risk is failure. Failure is a common fear for many people. That fear keeps people from breaking out of their comfort zone. Nobody likes not achieving a goal. It can be a blow to self-esteem. The key is to have enough confidence to try again. It is easier to say, "this is what I know how to do and this is what I am sticking to." It takes courage to do something you have never done before because chances are you might not get it right the first time. If no risks were taken or changes happening one would not be living. Life is change and doing new things. This evidenced by the overwhelming amount of "first times" that everybody experiences: This first time you learn to walk, ride a bike, first day of school, first day on the job... the list goes on and on. They may all get the butterflies going in our stomachs and the doubts cluttering our heads but once you do it the unfamiliarity and nervousness fades away. It is the initial fear that inhibits people from doing new things. Once the first step is taken, things start to fall into place.

   So even though Shark Valley did not offer any obvious likeness to its name, it did offer me two important lessons to take home with me. Who knows what challenges lay ahead of them? There may be times when it seems like there is no way you are going to get through a problem. That is where determination kicks in. If you want it bad enough you will keep going until you achieve what you set out to do. There is always going to be new things to learn and it's never too late to learn them. We are constantly learning throughout our lives. It takes confidence and the willingness to fall down a few times in order to ride successfully down the path of life.

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