I remember this one time in high school when I decided I wanted to play trombone in the jazz band. I know, I know… no big deal, except that I didn’t play trombone. I played French horn. And yet, I borrowed an instrument, had a friend help out with rudimentary slide positions, and dragged that trombone into my audition completely fearlessly. Nailed that spot and played in the Jazz B band for the next year.
Throughout high school, I was an actress in school plays and musicals, a soloist and musician in symphonic and vocal ensembles; heck, I was even the school’s mascot, Tina Titan, performing poorly-executed cheer routines on the sidelines at our home and away football games. I competed in the Miss Poway Pageant when I was 17. Not one iota of nerves. Extrovert to the max.
Even as an adult, I’ve performed widely. I mean, you name it: acting, vocal performance, instrumental performance, dance, teaching, public speaking… I’ve addressed rooms and outdoor venues full of hundreds, even thousands of people, have been in videos that have been widely circulated, shared, and viewed, and have worked with toddlers, teenagers, families, celebrities and law enforcement officers.
And yet one day at rehearsal last week, in the midst of some emotionally charged scenes for my character, I found myself teetering on the edge of tears in one between-entrances moment. Not Sarah, my character, but me: Cassiopeia. And it was an echo back to my college music department auditions – that one time I chose to play a piece I’d underprepared for a panel I’d underestimated, all the while wishing that I’d taken the time and the energy to do better. Exhausted, emotionally vulnerable, discouraged because I felt like I’d failed myself.
Thinking of the disparity between the two sides of the coin, confidence and anxiety, I realize that each of my negative experiences is just a blip on the radar, gently cocooned by positive ones, so close in time and yet so very different. And yet the common theme stands: I struggle most when I am unsure.
Of course, failure can’t always be anticipated or prevented, but there’s something to be said for trying. So, for most of my adult life, I’ve lived by one of many very simple tenets: I am proactive so that I don’t have to feel reactive. It works for me; helps me find my center. Can I adapt my course? Absolutely! Would I prefer not to have to change the entire itinerary? For sure.
Well, my oldest is 6 going on 7, and today a panel of judges and 50-odd children watched and passed judgment on his ability to swing a bat and snag and throw a ball at spring baseball tryouts. Man, watching him work through the line of kiddos and ultimately be that one kid up to bat, I couldn’t help but wonder… how did he feel? How would he weather the experience?
It turns out that today was his trombone-jazz-band day. He did his best, smiled and thanked the coach. Headed home for lunch with a smile on his face. And yet I know that someday, and maybe even someday soon, he’ll have that college-audition-day or that challenging-rehearsal day. And when he does, I’ll be here to give him my empathy and help him through all of the feelings he is sure to be having, and hopefully to help build him up on the other side so that he can tackle the next project.