It’s a sickening, revolting feeling. Some call it butterflies, others waves of nausea; I just call it indescribable pain. It consumes your whole body, soul, and mind and paralyzes you for minutes at a time. This is the truest, most sincere form of fear.
It’s an honor, yet I’d rather die; it’s an opportunity, but an experience of phenomenal pressure beyond my comprehension. What if I mess up? What if I ruin this masterpiece? What if I don’t do this incredibly significant song justice?
When 16, and a sophomore in high school, I was asked to accompany all the choir students on The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Now, this sounds like peaches and cream, but this is the finale number of our last concert every year, and only one pianist against almost 200 students. Plus, this was the hardest arrangement of any song I had ever played. I was constantly questioning myself: Why me? Does my conductor really think I can do this? Can I do this?
With the grand piano’s lid all the way up, towering down on me, and about to swoon with utter and complete fear I sat myself down on the piano bench and tried to remember where middle C was and to breathe, just breathe. I can remember saying to myself, “Remember who it’s about. Honor Him.” The conductor’s hands rose up. I thought of dear and close friends, and my elated parents; so many people rooting for me. My knees shook harder, and then the chords began. I felt entranced, hypnotized. Somehow, someway I was playing notes in perfect harmony. I tried to breathe again. I could feel my hours of practicing, worrying, and praying coming out and though my past rehearsals’ pitfalls were blatant in my memory, I pressed on, determined to it least keep playing if nothing else.
Then the hardest spots of all arose and Mount Everest was looming up above, ramming doubt down my throat. Huge chords + shaking knees+ pedal + rushing tempo= hallucination! How did my fingers know what to play? Suddenly I was climbing it, rising slowly to the summit. Measures of 16th-note-chords suddenly were cascading down the keyboard. I locked my eyes with the conductor, promising myself to stay with her and keep with the tempo. The 16th notes turned into nightmarish giant chords: the finishing touch to the magnificent masterpiece. The last chord: I shook my hands for the tremolo as hard and as fast and as long as and as whole heartedly as I possibly could. Then off. Silence. My hands numb and frozen in the suffocating air. Silence. Then… an eruption of sound.
That experience of something as simple as accompanying fellow students on a pretty song has changed my life. The faith, courage, determination, and strength it taught me is too memorable and too much a part of me to ever forget. Forevermore, I will believe in inner strength, in His ultimate and unseen hand, and in conquering your fears. For as Eleanor Roosevelt declared, “You must do the very thing you think you cannot do.” Though my life experiences have been short and I am only a teenager, I also declare, firmly and unequivocally that I believe in courage.
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