With every successful person, there are mountains of failure behind them. The past of all memorable people holds a series of losses, shortcomings, and mess-ups that have come and gone. But these failures don’t serve as a reminder of our imperfections; they serve as stairs up to a level of greatness. To reach a height of achievement, one must build a ladder with failures.
Months of preparation, searching, planning, and choreography had been poured into this moment. At last, at long last, the day had arrived. My high school theatre department has an undying tradition that spans farther back than can be remembered: the Fall musical. Every school year starts with a show filled with dance, music, and emotions. I love shows such as these: they are always the most enjoyable to be in. However, when it comes to musicals, I have the dumb luck to be cast in the most undesirable of roles. My first musical I was ever part of, I was cast as the Narrator: the only part not allowed to sing. Starting from 3rd grade, I had mastered the ability of being characters like “Tree number 2,” “Guard number 1,” amongst other revered roles. Audition after audition lead only to disappointment and sadness. By the time I had been cast as “Elf Worker 2,” I decided I’d had enough,
My church routinely held musicals and other such shows during the year. One was coming up, and I decided it was my chance to do something about my 12 year losing streak. For the next few weeks, I could be found in the music minister’s office getting tips and insight on how to increase my skill from one of the most musically talented people I have ever met. Soon enough, I had reached auditions. My time had come. I sang my 13 year old heart out, but to no avail. I had not been cast at all: not even in the ensemble. This had crushed my spirits and destroyed my hopes, but it didn’t touch my will. This failure pushed my urge to break the mold more than any advice coach or inspirational poster. I had a newfound power that egged me onward. I had spite.
The years of failure after failure had given me a reason to keep going: I wanted nothing more than to end this streak of horrible outcomes. I had to prove I could do something right musically. Eventually, I’d have my chance.
It was my freshman year; terror loomed in every hallway and occupied my mind like it paid the rent. I was nervous enough going into high school for the first time, but there was something that increased my terror tenfold: that dreaded, yet looked forward to, Fall musical. The experiences to come were by far the most terrifying and the most stressful: more so than any I had felt up until that point. Nevertheless, I prepared and planned out my song from Guys and Dolls, and choreographed to my soul’s content, and hit the stage. But these auditions had another special twist to them. Not only was I auditioning against the entirety of the school’s musical genius, but I was also showing them them what I had to offer publicly. A three minute duration of singing in front of some of the most talented high schoolers I’d ever seen were concluded. As I watched the other singers and actors on stage, I began to think that my chances at scoring any sort of role were slim to none. As it turns out, I got far more than what I had wanted: I was a side character! Not only did I get to sing, but my character actually had a name! I was satisfied with my work put out, but there was a though crossing my mind that egged me onward: if I could earn this, the only thing I could do is improve.
New year, new musical, new skills, new theatre teacher, yet the same old cliche story of nervous jitters. Now that I was a sophomore, I figured that my chances were increased due to my experience and my skill. Another round of auditions came and went, and my song from Tomfoolery earned me another above ensemble role: this time, however, I got a promotion on the musical hierarchy. This time, I was a supporting character. I was cast as Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and I actually had lines and two of my own solos. I had done one better than my previous dreams, yet something still egged me on. something still felt unfinished.
Let’s jump to present day musical auditions: it’s junior year, and this time, I wanted nothing less than a lead role. I knew in the back of my mind it could be done, so long as I brought my A-game through the rest of the alphabet. I memorized and prepared a gut-wrenching piece from Les Miserables, and was on the prowl for a lead. The third round of auditions came to a screeching halt as the day came to a close. I waited at with baited breath. When I got home from school, I checked. After eating the supper my father lovingly served, I checked. Before I did my homework, while I did my homework, and after I did my homework, I checked. After brushing my teeth and getting into my pajamas, I checked. Before telling the world goodbye for the day, I checked. Finally, I had hit bank.
There was the list, tempting and waiting to be read. I looked at the top: most of the time leads are posted there. I canvased the page carefully, looking for my name. And there it was: I wasn’t ensamble, I wasn’t a side character, I wasn’t a supporting character, I was the lead! I had been honored with the role of Judas from Godspell. To have called me excited would have been a harsh understatement. At long last, after 16 years of trial and mostly error, I had done what 10 year old me deemed impossible. I had earned a lead role in a musical.
Everyone has heard the classic lines: “try your best” and “if you don’t succeed, try again.” But what use is the new information if you don’t utilize it? If you cannot learn from a mistake, if you cannot find a solution to a problem, and if you cannot stop what isn’t working, it is all for nothing. I learned first-hand that if you really want something, you can’t just try your best. You must adapt to the situation and rise against: you must try something new.