Finding Your Voice | Teen Ink

Finding Your Voice

July 13, 2013
By hmnett BRONZE, Louisville, Kentucky
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hmnett BRONZE, Louisville, Kentucky
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Author's note: I have loved writing ever since I first picked up a Nancy Drew book. I live in Louisville, Kentucky and I'm fifteen years old. That's about all that's worth mentioning.

The lights dimmed, the curtain swept back, and there he was like a part of the many performances in my life. Except it wasn’t until later that I realized he wasn’t a performance. He was real. And it wasn’t until that boy with the light blue eyes swimming with specks of light and the brown windswept hair proved that not everything was a performance that I could begin to understand the many, very real tapestries surrounding me that I would have to weave into my life.
Acting was my passion--everyone said so, and I believed them because doesn’t the word passion indicate something that makes you feel alive? Something that you do over and over again and it is always a new experience? Something that you stick with no matter what others think? I had acted ever since I was little. My first big performance was The Nutcracker. Then, as my skills broadened, I moved on to Shirley Temple remakes, The Grinch, and The Miracle Worker. Acting consumed my childhood, and I let it. I got attention which I craved and missed lots of school--the perfect package.
But acting so consumed my life that I began to feel like everything was a stage on which I had to be somebody who I wasn’t. I appealed to everyone’s pleas that I perform for them, and so I gave them what they wanted. My real identity was pushed back into the furthest, darkest backstage closet. Hiding from or pretending who you are not only affects your emotions about yourself, but it makes you suspicious that everyone around you is a pretender or an actor. I saw everyone as characters in the perfect play that my life had become. There was Miranda, the girlfriend who exemplified the vanity in us all. She was always in front of the mirror examining herself for imperfections that she would cover over with make-up. She was the perfect one to make sure my “stage face” was in order. Clarissa was the little Annie girl in our group. Somehow the most depressing situations revealed a faint inkling of sunshine when she was around. Then there was Amanda, the one who made our crowd tick. And that reminds me…there will there be a crowd tonight for the new try-outs of our high school play High School Musical.
“Shianna, are you ready to rock and roll tonight?” Clarissa danced up to me her violet eyes practically blinding me with their brightness.
“I suppose,” I muttered not looking Clarissa in the eye. I would never ruin Clarissa’s excitement to try-out as a cheerleader with my own misgivings.
To me, this was just one try-out among a whole slew of others just like it that would help make my “career” as an actor. I really couldn’t stand nights like these--the tight, stifling crowds that squeezed in around you, the whining and complaining of those who didn’t make the cut, and the shouts and cheers of those who did.
Who knew? In a different life, I could have been one of those kids. But I suppose that was part of the problem, the always of it. At least Clarissa had the satisfaction of actually facing the challenge.
“We’re watching you girl,” Amanda practically pushed me forward and up the stage steps. Miranda puckered her lips and blew me a girly kiss before the crowd closed around Clarissa and me.
I looked around at the crowd carefully, examining their faces for new contenders, searching. And that’s when his eyes and mine locked. Blue on green like a murky pond mixing together. Together. That word doesn’t mean anything I thought. I am alone. I play things. Nobody plays me. And I looked away. But that was far from the end.
As I went up to the stage to sing the duet of Troy and Gabriella, I saw he was already there…waiting…his eyes already taking on that faraway look of another place, another time, the world of song. His brown hair hung in his eyes and even his ragged jeans were right. He was the image of perfection.
I shook my head trying to get my mind to think straight. I wanted him gone. Alone. I need to be. I have to be. This is a job, not a parade.
But there he was--in my way, being Troy. I had a feeling he wasn’t going to go away anytime soon. As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew I was dead. His voice encompassed the deep, emotional roar of the ocean. It comprised the rocking of a mother comforting her baby, but most of all it was the tornado about to crash down, that swoops away just before the collision. And I have to say, my voice rose to meet his. Eagerly, with a hungry desire to enter that peak, that world of music when two voices become one, merged, and it is all the same because you know--in that moment--time has stopped, and you only have that one moment of knowing you are in the place you long to be, have been waiting to be, and that when that moment passes, life will shrink, and the magic will never be quite the same as that night that made your life, yet took it away.
Applause that’s what we got. Not the steady kind, but the crazy kind of clapping. It ricocheted off the walls, bounced off the auditorium seats, and flew to the rafters where the last echo of our joint singing still lingered. You would have thought we were at a pep rally the way people stomped their feet and held their hands in the air—yes! Victory! But is it really truly victory when all that goes on between you and the person with whom you have just made a special connection is a sweaty handshake and a murmured “Good job and good luck?”
I know magic is magic. Despite what people say, magic is that moment when everything changes, and you can recognize the change because it is not just you who is affected, but everyone else too. The guy—the boy with the light-flecked eyes and star-infused voice-- just walked away, all coolly, as if it—the moment--weren’t a big deal. I, on the other hand, had tears in my eyes. Real tears. Humiliated tears, happy tears, and tears of loss. I’m an actor; and, as an actor, I’m used to mastering my emotions. It’s really bad when one guy comes along and is able to provoke a reaction from me without breaking down himself. Without even trying. Or probably even caring from the looks of it. And so that’s why I had to sneak out the side door (even more pathetic) to escape the notice of Clarissa, Amanda, and Miranda. Hiding--that’s what some would call it. But the truth is, I think even if I hadn’t broken down, I would be making a quick exit out of embarrassment. I came here to act, and all I was doing was feeling, feeling to the point of total disaster, to the point where for once, I couldn’t act. All I could do was walk in defeat home, to escape--at least for now.

What is the good thing about a new day? Easy. You can forget the day before, even to the point where you imagine the preceding day was just a dream, and you can tell yourself you will make no more mistakes. And there I was, back on schedule, in the halls of Freefalls High School, listening between classes as Miranda chattered on about some new boyfriend, Amanda threw her usual hotty stares down at the freshman and Clarissa exuberantly reported on the results of try-outs. “TRYOUTS!” Everyone stared at me, and I realized I have shouted it out loud for all to hear.
Clarissa tilted her head at me inquiringly. “Shianna, I thought you would be pleased to hear. Especially seeing as now you’ll be on duty day in and day out with that hot boy.” I rolled my eyes at her, but inside I felt my stomach clench in anticipation against my will. It seemed that I was losing control of my entire body.
Practice was a blast…a blast of cold air thrown in my face. Today was my mistake. I melted ascending the stage steps when I saw him at the top. Literally. My feet just slid out from under me, and I collapsed. I sat there not wanting to look up at the anxious faces around me.
“Way to take action, Robert, seeing as this is drama,” said Mr. Simms the drama teacher. He, that is Robert, came forward and looked down at me and sang. He sang me up off my feet, and up the steps, right to a halt next to me. I turned cherry red and turned around. But the song had already coordinated its beat in to my hearts and wouldn’t go away until my ears were pounding with the pressure to release. Release not just the song, but my story, my soul. To let go of something I was furiously holding on to and wouldn’t let go but needed to be heard. And so I turned around, and I did the only thing I could do. I sang back. And the ocean wave crashed over us onto the stage that was finally coming alive.
Alive-- what a funny word. We are all alive, but isn’t it possible to live and be dead? Well, that’s how I would describe myself until the past few days that have changed everything. When I sang back, it wasn’t just a sign of opening up. It was also a call for change.
One day after a couple weeks of practice Robert approached me. “What are you afraid of?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, shocked by his boldness.
“I mean that first night, it’s like if you sang, then it was a bad thing. And every day, you look like you’re trying to make yourself not to. You have an amazing voice, and I would hate for whatever barrier you have built to affect your full capability.”
“Well if it’s so amazing, why did you walk away that night like it was no big deal?” I challenged, suddenly feeling bold back.
“I walked away because it was the only thing I could do,” Robert replied. “I knew if that night was truly magical, then it would last. As it has. So I know I’m in the right place.”
“Do you really want to know the answer to your question?”
“I do.”
“Okay the big secret is I had a stomachache, and every time I tried to sing, I had to push down bile.”
“If we’re really going to sing as one, we have to know what’s holding the other back. It’s clear this is all kind of some sick joke to you that I don’t get in the least.”
And that was that. I had blown it. He had tried to talk sincerely with me and I had made a joke, however unfunny, but he asked for it. Who does he think he is going around asking people their business that he has no right to pry into? But even while I thought that, I felt a burst of energy. He wanted to know me. To understand me. And in some ways, I could accept that he was right. To really sing together we had to know the other’s voice.
The next day in class we read some of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poems—you know all about love--but they only made me think of my one failed attempt to talk to Robert. I had blown my chance at talking to someone I had never really gotten to know. Weren’t all stories of love supposed to have happy endings? Of course, in reality, sadly, most relationships don’t work out. I pinched myself. Since when had I gotten so concerned over a boy? I needed to get a grip.
After class, I walked down the hall. It was the end of the day and I was supposed to have play practice, but how was I supposed to improve when the guy with whom I was practicing wouldn’t even look at me? I had to say that I think a break wouldn’t hurt. It might do us both good, giving him and me time to calm down. Though the magic might be gone, we both had to be in sorts for the play which would be in three weeks. The clock was ticking. At least now that he was acting cold toward me, I’d finally go back to having control over myself including, hopefully, my emotions.
I trudged down the school steps looking down at my feet. At least, I was back in my role of acting in one of many different personalities. But I knew that wasn’t really the right word to choose. I wasn’t acting. I was really sad and depressed and couldn’t wait up to tolerate the chatter of Amanda and Miranda. I was skipping play practice for the second day in a row, and really I was dodging everyone. I couldn’t deal with the noise of my friends or the disappointed eyes of my fellow actors. I needed time to get my confidence back and rebuild the hard shell around myself that I had let so easily collapse.
Suddenly, I heard a noise. Was that a shriek or a scream? I kept walking forward. This time, I held my head up, wary. The shriek came again, from the right, toward the direction of the bushes. I ran over to investigate. That’s when I tripped on a twig. My feet flew out from under me, and I fell to the ground. I spewed out leaves and dirt from my mouth and brushed my jeans that were now torn and muddy. I looked over toward the direction of the scream, only to see the faces of my fellow actors standing behind the bushes. They were smiling, and at the head of them was Robert. I scowled and, with as much dignity as I could muster, stood up. I tried to walk away but they formed a barrier with their hands. “Let me through,” I muttered.
“But we need you,” said Alice. “The play is in disarray with one of the lead roles missing. We have just over 2 1/2 weeks left.”

“I planned on showing up eventually,” I said. “I’ve been really busy with class work seeing as finals are coming on.”
“Oh come on. We all know that you have plenty of plays on your record, all with perfect practice attendance,” said Robert.
I looked at him baffled that he would know that about me already. It was almost creepy. Had he researched my schedule or something?
“Well that’s the truth,” I said. “I can’t help how much school coincides with play practice this time around, though.”
“I know she has to work on at least three projects tonight.” Clarissa walked out of the mass of people to stand at my side. I looked at her. Had she been planning to ambush me too or had she just followed the crowd? She linked arms with me and pulled me away. The other kids shot hostile looks at me, and Robert just shook his head sadly as if I had majorly let him down. When we’d walked farther down the block, Clarissa dropped my hand and scrutinized my face.
“I can’t always be the one pulling you out of your own mess of a life,” she said. “You need to figure out the balance between building a hard rock around yourself that shuts everyone else out, and going into deep lapses of pity over some boy. This isn’t just about you. This is about the good of the entire production.”
I looked at her shocked by her harshness. She agreed with them. She was going to help them kidnap me to practice. When I didn’t say anything, she gave me a half smile and said, “You better have meant it when you said you’d be there tomorrow.”
“I don’t think I can promise you anything,” I said. “At least not until I figure myself out first.”
“By hiding.” She shook her head at me and walked away. Great. Now I’d lost myself another friend.
Later at home, I lay in bed with a cover drawn over my head. Yes, Clarissa was right. I was in my hole hiding when I just needed to get out there and sing.
Apparently, the phone read my thoughts because it rang. The message machine picked up Amanda’s voice, “Hey, girl, just wondering if you want to come and have some fun. My boyfriend Marco is having a party and maybe there will be free drinks and winks.” I laughed despite myself. Amanda’s rhyming jokes were getting out of hand.
I picked up the phone. “You’re on.”
I dressed up in a flowing black strapless top and jean shorts. I needed a distraction, and the wildness and fun of this night were it. I got in Amanda’s bright red convertible and we zoomed to Hollywood or as close as it gets. Marco’s place was a huge mansion set on a hill. His place boomed with rock and roll music and the vibrant energy of reckless dancing and the clinking tap of glasses. The air was heavy with the lingering smoke of fireworks. This was a night that could afford the change I needed to move on. I swayed with the music, the light thrum of the guitar music eventually lulling me to drowsiness.
I stretched out on a lumpy couch with an afghan blanket and closed my eyes and heard the voice. Why it almost sounded poetic the way the voice was always there for me in my waking dreams. I thought I was imagining it, but when I opened my eyes, there he was the light shining right on him. He was in the middle of the crowd singing his heart out, Clarissa’s hand in his. I looked and then looked away. My eyes blurry with tears, I ran from the room, but then hesitated and stomped right back in. My voice rose echoing off the walls, high and full of life energy, the voice of a girl singing for her very survival. He, Robert, looked at me and smiled a sincere, satisfied smile, and his voice met mine. When the song was over, I slunk away confused. His look suggested that he had won something, but his body looked tight and tense with something like disappointment. At school the next day, I avoided Clarissa as much as I could; but, of course, I couldn’t dodge her forever. At the end of the day, she was there, standing by my lockers. When she saw me, she smiled, but I averted my eyes.
“How could you?” I said in a cracked voice that I didn’t recognize.
“Oh stop that. I didn’t steal your boy.” She held up her hands as to say her hands were off.
“But I saw you, and you were holding hands with him,” I stammered.
“That was all an act to get you to sing,” she said.
“But what did that prove?”
“Oh let’s see…” She held up her fingers and counted off. “How good you are when you sing from your heart. How much we need you for this performance to succeed. That Robert boy likes you back.”
I looked at her and saw that she was just a girl in need of her friend back, the good friend that she had always been and that I hadn’t. “Let the show go on.”
We practiced for two straight weeks. Time was of the essence as Mr.Simms said and it was important that we knew our lines word for word. On the final day of practice, Robert came over to me and took my hand. I looked at him. Neither one of us were the nervous kids who had exchanged that first sweaty handshake anymore. We were confident, stars who had finally matched each other’s voices. He gave me a pat on the back, and I looked into his eyes and rediscovered the magic I had known to exist on that night. Boy, were we going to rock and roll.
The night was a shower of bright stars that blinded me as I floated onto the stage without tripping once. I looked up the steps to see Robert in a brilliant tux. My red, his black--we are mixed, indeed, with the brightness of an early dawn, a new beginning. The curtains rose and the audiences’ faces were melded as a blur of colors, the colors of music. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I stammered, coughed and tried again, but only a guttural noise escaped my lips. Stage fright--it can’t be. Not on this night. A night of hope, indeed. I’d been premature in my optimism. I hadn’t suffered from stage fright since I was six. Robert sighed and nudged me to the back. The star and the co-star missing--what would the audience think? “We’re doomed,” I whispered from behind the curtain. “I can’t sing for anything.”
“Cry,” Robert said.
“What?” I said.
“It’s the only way. Singing is all about feeling the truth in yourself, the happiest and saddest, the tenderest moments of your life. You can’t sing because you’re empty inside. You need to bring those memories back. No, not just memories, you need to bring yourself back.”
“That’s crazy. I can’t cry in front of everybody, especially my friends.”
“Well then the show may as well be cancelled,” said Robert. “Without you to set the rhythm everything will be off.”
“No, you have the amazing voice,” I said. “I think you can do well without me.”
“I’m not just speaking about the others. I’m speaking of myself,” said Robert. “Now will you do it or not?”
I bit my lip. I thought about the world that I have always known, the hollowness of it, an empty stage without a performance, without an audience, a world without love, a world of obligation only. My eyes welled and I stepped out onto the stage to join the sounds and colors of the world to which I know my heart belongs, the world of song, the world of Robert.

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This book has 1 comment.

fall732 said...
on Jul. 18 2013 at 8:07 am
fall732, London, Other
0 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To go to school in a summer morn,
O! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay."

Wonderful! beautiful story, I love acting myself. keep the storys coming.  

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