In June 1998, my elementary school hired a magician to perform tricks at an assembly during the last week of school.
My second grade class was just one small portion of the kids at this assembly, our little legs criss-crossed on the sticky floor of our gym, our knees touching one another’s in the hot cramped space. The room buzzed with excitement from the magic tricks, from the smell of summer and untied shoelaces, from the knowingness that the rest of our school year consisted of frivolous activities like this.
“I need a volunteer!” the magician declared towards the end of his show.
Every little hand in that lunchroom bolted up: “Pick me!! OOH OOH ME ME!!” My hand was one of the many that bobbed eagerly for his attention. I don’t know why I raised it, and I didn’t expect to be picked.
The magician walked over to my section and pointed towards me. “You! Come on up here!” It took me a few seconds to realize that he was actually pointing to me.
“Yes… you with the dress!” he repeated, “The pink dress!”
I looked down at the magenta jumper I was wearing. I was definitely the one he picked.
And I was suddenly petrified.
In those days, I thrived on the feeling of being a star. I loved attention (still do) and my most concrete dream in life was to “be famous” (still is). But something about the prospect of walking up to the front of the gym, which had now fallen silent, in front of almost everyone I knew, was so overwhelming that I wanted to vomit. I wanted to shake my head “no” and curl into a ball and rewind time. I wanted to disappear.
But timidly, methodically, I uncurled my legs and walked with the magician to the front of the room. I was clunky and robotic in my body, and much more shy than usual.
The magician took a plain piece of tissue paper and waved it around to the audience. He placed it in my hand, closed my fist, waved a wand dramatically… and when I opened my hand, that paper had become some colorful flowing butterfly thing. I still don’t know how he did it.
The whole time I was up there, I looked no one in the eye and I plastered a fake smile onto my face. I counted down the seconds until the moment when it was all over and I could scurry back to my place on the floor.
Almost two decades later, I remember this whole experience so vividly. Why did I even raise my hand if I didn’t want to go up and do the trick?
… because I didn’t realize that I didn’t want to go up. Because it sounded fun and there was so much excitement and who wouldn’t want to be part of a cool magic trick, right?
Now I look back at that girl who raised her hand for no reason, who said yes to something cool just because, who went along with the adventure even after she got cold feet, who was supremely awkward in front of everyone… and I am so proud of her.
As kids, we have this childlike sense of openness and wonder that guides our lives and compels us to participate, to dream, to try new things without knowing where they will lead.
But as we grow up, something shifts. We become more aware of how we are perceived by others, we subdue our wild and vivid light, and we realize that Life is much safer if we stay small. We keep our hands in our pockets. We let Life happen around us, and we snicker at sleepovers about the people who dared to step out of the mold.
Every conundrum that we face in our adult life would benefit from more openness, more sparkle, more lightness, more of an eight year old’s ability to see unlimited possibilities. I want my friends to believe that they can still be whatever they want to be when they grow up. When opportunities arise, I want my readers to raise their hands, shake them in the air unabashedly, saying “Ooh! Ooh! Pick me!” without even questioning what they are volunteering for.
When was the last time you really put yourself out there? Raised your hand? Tried something that terrified you?
Where have you been hiding out on the sidelines?
May we all step out, audition, be bold, and unfurl the words that have been clawing at the tips of our tongues. May we find that brave little child inside of us and ask for her opinion every once in a while.
And may we dust off our old magenta jumpers – I hear they are making a comeback.
Peace & Abracadabras,
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