“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear.” –The Princess Diaries, 2001
I was praised for being scared. Nobody knew I was scared—terrified really—but I was. Everyone was looking at me, there were lights shining in my face. Why did I agree to this? Whose idea was it to make me sing in front of everyone? Are Christmas plays really necessary?
Wearing a brand new, green velvet dress and the black Mary Jane’s my mother had bought me the night before, I stepped out onto the wooden stage. I was eleven at the time, and the most important thing to me at that point was who I was going to play with on the playground at recess.
When I walked out on stage, my knees were shaking and my palms were sweaty with anticipation. I slowly started towards the microphone at the front of the stage, and even though I could barely muster the words, I started singing. An hour later, as the last song ended and the bows began, I looked into the audience and found my parents who were both beaming with pride. I realized at that moment that I had made it through the whole performance without missing a beat, even though my heart had been pounding during the entire ordeal. After the show, I found my family who showered me with flowers, cards, hugs, and words of praise. None of them knew how hard it had been for me to do what I had just done.
Fear is something we all encounter, no matter what age we are. However, whether or not we let it control our actions is our choice to make. I could have easily thrown a fit and demanded not to go on stage that night, but I overcame my fear of stage fright and had the time of my life doing so. We all experience fear. Some of us have fears that are more common than others, for example I have an irrational fear of losing my teeth. One of the most common fears is the fear of spiders, followed by the fear of snakes. Fear can be regarded as a good thing or a bad, depending on the situation. If one lets his or her fear of snakes control his or her life by never going outside, then the fear is not doing any benefit in one’s life. However, if one gets over his or her fear of snakes by going to the snake exhibit at the zoo and sees that they really are not that bad, then one has conquered his or her fear and the fear has changed him or her in some way.
We sometimes confront fears that involve other people. For example, maybe one has a fear of commitment or maybe a fear of asking the boss for a raise. One of my biggest fears is the fear that other people do not like me. Obviously I know that I cannot be everyone’s favorite person, but I still fret that my friends secretly hate me behind my back.
In the movie We Bought a Zoo, Matt Damon’s character says, “All you need is twenty seconds of insane courage, and I promise you something good will come of it.” This rings true in so many cases. Sometimes those twenty seconds are just enough for one’s legs or mouth to start moving.
The year after the Christmas play, I was in sixth grade. Popularity mattered, and kids were more hostile than ever. I vividly remember sitting at the lunch table with a group of girls, one of whom was quiet and shy. Another girl at the table just would not leave her alone, calling her names and telling her to leave and go sit somewhere else because nobody liked her. The quiet girl left, and went to sit at a table all by herself. I stared at her as she walked away, not able to fathom what she was feeling. I stood up, walked over to the table the girl was sitting at, and sat down next to her without saying a word, but with the mutual understanding that I was going to stand up for her the next time the other girl called her out. After I went to the other table, the rest of the girls followed and sat down next to us without a word, leaving the other girl to sit at her table all alone, speechless. That was the twenty seconds of courage I needed.
Twenty seconds can seem like a lifetime, and sometimes it is difficult for us to see what well-being can be done if we take a deep breath and do what seems impossible. I try to live my life fearlessly by taking risks most teenagers would not take for fear of being judged or outcast. Since sixth grade, I have made every effort possible to make sure that nobody is treated like they are unworthy or undeserving. Most people my age would not take the time to do this, for fear of losing their popularity status. I on the other hand, have watched some of the most fulfilling friendships bloom all because I changed who I sat with at lunch.
The Merriam-Webster definition of fear states it as “an unpleasant emotion caused by being aware of danger.” My definition is completely different. I see fear as something that holds something else waiting to be born, like a passion or a friendship. My love for theatre never would have come about if I had refused to go on stage at the Christmas play, and one of my best friends and I never would have met if I had not gone to sit by her at the lunch table so long ago.
Take a risk today.