Kids’ legs quivering, feet shaking, we were gathered in the tiny music room. A few kids were pounding on instruments even after Ms. Myles motioned for us to be quiet. Dancers would practice their routines silently with their matching, sparkling costumes. Singers would do their warm-ups in their professional uniforms. People doing skits would practice their lines quietly in their costumes. Then, there was Kayla and I. With our make-shift doctor costume, paper signs, and tennis shoes. As the time went by, as the music room gradually became quieter, it only made me and Kayla much more nervous. Soon, we were one of the very few groups in the music room. We crept up on stage and watched the previous act. They were energetically dancing with their small group. They had synchronized, complicated choreography, and there was no way Kayla and I would be as good as them. The previous dancers took a bow and exited the stage with smiles glued to their faces. The M.C said, with a fake smile, “Up next is a skit of ‘Medics Don’t Heal Scouts’.” Our heartbeat accelerated as we peeled the door and peeked out, facing the audience. It’s show time. Better not mess up! “Good luck,” whispered Ms. Myles.
Being, completely honest, I would’ve raced out of the stage and joined the audience and watch Kayla perform all by herself. A huge part of me regretted auditioning for the talent show. I’ve never sung in front of an audience, so what made me think I could do it this time? I guess I did it for Kayla. Kayla had her long, black hair tucked away in her dark blue hoodie. She had the biggest eyes I’ve ever seen. Kayla is the kind of person who would wake up at 7 am on weekends to binge-watch cat videos and read the Warrior Cats series again. She was an active reader who could read anywhere. She read in class, during dinner, in the car, and even while “studying” for math tests at home. She has been wanting to perform at the talent show since kindergarten, but she never got the chance. But as I decided to perform with her, a huge part of me questioned my decision over and over again. But, I wasn’t going to argue with Kayla. Additionally, she was a really good friend of mine and I wasn’t going to disappoint her. I’ve learned that it’s better to go along with what's happening than to argue against it. Her expressive brown eyes would just convince me, and I would be too gullible to argue otherwise.
Everyday Kayla, Bella, and I would walk to the field during recess and rehearse. I would print out the lyrics and bring my handmade props made of popsicle sticks. Kayla used her watch to time us, to make sure we were not too long. Bella watched us like she was watching an award-winning America’s Got Talent act. “That was amazing guys!” she would say, Although I knew for sure she didn’t mean that. Bella had stick straight dark hair sectioned into pigtails with pink bows. She was the oldest sibling in her family, so she was very responsible. She always offered to help, even when it’s not needed. Sometimes she even helps others before herself. Her smile never faded as she was very optimistic and empathetic. Bella sacrificed several recesses just to help us, and for fourth graders, recess was a big deal. We practiced the “choreography” of our skit and the singing parts several times. Bella kept fawning over how “good” we did. We kept practicing every day at recess and free play, and I felt like we didn’t get any better and there was no point trying out. Bella would disagree. So when the speaker said, “All 4-5 graders trying out for the Morgan Lake School Talent Show, report to room 15,” a knot formed in my stomach as I evaluated all the things that would go wrong at the audition. What if, before we even start, the teachers say, “That’s terrible!” What if they laugh at us? I didn’t feel prepared for the audition and I knew there was no point in trying out, but it was too late.
Just as I thought, the audition went terribly wrong. For instance, the piano was way too loud for the teachers to hear our singing, my doctor hat fell off of my head in the middle of our skit, and I’m pretty sure the teachers couldn’t understand what we were doing. But sure enough, we got into the Talent Show. But it didn't seem like that much of a deal since I was pretty sure that they accepted everybody.
When it came time to perform, we walked on stage slowly and everyone stared at me. I hate it when people stare at me. I looked at Bella, cheering in the audience. Bella had the expression of “Don’t worry, you got this” fixed onto her face. Kayla and I stood on stage, our hearts pounding. I didn’t know whether to smile or not, so I did a little bit of both. Kayla walked towards the piano slowly, as the whole school grew quiet. All you could hear was my heartbeat. After what seemed like forever, Kayla began crisply playing chords (occasionally missing them). Kayla’s piano playing sounded like there was a cricket, bouncing up and down without stopping. It was like an annoying jingle that you couldn’t get out of your head no matter what. Shortly afterward, we started our skit. I could hear murmurs of children in the crowd as they watched us. I just knew, without having to look at the audience, that they were silently judging our every move. The kindergarteners laughed occasionally. First and second graders were playing chopsticks with their hands, clearly bored of what we were doing, not paying attention. I could tell that third and fourth graders were trying very hard not to judge us, and the fifth graders were whispering about who knows what. All I could think about was, when will this be over? I could tell Kayla was feeling the same because she bit her lip, hiding behind the piano. When it came time for our choreography, we ended up looking like clumsy dinosaurs. Kayla then did her cartwheel (which she had been working on for two weeks) and knocked off my hat. She fell into split position, and I helped her up. Everyone laughed and I smiled awkwardly. My heart beat two times as fast and time went by slower than before, knowing we already messed up. We continued, hoping the audience wouldn’t notice, but I’m sure they did. The whole skit was only 90 seconds, but just then, it felt like 15 minutes. Our skit was interrupted when the whole school began distinctly pounding their hands together almost in a mocking way, which could have been clapping but at that time it didn’t seem like we deserved any applause. Kayla and I walked off stage with our backs facing the audience and our cheeks tomato red. I could feel my heart drop and all I could think about was all that went wrong. I knew Kayla would pelt me with complaints immediately, but she did not. We both kept quiet. Our eyes were glued to the performers at the rest of the show.
When we were walking out of the room, I unpleasantly heard many other kids saying rude things behind my back. “They can’t sing.” “They are weirdos!” “That was so awful.” “Who do they think they are?!” “They ruined the best song ever!” My cheeks turned the color of embarrassment. I was deliberately forcing myself to hold my tears. I pretended not to hear their remarks, but on the inside, I couldn’t get these comments out of my head. It was like a catchy song that kept replaying in my head. It was like the whole world was judging me behind my back and there was nothing I could do about it. Regret flooded my thoughts. Why did I do this? What did I get myself into? All I was trying to do was perform with my friend and now everyone hates me. I felt like the whole world was against me. I might as well move across the country and pretend it never happened. I might as well wait until the floor swallows me up.
Just when I thought I overcame the negativity, I heard more negative comments. After the talent show, Bella walked up to Kayla and I. Now Bella is going to say we did great! I just knew she would lie to us and say we did great, but she did not. She surprised me. She could tell we were disappointed in ourselves and tried to comfort us. “You know what! It doesn’t matter if you didn’t do your best, what matters is you tried,” she said hopefully. Come on Bella! How can you be so optimistic all the time? We did horrible in front of the whole school. Everyone hates me and I have no one to blame but myself. Kayla moaned. “Who cares if we tried, everyone was laughing at us,” she complained. “They were talking about us behind our backs! We did horrible,” I added. “Well, I bet you they couldn’t do as well even if they tried,” replied Bella. Seriously Bella! No, they wouldn’t do as well, they would do better. “I doubt that,” I said. “C’mon guys! Besides, what matters is that it’s all over,” replied Bella, feeling relieved. A few girls walked by glancing at us and whispering to each other. I tilted my head down, pretending not to see them, and feeling embarrassed. Well, no one asked for your opinion. I have my own opinion to worry about. We all sighed. All of our recesses had been wasted. All that effort for nothing. No matter how poorly we did, no matter how much we were made fun of, we didn’t care anymore. All bullies ever do is try to get in my way. It’s best to never let anything stand in my way.
But, on that day, I learned something. I learned that there's no point making a big deal about the past. It doesn’t matter what others think about you, it’s all about what you think about yourself. I learned not to live to someone else’s expectation of what I should be. I learned to be more outgoing and try new things. But most importantly, I learned to believe in myself. Thanks to Kayla and Bella, I turned from self-conscious, to confident. This is something I greatly appreciate to this day. So what we messed up. So what it was in front of the whole school. At the end of the day, we tried, and that’s all that really matters. Instead of being hard on myself, I learned to be proud. I was proud that I accomplished something many people feared.