Monday, May 17, 2010

Performance Anxiety and Overcoming Fear of Failure

I thought long and hard about all this today, this competition business.....

The Wellspring Bardic Chair. I know you are probably tired of hearing about it and my insecurities related to it. However, as I spent some time really looking at my life and what sorts of things have gotten me to where I am, I realized that some things from my past are still hurting.

Musical performance: In 7th grade (I know, I told you it was too much information), our jazz band was asked to play at the high school music concert because we were really good. I had a lengthy solo that was well above skill level for a seventh grader, and many people came to hear me play it "on the big stage." When it came time to play my solo, I stood up and went to the microphone with my saxophone, but I didn't count my rests. I relied on the drummer's music cues to tell me when I was supposed to play. Problem was, the drummer made a huge mistake. I played one note, then the rest of the band came in, and I realized I was in the wrong place. Not having any music in front of me (because we were taught music was a crutch), I just couldn't find my place. After my allotted amount of time, the trumpet player began her solo, and I sat back down in my place. Afterward, all everyone could talk about was my mess-up instead of the greatness that was our jazz band. My shortcomings had succeeded in overshadowing the accomplishments of everyone else.

Spoken Word: In high school, I was part of an elite group of third-year Spanish students who were asked to compete in a multicultural event at Bethany College in West Virginia. I was charged with the most complex competitions: the Monologue. I memorized an entire creative writing piece in Spanish, and we even went to the auditorium during class a few times to get us used to performing on the stage. I did very well in rehearsal, and everyone was so sure I would win they filled my head with all sorts of wonderful ego-boosting comments. In the end, I came in 6th. I stuttered a bit a few times, but I did manage to get it all out with some semblance of dramatic fashion. Looking back, that's not bad, but some people were really disappointed and let me know about it.

This has been the root of all of my "paper" issues. This is why I am the "clipboard Queen." I need the script because some of the things I have been asked to do are too important for me to mess up, especially in ritual, and I fear that guilt that follows when I know someone was counting on me and I failed.

Here we are, more than ten years later, I find myself suddenly in the throes of competition once more, and I think I am going to vomit. Even though I know that my Grovemates and many other friends I have made in ADF would never, ever be so harsh as to judge me for not being the best, it is still a fear of mine that I will let people down. So I hide behind my guitar, because the music does the same thing for me that the paper does in ritual--it shows me where I am, where I am to go, and tells me when I am done. It's crutch, I know, but it's like dieting. You can't just stop eating.

So, why am I competing? I would like to say it's for my Grove. I would like to say it's for the Kindred, though I fully admit and yell it aloud that I couldn't do any of this without them. No. The competition is for me. I admit that the thought of competing against ANYONE from Sassafras is daunting to say the least, but all I can really do is be the best me that I can be, no matter with whom I am competing, and learn to be content with that. This is a lesson I aspire to learn.

These are merely the highlights of my introspections today, but the bottom line is that I fear more than anything that I will let people down, again, and I'm pretty sure that is just me projecting my desire to keep from letting myself down onto others. So I will go and compete with a smile on my face and a fire in my heart. I will be offering up the best of my best with the names of the Kindred on my lips. Like last year, I am competing without paper, but unlike last year, I am polishing the dramatic presentation as best as I can. I want to believe I have what it takes to be more than just a musician, though I would be content to sing my praises to the Kindred and serve as the Bard of my Grove forever. But I'll never know if I don't try.

Missy's stepping out from behind her guitar. And it scares the hell out of her.

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