Wednesday, June 30, 2010

No Autographs, Please

I was “discovered” in second grade. During the annual 2nd Grade Fables, a woman from a local basic cable station saw me in my groundbreaking performance as The Sun in the The Tortoise and the Hare (thinking back, I have no idea what part the Sun played, but apparently, it was a great part). So, this woman found out my name and contacted my parents about having me appear in a bumper for a show called KidsWorld on The Family Channel. National TV? Sign me up! I had, what she called, charisma.

So, there I was, a scrawny girl with a bowl cut, who didn’t know when to shut up. The world was my stage. I thought for sure this role was the beginning of a long, brilliant career in film. I was too naïve to be nervous. I was too young to understand embarrassment. More than that, though, I was too confident to think I could fail.

I showed up to the TV station and sat in the control room, and got to play around with the buttons and levers. I had a cue card. I read my lines like a seasoned professional. Everything was comin’ up roses. It was wonderful. I was in Rhode Island when the show aired that summer, and my mom and I watched my debut together at the neighbors house. I was elated.

Cut to 5th grade. Now, I was a scrawny girl with longer hair and glasses, who had no idea what to say in front of adults. I was nervous all the time. I started biting my nails. I wanted, no, I yearned for, the acceptance of others. I was terrified to fail. I hated what a developing self-esteem and self-awareness did to me. In 5th grade, we performed poems about insects on that same basic cable channel. I sat with my partner, staring into the endless tube of that same video camera lens. Our poem was about cicadas. We were both dressed in all green. My partner and I were supposed to alternate every couple of lines. She spoke a couple, then me, then her, then me. Well, technically, she spoke a couple, and then I froze. For probably 20 minutes. I remember the rush of self-awareness, the sharp sting of everyone’s eyes on me, and an acute awareness of every nerve in my body.

My dreams of being a famous actress were dashed with one lost line. One forgotten phrase, and I decided, right then and there, to never put myself back in that position again. And since then, I haven’t.

There are times in my life when I think about that elation I felt while watching myself on TV. I think about how easy it was for me to succeed just because I didn’t consider the possibility that I could fail. It was so…simple. I envy the girl I was on that day. Maybe it was the bowl cut, but I was empowered. Then again, maybe I’m just, like, a non-messed up former child actor who has successfully drifted into the anonymity of real life. Yeah, let’s go with that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

your green clad cicada reading reminded me of this:

when I was in 1st grade and my sister was in 6th grade we were in a play together called Once Upon A Clothesline. It was about all the inserts gathering in backyard summer sun glory. I cherish my memories as the adorable baby ant and this experience led to a long life in the theatre. However, for my older sister, it was decidedly less cool to dress and jump about as a giant green grasshopper. She did not pursue theater thereafter. Or attend. Unless I made her come see me.

Moral?? Don't make kids dress in green and recite things in front of people.
Profound, i know.