I am one that does not shy away from the dramatics or from performing. Rather, I love the limelight, the spotlight, the attention.
I bask in it… in the theatrical sense.
When it comes to reality, my awkwardness still hasn’t ebbed away, even after all of this hard work. If I know how to handle a social situation, sure, I will be little miss performer. But when it starts to go south – and oh, if you don’t know me very well yet, it will – I’ll blubber and blurt things out and spend three days analyzing why, oh why, did I read a poem to that guy? Or why did I show him a story that I wrote three years ago? I mean come on, old, nostalgic writing? That’s almost as bad as serenading “Wonderwall” on the Quad. I didn’t even mean for it to come off like that, I just wanted to read this really cool thing but now he’s probably afraid that I’m going to fall in love regardless of the test of time or some shit like that – I read you my favorite vignette, NOW WE ARE DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER.
However, something I was always terrified to do was perform a trumpet solo. In high school, we did this absolutely horrid solo contest that was part of our honors credit or something or other. The schools in the area always came together for this. Anyway, because I am the shameless overachiever that I am, I always did this solo contest. It was for the state of Illinois and some of my friends were really good, and, maybe I’m okay in a full band setting, but I was the saddest thing you ever did see when it came to soloing.
I attribute this to when I had my Whiplash moment during my freshman year of high school. No, fortunately, I did not have a band director that shouted obscenities to my face (thanks for that, Mr. K). It was that moment, you know what I’m talking about, when (SPOILER) Miles Teller goes on stage and they’re playing “Upswingin'” because Fletcher totally wants to tank Andrew’s career and Miles just is miserable on stage playing whatever he could.
My moment like that came when I had a three note solo my freshman year in some piece I can’t remember the name of, but it was famous, like, where I feel like I discredited the composer with this botched note. It was in front of the whole auditorium, too, for the spring concert. It was loud and it was wrong. I cried right there in my seat for the rest of the concert – why hide the atrocity that I had just committed? The audience was now publicly privy to my horror and shame.
Since then, whenever some hopeful soul looks me in the eyes as I start to play alone, I almost wish that I had a written apology that I could just hand to them. It’s like when people want me to sing and I say “No, you don’t want to hear that.” They laugh and they tease because they know that I am sensitive, but then I look them straight in the eye and say, “No, really, it’s just going to make everyone feel uncomfortable and bad.” Then their smile starts to wane and they don’t know whether to half-heartedly laugh or look away in discomfort.
The worst, however, was when my high school hosted the solo contest. Or it was like something where Mr. K felt the need that we had to have our own solo contest…? There were like two contests per year or something… this like at least six years ago since I think it was my sophomore year, so my brain is a little fuzzy on the details. Point being, it was at our school. We had to perform in front of a few judges and anyone else who wanted to watch. I needed to find a piano accompanist. I decided to go against my previous choice of the choir director since she was my accompanist for my painfully terrible rendition of “I Enjoy Being A Girl” as my audition piece for the musical. (Fun fact, I was never in the musical despite another try two years later, singing “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” as my audition piece. I was, however, in pit for three years). After that shameful performance, I couldn’t bring myself to ask her.
So, I decided to ask the most talented kid in school. Let’s call him Shawn.
I have known Shawn since Kindergarten and he is this day and age’s Leonardo DaVinci. He can do everything. Draw? Perfect renditions of cats that he would give to my AP Euro teacher. Sports? Any and all of them, especially baseball while babysitting my teacher’s kids. Smart? A 95% would have been mediocre to him. Attractive? Had the biceps of one of Michaelangelo’s angels and fiery red hair… that he managed to make look Godly.
I never really had a full blown crush on Shawn, though, despite the fact that I get a crush on about 98% of the men I end up becoming friends with (so if you ever get confused at my behavior, new guy friend, please just know that I am going through my weird… motions in my head. Don’t worry, I’ll stop telling you to listen to this one song soon enough). Sure, I found him attractive. Sure, I had imagined getting a pizza date with him. But… eh. I viewed him as competition. That was a more pressing matter to me rather than ooh! A BOY!
So, because he was the perfect, celestial-like candidate for my gleaming rendition of whatever solo it was that year that I decided to choose, I mustered up the courage and asked him. He, of course, being the suave gentleman that he was, agreed to do it. He respected our history, and for that, I commend him.
I respect him even further for how he handled my behavior when the doom-filled day came.
My solo was so bad that I didn’t even finish it. My notes were shaky, my pulse sweaty, I felt like I was going to PASS OUT. I sobbed and heaved and I RUINED my chance to show to Shawn that, yes, I could be more TALENTED than him. It was a mind game that I had created, and I ruined it for myself.
For the rest of high school, despite knowing him since elementary school, whenever I passed him in the halls, I looked down and shuffled and thought of all of those years of building up to some contest that was never going to happen. Instead, I imagined that he saw the gross, over-exaggeratory side of me that all too many have seen.
The point of it, though (and now only in hindsight I see this), is that there was never a competition between Shawn and I. I had built it up in my mind because I couldn’t stand the thought of having someone – especially a boy – be smarter or more talented than me. Well, let me ring up the Doctor in the TARDIS and travel me back through space and time to visit myself because, kid, there will be people who are better at things than you. That does not mean that you’re not worthy, though.
So, now whenever I find my match, my competitive equal, my rival in abilities, I do my best not to cry. Maybe I get close, maybe I get high-strung. Maybe it’s while I’m filming or I’m trouble-shooting in the editing labs. I’ll subconsciously go back in my mind to that time when I embarrassed myself gloriously in front of Shawn with my shaky trumpet notes. I’ve come to find that I feel like this when it’s during things that I think are important with people that I value. And then I’ll remember that at least, thank God, I’m not trying to do a two-minute trumpet solo in front of people I don’t know. I’m just trying to white balance with a new camera, and sometimes you have to swallow your pride and ask.