When I remember this past semester, I think of it as The Semester of Humility. And yet I have never considered myself overconfident. In fact, I think of myself as cautious in that regard– careful to avoid believing in what is not yet a fact. This is how it happened:
In seventh grade, I was something of a small acting prodigy in my school. Main roles in the seventh and eighth grade Fall play never went to seventh graders, so it was with delight that I received the lead. I fit the part beautifully as actors rarely do, and was shocked after the show to find myself accepting tearful congratulations from one of my classmate’s mothers. So I entered high school with the dream of pursuing whatever it was I had found on that stage. Busyness and the general excitement of exploring and acclimating myself to high school delayed my quest, but finally my sophomore year I decided I would do the Fall play. I auditioned, and waited along with all the others, speculating on which role I would get.
I got no role. Looking at the cast list on the wall of the arts center, I felt confused. And then, with all the other “real” actors standing around me, craning their necks towards the sheet taped on the wall, I suddenly felt ashamed, deceived, and utterly inadequate. I quickly backed out of the crowd and left the arts center. That’s when I got angry. At myself. How could I have let myself fall so fast and so hard, like a bungee jumper who forgets to tie the cord to himself and never knows until he hits the ground?
After that first day, I felt many things: bitterness, selfishness, disappointment. But mostly, I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I had considered myself part of the theatre world when I couldn’t even get into a play, ashamed that I thought I had grasped something of who I was, but now it had seemingly slipped away. Even some freshmen in my acting class got into the show, and they asked me questions like, “When are we getting our scripts?” because they assumed I was part of it, too.
But I’ve learned many things from my humility. As my acting teacher once said, “Humility is a useful tool.” As I struggled to continue to believe in myself, I realized that what I needed was not to go back to believing what I thought about myself before this experience, but to move forward and believe in what I am now. Now I know I am not invincible; now I know that to be good I have to try. I may be better than some, but I am worse than others, and I must be content with that.
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