Overcoming Fears

November 17, 2011
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A Wonderful Surprise

Abby trudged out of the classroom with her backpack and her lunchbox, staring at the ground. She couldn’t wait to leave and be home and, even better, she could play the piano. School was boring; it was easy. Skipping a grade didn’t help. The other kids in her class were older than her already had their own friends. It had been hard enough for her to make friends before, and then she had to go to a new group of kids who basically ignored her. Except for today. Earlier, a girl in her class, Katey, had teased her during recess about being a nerd.
“Your only friends are the books you read,” she sneered. Abby had just ignored her and kept reading. That was why she hated school- because nobody there understood her or included her.

She walked out to the front of the school and scanned the parking lot for her mom’s silver minivan. There it was! She walked increasingly faster to get to her car, where she could finally go home! “Hi, honey!” her mom said as she got in the car. “How was your day?”

“It was okay,” she mumbled, not wanting to talk about it. They were quiet most the rest of the way home. When they got to their house, Abby already felt better. her mom cut up some watermelon, Abby’s favorite fruit. Abby sat down at her wood kitchen table, on her special chair that was just the right height. “Guess what?” her mom prompted.


“On December 12, there is going to be a Christmas concert at the college campus. And guess what else?” She didn’t wait for Abby to answer, “You have been invited to play in it!!”

“What?” she exclaimed, “No way! It’s impossible!”

She couldn’t believe it was true. She had to be lying. "There is no way that I, Abby, could be invited to play at the Christmas Concert! How would they even know about me?" she wondered.

“Your teacher recommended you, she’s friends with the conductor for the symphony that plays in it every year,” her mom explained, “Usually they invite her to have one student play in it, and this year, she chose you!”

“What will I even play?” she wondered aloud.

“Your piano teacher picked out some music…here.”

She hurried out of the room and came back with a few sheets of music. Abby took them and scanned through them. It appeared to be a mix of Christmas songs. It also looked pretty challenging to play. She would have to practice, a lot. But that was okay, because she loved to play the piano, even when practicing.

So she got to work- she immediately raced to the family room. There was a plushy blue couch close to Abby, and a TV mounted on the opposite wall. And in between them against the other wall was the shiny black piano. She sat down on the small piano bench, took a deep breath, and began to play. As she did, her pent up anger and sadness from the day evaporated, replaced with a peaceful happiness. This is where she loved to be. She belonged with her fingers dancing across the black and white keys. This is what Abby loved to do.

The Christmas Concert

Abby hopped out of her car into the cold, brisk winter air. She watched her step to avoid patches of snow as she stumbled to the Performance Hall of the university. Snowflakes swirled around, drifting slowly to the ground. Abby breathed in the chilly air. “You’ll do fine,” she told herself.
The day of the Christmas Concert had arrived, and she was very scared about playing. She was going to play in front of so many people, and the biggest crowd she had played in front of before was about thirty people, at her piano recital. There were a lot more people here.
She reached the sliding doors and stepped into the warm lobby. Some ushers in red uniforms directed Abby and her family to where the auditorium was. When they arrived, Abby found Karma, her piano teacher. “Hello, Abby!” she welcomed, and then said, “You’re going to sit by me, up at the front, okay?”
She guided Abby to the front row and showed her her seat. They sat down and waited for about ten minutes, and then the lights dimmed and suddenly the crowd hushed. A blond woman in a crimson dress with a fluffy Santa Clause hat walked up the microphone, her shiny red heels clicking echoed in the silent auditorium.
“Hello everyone!” the lady addressed the audience, “Welcome to our annual Christmas Concert! I am the conductor for the symphony. Let’s get started right away!”
The lights on the stage started changing colors- red, green, white… and then the conductor raised her raised her baton and the symphony started playing. Abby listened intently as they played, transfixed by the violins’ serenade, and how the flutes trilled. The music was beautiful. When they finished, they played another song, then another. All too soon, the conductor spoke into the microphone, “And now we would like to welcome one of our special guests, Abby Williams!”
As the audience cheered, Karma gently pushed Abby. “Go on, it’s fine,” she assured her.
Abby wiped her sweaty palms on her dress as she stood up shakily. “I don’t think I can do this!” She panicked. Her eyes were wide with anxiety as she made her way up the stairs and onto the stage. While she was walking up, they rolled the piano to the front of the stage so it was in the spotlight. Just the thought of having to play on it in front of everyone made her want to faint.
When she reached the stage, she shuffled nervously across to the piano. The closer she got, the more nervous she became. Every step became harder than the last. She thought she would die of fear by the time she got to the piano. Luckily, though, she made it.
Abby sat on the black leather piano bench and stared at the keys in front of her. She thought through the first few notes of her piece. Then, hands shaking, she placed her fingers on the keyboard. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and started to play.
Gradually, she forgot about the people around her, the stage, and her anxiety. She was lost in the music she played. When it was over, Abby was shocked to find that she was almost unhappy that it had finished. She had played well.
As the audience applauded, Abby glided back to her seat in a trance. “Wow,” she realized, “I actually did it! And I did pretty well, if I do say so myself!”
She felt so relieved, as if a heavy weight had been lifted off of her. As she settled down in her seat, she half-listened to the rest of the concert, lost in her own, elated thoughts.
Afterwards, people came up to Abby and congratulated her. She received many compliments and handshakes. Abby was grinning from ear to ear as she thanked them in return. Abby was blissful and cheerful as the people praised her. Tonight, she was truly happy.

The Announcement

The door to Abby’s classroom swung open as she peered inside and then strode in. She tossed her backpack down and plodded over to her desk. As she went to sit down, she tripped over her loose shoelace and fell flat on her face. She groaned as she got up. She could hear some kids snickering. Tears brimmed in her eyes and she glanced down to hide them. Great way to start the day, she thought.

She was deep into a book when suddenly the bell rang. The announcement speakers sputtered on and the principle’s voice crackled through them, “Good morning students! Happy Monday! Today’s lunch is the usual mashed potatoes and jelly…”

Abby zoned out during the regular Monday announcements and was lost in a maze of thoughts until the speakers abruptly interrupted them as they blared, “And as I’m sure some of you have noticed, our own student, Abby Williams, performed in the Christmas Concert on Saturday, and you can even see a picture of her at the Concert in the newspaper! We’d like to congratulate Abby on her wonderful performance!”

Abby could hear applause through the speakers as she sat there, dumbfounded. Wait, what? Did I hear correctly? Apparently she did, because everyone was clapping. Then she realized what else the principal had said. There was an article in the newspaper? I guess my family doesn’t get the Paper anyway so we wouldn’t have known.

After the rest of the announcements ended, Abby’s teacher congratulated her and asked her if she would come up and talk about the concert. Go up and talk? In front of the whole class? Abby shuddered at the thought. But then she noticed everyone staring at her expectantly. Well, I guess I don’t really have a choice.
So Abby nervously stood up and hobbled up to the front of the classroom. Then she spoke to her class about the concert, how the symphony played so well, and how frightened she had to been when she had to go up and play the piano in front of the whole audience. By the time she finished, she wasn’t so scared, and all her classmates seemed pretty impressed. “Wow!” one person said with astonishment, “I’m older than you and I couldn’t have done that! That’s really cool!”

Abby peeked down at her feet, embarrassed at the praise. Then another girl exclaimed, “Congratulations Abby! I’m really impressed that you played in front of so many people!”

More congratulations came, even from Katey, the girl that had teased her. Eventually everyone in Abby’s class had acknowledged her or patted her on the back. And Abby, in return, had started opening up and not being so quiet. Soon she was conversing and laughing with everyone else. She was finally starting to make friends. Inside, Abby glowed with happiness. She thought to herself, Maybe, just maybe, school isn’t so bad after all.

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