Enjoying your achievements

Tom was confident at the audition for the school play and felt pleased to get a role. It wasn't a major role; those had gone to the senior drama students and, after all, this was only his first year at high school. It just felt good to be in the play, even if he had only four or five lines.

He worked hard at perfecting those lines. He repeated them over and over again. He put in the emphases and intonations that his drama teacher had suggested and, because he was on stage much longer than for just his four or five lines, he had many actions to rehearse and perform.

"Do them in front of a mirror," his drama teacher had advised him. "Watch how you look; practice and rehearse as often as you can." Tom did just that. Drama was not just an interest. He wanted to be a movie star, to make it his job.

He worked and worked at it. It was fun and exciting rehearsing. He enjoyed the time with the older students. Then finally the big night came.

Suddenly, things felt different. The theater was full of people. As he dressed, he could hear the chattering and noises of the audience in the auditorium—something that hadn't been there during rehearsal. He looked around at the other, more experienced actors and saw that the confidence they'd shown at rehearsal seemed to have vanished. Everyone was on edge, anxious, and worried. Had they got their makeup right? Was the costume done up correctly? What if they forgot their lines? Would they remember their cues?

The more people talked about their anxiety, the more edgy everyone became. The worries bounced from one person to another—like a baton being passed in a relay race—until the whole of the backstage area seemed to be buzzing with tension and worry.

Tom was onstage early, at first performing his nonspoken role in the background with several other guys around the same age. They slipped into their roles and did what they had done at rehearsal over and over again. When, suddenly, Tom heard his cue, the lights were bright in his eyes; he couldn't see the audience but knew there were hundreds of people out there all watching him. The words that had flowed so easily standing in front of a mirror in his bedroom didn't want to come, and when they did he found himself hurrying into them. He tried to slow down his thoughts and his words but, thinking about doing that, he suddenly realized he had missed a sentence. What should he do? Go back and start from the beginning? Try and add the sentence in where he was, or just go on as though nothing had happened?

He chose to carry on, but when he finished and left the stage his hands felt sweaty and his heart was racing. He didn't think about what he had achieved—performing his first solo part in a major production. Instead he was beating himself up for the sentence that he'd missed.

The audience, of course, didn't know he had missed a sentence. They made no gasps of horror, sounds of rebuke, or peals of laughter at his mistake. His fellow actors had just carried on as though nothing had happened and, after the play had finished, they were so busy talking about their own performances that no one commented on Tom's missed sentence—apart from his drama teacher.

"Well done," she said. "Acting is a like learning to ride a bike. You may not get it perfect the first time. You may fall off a few times, yet each time you get back on you do it better. Your performance may not have been perfect but, for your first time, it was great."

Tom felt reassured. It seemed like his teacher was saying it is okay to learn. You don't have to be perfect, especially when you start something new.

Tom caught the look ofhis face in a mirror—the face that he'd seen many times as he'd rehearsed those lines, over and over again. It was smiling back at him with a sense of satisfaction, for there was much with which to be satisfied. First, he'd been selected for the production. Second, he'd worked and worked to prepare himself. Third, he'd performed in front ofthe biggest audience he'd ever faced in his young life. Finally, he'd learned that it was okay to be good without having to be perfect.

He looked at his face smiling back at him and raised two hands with his thumbs up.

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