The music hall was in complete silence. It had been that way for the past 10 minutes. I sat at the piano bench squeezing my sweaty fingers together, then resting them on the piano keys...and then wiping them off on my pants. I had repeated this process over and over while the audience sat there--watching. Some had even begun to giggle and whisper to each other. They all assumed I just froze.
They were right, I had. But that day in the fifth grade, my life forever changed. I was the last performer in my school's talent show and it was my luck that a girl I liked had just delivered a killer instrumental performance. My music teacher at the time had prepared me to perform a piece that, in all honesty, was going to make me look like a kindergartner. I couldn't have that...because there was a girl I had to impress.
I had been writing music for the piano since I was seven, but no one except my family had heard me perform. I remember the fear that gripped me when I made the decision to disregard my teacher's advice and perform my own original piece. The fear was real...what if nobody liked it? Would they laugh at me? What if I made a mistake?
Those questions repeated themselves like a skipping CD track in my mind. I almost succumbed and wanted to run away; my nervousness and fear was in such a debilitating state. Then, I looked out at the audience, saw the girl who I knew I had to impress and, without looking at the keys, began to play my original.
To this day, I can't recall what I played...it was some wild thing developed by years of improvisation. What I do remember was the feeling of exhileration from the relieved applause and the sight of the astonished faces of my mother, my teachers, and that girl.
I never think of that day without a smile. I have since performed or given speeches in houses and halls across the country and even internationally...all due to how I had to impress a girl.
Fear is crippling, but overcoming that fear feels like the first breath of freedom a refugee must feel. Believe in yourself, trust your instincts, and most of all...be yourself. Fear has its place, definitely, but don't fear the things that can't really hurt you....fear the things that can hurt you...fear being unsuccessful--fear the feeling of having to look in the mirror when you are eighty and seeing all the successes you could have had if you hadn't succumbed to being afraid to take your first step.
Take that step. Discipline yourself enough to realize your dream. Make that speech, play that song and don't give a damn about how it makes other people think of you. More than likely, they will only wish that they had the same courage as you.