Fail Forward

Tell about an experience that has shaped you as a person.

“That song is so overdone.”“She is so fierce.” “I totally booked that audition.”Thespians have earned a reputation for being catty. Sure, we all strut like divas and belt the “Wicked” soundtrack, although privately wishing we could sing five notes higher. But as Drama Queens, we stay very tuned in to our emotions. This past summer, I attended a three-week intensive titled “The Performing Arts Project.” Upon my arrival, I was greeted by high-pitched squealing, lots of hugging and catcalls of: “You BETTA werk.” (That’s a compliment.) Even with the exaggerated gasps and affectionate sighs floating through the air, distinct cliques formed almost immediately. It was as if the strength of our individual hair tosses was enough to establish our place on the food chain. The competition had begun.Tights sparkled with sweat, honey slid down throats and tempos were given as day one progressed. That night, the ninety-five “Gleeks” were armed with pieces of chalk and led to a brick wall. Four words lined the top of the wall. Your Fears Erased Here. And so they would be.We filled brick after brick with the chicken scratch of fears upon fears. I hesitantly added my own. As each student took a step back from the collective masterpiece, the moment was an underwater scene. I saw heaving shoulders, swollen cheeks and hearts breaking as if in slow motion. Cliques began to crumble as facades of intimidation disintegrated. Hands in hands, tears merging with tears and compassion exuding from every sweaty pore, we were family.​A boy with purple chalk dust on his cheeks confessed to being afraid of math.​A girl holding a broken stick of yellow chalk wrote that she was afraid of honesty.​I wrote, in lime green chalk, that I am terrified of another failure and of being a disappointment.​The Fear Wall is a picture of a battle. A battle we are all fighting, and fighting to keep hidden. I had been convinced that my struggles had made me weak. I was not alone in this. ​Realizing our shared anxieties, I saw the cracks in smiles, and knew that I was given the gift of seeing a person at her most vulnerable moment. This painfully colorful Fear Wall taught me a valuable lesson. It enabled me to embrace my own vulnerability. When pondered alone, my truths seem humiliating. In this dynamic group, they look stunning. I had to squint through my tears to see those in the eyes of my peers. I had etched my own fear on that wall, but the pain I was feeling was not only for myself. It was for the pain I witnessed in my peers as they watched the pain that was building in another’s eyes. In our communal anguish, we created a chain of shoulders to cry on. I put aside my own insecurities and struggled to help the girl with the perfect body, Kirstin, see that she is beautiful. I was able to show Conor, the boy who dances like a vision, that he is worth fighting for. And the boy who was afraid of falling out of a leap, Erik, urged me to “fail forward” instead of dwelling in my own disappointments.The Fear Wall still reminds me that “I am enough.” And as a thespian intimidated by somebody else’s perfect triple pirouette, those three words are indeed enough.

Leave a Comment