I suppose this is on my mind because of one of the prompts I wrote up last week, about Becca wondering if she got into the school musical.
And I don’t think it will surprise anyone if that situation occurred to me because it’s something I’ve been through myself.
My freshman year of high school, I auditioned, and it went badly. I can sing, and my acting abilities are decent. But that day I was a bundle of anxious nerves that happened to be shaped like a person, and I flubbed my two minutes on stage.
When the list went up two weeks later, and my name wasn’t on it, I was devastated. It was the first major thing I’d tried that I failed to achieve.
I spent three solid days in a sullen funk. Negative thoughts of my own self-worth competed for space in my head with anger at everyone who’d encouraged and supported me. Instead of being grateful that my friends and family wanted me to do the things I enjoyed, I became convinced that they were all laughing at me behind my back, enjoying the fall that had come after my pride. Because, of course, I hadn’t once considered that I wouldn’t make the cut. Waiting for the list to go up was just confirmation of what I already knew would be true.
Let me say this: I do not miss being a teenager. At all.
Slowly those thoughts faded, and I climbed out of the well of misery I’d dug for myself, and things went back to normal.
A week and a half later, the school band director–also the director of the musical–flagged me down in the hallway before lunch and asked if we could talk. He explained that someone had had to drop out because of a family issue, and told me he knew I was capable of more, and better, than I did at my audition. If I still wanted in, I could be one of the chorus members–no lines, no name, no real part–but that would give me the opportunity to learn the ropes without as much pressure.
I managed to squeak out a “Yes, thank you” and get halfway to the lunch room before I started to cry. To this day I’m glad he didn’t see me crying. I didn’t want anyone, especially him, to know just how much it had hurt not to get in in the first place. It may have been battered at that point, but I still had my pride.
The next year, I didn’t get into the musical again, and there was no magical second chance. I went to see it, though, and I enjoyed it, and I didn’t beat myself up for not getting in.
My junior year, I landed a part. I had handful of lines. Progress.
And if this were a YA novel, I could say, “And my senior year, I got the lead!”
I didn’t. We got a new director that year, and I didn’t like her much. Nor did I care for the musical that was chosen, so I didn’t audition at all. But I did get a reasonably big part in the senior play. No singing–not a musical–but plenty of lines. And it was some of the most fun I’d had in my entire sojourn in high school. I got to hang out with a handful of people who were already my friends, and a whole bunch more that I’d “known” for years as we had classes together, but never really known at all until we got on stage together.
Did I just stumble on some garbled metaphor for “Life is Art”? I didn’t mean to.
So, I reacted to my first brush with failure poorly. I cringe, looking back at it, even though it was such a small failure in the grand scheme of things. But I learned. And while I still have my fears about much larger failures that might happen someday, I haven’t let them keep me from trying new things. New, scary, wonderful exciting things.
Like writing a novel. Someday you’ll get to see it. Someday.