What on earth was I, Tzippy Hartstein, doing at the top of the cast list? Who was I? A faker?
Since my solo in the school’s Melaveh Malkah choir, my confidence shot up to another level. I was so relieved that it had gone well and so grateful to my parents for pushing me to do it.
Knowing that there was a part of school where my true colors could shine was like carrying around a secret treasure in my heart. It was something nobody could take away from me.
The next year, in tenth grade, another huge opportunity presented itself: tryouts for the school play. The papers were hanging everywhere in school. This time I didn’t even have a way out. Auditions were compulsory. Scared, yet somewhat intrigued, I gave the audition everything I had, again blocking out the people in the room with me. It always worked best when I imagined I was in my bedroom, because truth be told, my bedroom was the place of the dramatic arts for me.
I didn’t think I’d get a part in drama. I mean, come on, I was super shy in school, and these parts generally went to the louder, more popular girls.
Therefore, when I unintentionally overheard the phone conversation between my mother and my principal, I naturally freaked out. Apparently, my principal wanted me to have the lead role in the play. Yup, it was a shock.
But at the same time, I couldn’t help feeling… pride… and perhaps a little triumphant. Just look how far I’d come — from the “mute” girl to the main role.
Nothing could describe how proud and delighted my parents were. With all my fears and doubts that I could pull off the part in the play, they persuaded me to accept it and face the challenge.
When the official notice went up on the bulletin board the following week, it hit me squarely in the face. What on earth was I, Tzippy Hartstein, doing at the top of the cast list? Who was I? A faker?
I walked into the first rehearsal timidly, feeling out of place. Like I was there by mistake. The play head greeted me enthusiastically. “You’re Tzippy? I’m so excited to begin. This play is going to be a hit!”
She wasn’t wrong. To my surprise, play practice turned out to be okay. I even began looking forward to it. The girls I was working with were really sweet, and the play head was great.
The night of the performance was the deal-breaker. I was super anxious. My parents were nonstop supportive, and my friends’ encouragement was essential to my confidence.
The play was a resounding success. Interestingly enough, I felt kind of at home on stage. The audience was a dark blur as the stage lights flashed on my face. It was just me and my fellow actresses having a good time.
Since my principal from elementary school had a daughter in the same high school, she had the benefit of watching me perform; she was pleasantly surprised at seeing how I had grown into something she never dreamed I would.
“You were excellent up there!” she congratulated me warmly after the show concluded.
I blushed deeply. The more acknowledgment I received, the more my confidence bloomed. My selective mutism was a thing of the past. I had conquered my ultimate fears. I was a new person.
Although I am and was always on the quieter side, it didn’t stem from insecurity. I’ve learned that whether or not I can talk; whether people like it or don’t; whether I am understood or judged harshly, what really matters is how I feel inside and that I acknowledge how far I have come.
As I sang my solo while graduating from high school, awareness dawned on me, seeing how much I had grown and flourished. I was so grateful to my parents for never giving up on me. I was immensely thankful to Hashem that He had granted me the gift of voice and the confidence to use it.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 975)
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