I walk in. I've been coughing and my voice isn't at its best. I make some jokes with the other people there, then I go backstage to warm up. I feel confident enough and when they call my name; I spring up. I walk calmly. I am a performer.
"What are you singing?" the pianist says to me, and then it becomes real. "Somewhere That's Green," I reply. She begins the chords and I take a deep breath and the sound resonates. I am lost in the moment; it's like I am not really there, although I hit all the notes, remember all the words, and play the part as I sing. When the song ends and I sit down, I realize I had a transcendent moment where everything vanished. I had become the character, one of my best auditions. I saw myself for the first time as a performer, ready to do this for the rest of my life.
I didn't get the part.
Even though I landed a smaller role, I was crushed. I know you're thinking: "it was a just high school play! Nothing big, right?" Wrong! The play is my thing. I love staying for practice at 6 o'clock, the thrill of being on stage, and making great friends. I do the costumes and help the directors. I can be myself at play practice, and I am really comfortable among my cast mates. I had a lead role twice before. So when I didn't get the part, I felt, well, cast aside, if you'll pardon the pun. I wasn't excited to go to practice anymore.
I knew what I had to do. I had to prove to myself that I could handle the rejection, that I was a kid with grit. I had to go to practice and put on my happy face with more energy than before. That was one of the most challenging things I've had to do, ever; proving to myself and my friends that I could not only take a punch, but come back with more pep in my step than before.
As disappointed as I was, I couldn't help but realize that this is the business. I won't always get the lead and there are absolutely no guarantees. Someone may be better than me for the role, so I've got to brush it off and make the most of what I have. In the words of Kelly Clarkson, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Here's the other thing: I still have the memory of that moment -- that feeling of being in the zone, of time stopping, of total clarity; that happiness that comes when you're completely focused on an activity you love. So l learned that performing is something I should keep doing, no matter what the judges say. In the end, it's not giving up on what you love that matters most.