For the years of kindergarten, first, and second grade, I went to a school called Community School #1. Every year, we would put on a play. In first grade, we put on a show called the Greek Mythical Musical. I was a good kid, so I had all of my lines memorized. My teacher gave us a tip. “If you get nervous, stare at the clock all the way at the back of the gym,” she explained. “That way, you won’t pay so much attention to the people.” I did my best to use that advice, even during rehearsals. But soon, it was showtime.
There were parents, siblings, and friends, excitedly chattering in the giant room. The lights dimmed, the people slowly quieted, and the play started. I was to play the role of a cyclops, along with two others. I had a few minor parts, such as jumping out from the side of the stage, but not more than one or two lines at a time, and no more than a sentence each. But my big part, with lots of lines, loomed closer and closer.
Soon, it was the cyclops’ turn to speak. As there were three of us, and we spoke in turn. The first kid, maybe a bit too confident, almost yelled his line. I was really nervous at that point, and it only got worse. I remembered the advice: stare at the clock. I fixed my eyes on the wall at the very end of the large room, echoing with voices more confident than mine, and tried to forget my nervousness. The second kid announced his line, his voice filling the gym. I was really scared, even with a line in my head, prepared, ready to speak. I kind of zoned out, staring at that clock. At the very least, my nervousness melted away. The second kid finished his line. I wondered if I could stare at that clock forever. After all, if I didn’t say my line, nothing would happen. And nothing would continue to happen. Suddenly, the second kid elbowed me in the side, breaking my trance.
“We cyclops won’t stand for this!” I blurted, startled.
“Dang right we won’t!” said another cyclops, clearly relieved.
We continued this back-and-forth until we left the stage. It was at that moment that I resolved to stay vigilant for the rest of the play. I continued my few remaining lines, not looking once at the clock. Finally, I stepped onstage to join everyone else for a bow. After the curtains had closed, I went home. I thought to myself and realized that spacing out would surely lead only to disaster. Even now, I may drift off sometimes, but I try my hardest not to.