Monday, May 14, 2012


I just wrote this essay for an English Class.  Everybody in my family will appreciate this story but I hope you enjoy this as well.

The Good that Came from Fear

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.” I can honestly say it took me at least twelve years, first, to accept that this statement taught a true and valuable lesson, and second, to appreciate the experiences that brought me to this realization. This is the story of my first legitimate fear. My story starts with a music lesson when I was six years old.  

Despite the amount of innate talent one may have, beginning violinists sound rough, choppy, and most of the time very squeaky. I was no exception. It is just a fact universally acknowledged in my family.  Those first lessons were painful, not only for me as the student, but also for those who had to listen to me.  My practice sessions at home were repetitive and for the most part out of tune. You can only listen to Mary Had a Little Lamb so many times before the crazy feelings set in and you want to hunt down that lamb and put it out of its misery. The great thing about beginning music students, however, is that every one of us starts out at the same skill level, zero. Gratefully, my siblings were forgiving, because all five of them also played the violin and understood that growing pains were necessary.  

After the first month of lessons, I learned what everybody else seemed to already know. Talent takes hard work and time to develop. I’ve lost count of how many people have told me the same story: “Yes, I took violin lessons for a year, but I did not sound good and it seemed like a waste of time, so I quit.”  I have to admit after my first public performance, I was almost part of this group. I enjoyed playing the violin. I was willing to practice the required time, and I learned patience; however, I didn’t realize that learning to play the violin would require more than this. It would demand courage to accept the discouragement and periodic failure which were inevitable.

Let me describe to you why my first recital was so foreboding. I was seven years old, and I had been taking violin lessons for about a year. From my own naïve perspective, I was sounding great. I had rehearsed and rehearsed, memorized my song, and I was really quite proud of what I had accomplished thus far.  The recital was an occasion to display what I had learned and to showcase my progress. We were required to dress up for the recital.   I remember wearing a maroon dress with a pattern of blue and white flowers, accented by a lace collar. I had an imposing white bow in my hair, and shiny black Mary Jane shoes with silver buckles on my feet. I felt so grown up.

Naturally, excitement was buzzing in the air as my family and I arrived at the performance hall and I took my seat among the other students. I had a smile on my face during the first few performances.  As my turn grew closer, my smile grew smaller and smaller and I begin to feel a churning in my stomach. Finally the moment of truth arrived. I arose from my squeaky chair and walked slowly toward the stage. My legs were not cooperating as I felt clumsy trying to climb the stairs to the stage without tripping or falling. I made it onto the stage and turned toward the anxiously awaiting audience.  I felt every eye in the room on me.  My knees began to shake, and I could feel the blood drain from my face.  Panic set it in.  To this day I cannot remember the name of the song I played. The only thing I do remember was feeling stiff and petrified.  I started my song playing tentatively and sensing it to be barely audible. I felt the warm burning in my eyes begin. After the first few measures, tears began to stream down my face. As I was playing, the tears fell from my cheeks, ran onto my violin, and dripped to the floor. Luckily my teacher, Jim Shupe, was kind of enough to step up and play along with me to help me finish my song. It was then that I realized I was terrified of performing and being in the spotlight.

I could not imagine anything more horrifying than having to get back up on that stage. There was absolutely no way my instructor or my parents would put me through that torture again. Of course, I was wrong. My parents were supportive and pointed out two very important facts I had ignored. First, nobody was laughing at me or making fun of me for crying. Second, I had finished my song and played it completely memorized. I hadn’t forgotten any of it.  After many traumatic performances like this first recital, I discovered the confidence and courage to control my stage fright. Part of this was the realization that I would have my parents and teacher there to support and encourage me no matter what happened.

After twelve years of lessons and performances, I have reached a point where I like sharing my talent with others. Experiences like these help establish a goal to work toward and can become a great motivating factor.  These moments help teach you to reflect on your own journey, so you say “Look at how far I’ve come already and look at the possibilities ahead of me.”  I think C.S. Lewis said it best when he taught that “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”

If I had not worked through my fear, I would have quit playing the violin, singing, and performing all together. It would have caused me to miss out on so many memories and special moments with my family and friends. All of this experience has taught me that that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. Because I was able to conquer my fear and face it head on, my life has truly been changed for the better.

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