In fourth grade my friend Dawn and I decided to enter the school talent show. We came up with a song and dance routine from the musical “A Chorus Line.” We practiced for hours, we had cute costumes, we had our song memorized, our moves were perfectly choreographed.
The day of the audition came. I was nervous. But we went out and sang and danced our guts out. When it was over, I was thrilled. Excited even! I began to look forward to the actual talent show when we could sing and dance in front of a real audience.
But we had to wait to find out if we were going to be in the show.
The next day I was outside with my class for P.E. It was a baseball day. Ugh. I hated playing baseball. It’s hard to enjoy something you really suck at. I couldn’t field, couldn’t catch, couldn’t hit the ball, I always struck out. I don’t think I ever made it on base. I hated baseball so much that I would slink to the end of the bench hoping we wouldn’t have enough time for me to actually go up to bat.
That strategy usually worked, and I could avoid having to shame myself in front of my classmates when I struck out yet again.
But that day, luck was not with me. Things were moving too fast, and I was inching ever closer to the front end of the bench. I was so nervous to go up to bat. I hated hearing the taunts and jeers from my classmates who would tease me everytime I swung and missed.
Suddenly we were interrupted by someone giving my teacher a note. When she read it she looked over at me and Dawn and said, “Erin… Dawn… I am so sorry. I’m afraid you did not make it into the talent show.”
I was dumbfounded.
She went on to say, “It says here they only had room for 30 acts, and yours was the only act not to be selected.”
The only act? They couldn’t fit one more act into the show? Seriously?
The blood started rushing through my ears. How humiliating. I apparently wasn’t good enough for a 4th grade talent show. Wow. I had thought we were pretty good too. Inside I was crushed. But mostly I was embarrassed to the point where I wanted to die of shame.
As I sat there, letting this sink in, I heard someone say, “Erin, GO! It’s your turn to bat!”
Oh great, now I would shame myself again by striking out.
But as I was walking up to bat, in a really numbed out state of mind, I suddenly got mad.
The shame, humiliation and embarrassment gave way to anger.
Really? 31 acts tried out and you only take 30? Who would do something like that to young, hopeful 10 year olds. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. We were good. I know we were. And I wouldn’t be in your precious little talent show now if you paid me!
I grabbed the bat and got into position. I was seething with anger, adrenaline pumping through my veins. I was barely aware of the people out on the field.
When the ball pitched through the air towards me, I could see it with laser focus. I swung the bat as hard as I could and connected with the ball. The power of that impact is something I still remember to this day. That ball was my frustration, and the bat was my anger.
I hit that ball so hard, it sailed right over the center fieldman’s head. I saw all the heads out on the field turn with open mouths and watch the ball go screaming past them.
The entire team on the bench was silent.
Then suddenly I heard someone say “Run, Erin, run!”
I’d never been in this position before. I wasn’t really prepared for what to do next.
I dropped the bat like I’d seen other players do, and started running to first base. Wow! Then I heard people say “Keep going, Erin. Keep running!”
I ran to second base. Again, more people cheering me on.
“Go, Erin, go!”
I kept running and hit third base. By now someone had retrieved the ball and was throwing it down the field.
But I kept running, determined to make it all the way home. And I did. And the team on the bench went wild, cheering, clapping, hooping and hollering.
And a little voice in my head said, “That’s who you are. Not the person that didn’t make it into a talent show. You’re the person who can hit a home run if she really wants to. Every time. You’ve got it in you.”
That experience stayed with me for years.
That was the day I learned that fear holds you back and doesn’t support you. That sometimes you have to get mad to get over fear. And that deep within you, you have the capacity to hit a home run. Every time.
Sometimes you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re tested.
After that day, I was never afraid to go up to bat again. And I took that lesson with me into other aspects of my life. Step up to the plate. Show the world what you’ve got. Don’t be afraid to swing. You never know when you’re going to hit a home run!