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by KERRY MULIA
“Stand by, we’re on in five minutes!”
Oh no,” was the only thing I could think of before heading up on stage. Crew members sprinted around backstage trying to get the stage ready as actors and actresses finished their last minute touch-ups. The chaotic scene wasn’t making it easier for me to keep calm. Breathe Kerry, just breathe; my heart was beating so fast it was as if I just had run a marathon. My palms were clammy from nervousness and I couldn’t keep still. The fact that I was wearing a blue caterpillar costume from “Alice in Wonderland” didn’t help at all. I felt ridiculous and already perceived judgmental stares from the audience. Regrets now ran through my mind about joining the choir/drama class.
“Why did I do this to myself? Is it too late to drop out now? What if I make a mistake? Are people going to laugh at me?” All these questions ran through my head, building up my anxiety.
“Take your places, one minute!”
My thoughts were interrupted. I was frozen in place. Great, it is too late to back out now. A hand pushed me onto the stage and I mustered my best fake smile and stood in my place. The curtains went up, the lights dimmed and soon the play began.
I have always been afraid of public speaking. I never raised my hand in class and I hated presenting a project in front of my peers. I had a bad case of stage fright of life. Yet, I was always putting myself in to situations where I was forced to speak. It was my way of getting rid of the fear. I thought if I was constantly putting myself in front of people, my stage fright would eventually disappear.
I had joined choir on a whim. I wasn’t the greatest singer, and my acting skills were subpar, but there was something that attracted me to the class and being on stage. I admired people who could speak well in public and were outgoing, so I made an attempt to be one of those people.
I auditioned for the part of the caterpillar because I thought it was the most doable character for me. However, I definitely wasn’t expecting to play the part because there were so many better actors and actresses that auditioned.
I quickly regretted my decision when I had a fitting for my costume. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself when I stood in front of the mirror wearing a giant caterpillar suit; it was as if I were dressed for Halloween. At the end of the play, though, I felt a great sense of accomplishment that I stood in front of many people and managed to properly act my role.
Then I decided to do something that was way out of my comfort zone, I ran for vice – president of the student council. I don’t know what came over me to make this decision, but I went through with it. I made posters and interacted with the students so I could gain their votes. I stepped out of this tiny box in which I had contained myself yet again. The day of the speech was nerve-wracking, but I was well prepared and had a clear mind this time. However, uncertain thoughts came again once it got closer to my turn to speak.
Stop doubting yourself. You can do it. As my name was called up, I took a deep breath and started my speech without any problems. This time I felt more confident and all the hesitation I had before went away.
My method of continually putting myself in front of people until my stage fright was gone worked. I learned how to present myself to others without stuttering, and the skeptical thoughts I had never came back. Of course, I hadn’t completely cured my fear; my heart still beats at a faster rate whenever it is my turn to speak in front of a crowd, but I’ve learned how to keep a clear mind and communicate without stammering.
I kept pushing myself out of my comfort zone in order to feel at ease on stage or in front of an audience. Now, in my senior year, I’ve taken leadership positions and become accustomed to speaking to crowds. It was embedded in my daily routines to be in front of people and present myself as a leader. After countless tries, I can finally say that being on the stages of life no longer frightens me.