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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wendy

I'm not technically from anywhere. When I was three, my mother married a U.S. Marine and every three years we moved to a new station. The longest stretch of time I ever got to camp anywhere was when we lived on the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, California.

About 8 miles from Disneyland.

When I was younger, I loved dance. Specifically the choreographed, brightly costumed kind that required jazz shoes and music like Deniece William's, Let's Hear it for the Boy.

Ahhh, the 80's. I'll admit, I secretly wish I could still wear leg warmers.

But I digress. So, given that I loved jazz dancing and lived 8 miles from Disneyland, it is no surprise that when I learned Disney was holding auditions for their summer parade and there was one, ONE, part for girls under the age of 16--well my twelve year old heart got to beating for the first thing I can remember truly wanting in this world.

WANTED

I WANTED to be Wendy, you know, from Peter Pan, in the Disneyland summer parade.

It hardly mattered to me that when my mother and I arrived to the open auditions, at 7:00 am with my dance bag slung hopefully over my shoulder, we stood amongst thousands of other tweens and teens vying for spots.

And there was only one spot for the girls in my age group. But I believed it could be me.

My mother and I were there all day. They taught us all a one minute dance and started running us through in groups of about twenty. As the sun beat down on us still outside the main audition building (we couldn't all possibly fit) they whittled us down further and further. The sun moved across the sky and they found their Mogli, Cinderella, 7 dwarfs but the sun had set and they still hadn't picked Wendy. By 9:00 pm, I was one of twenty girls left still hoping to be Wendy. By 9:15, I was on of 5. And at 9:30, there was me and one other girl, trying on wigs, getting measured for the costume, being scrutinized by The Deciders. The room around us was still filled with those waiting to see who got picked in the end.

The Deciders whispered amongst themselves. They looked at me, they looked at her. I practically burned from wanting it so much! I couldn't even imagine how miserable my summer was going to be if I didn't end up dancing for child wages at The Happiest Place On Earth in the blistering heat, 18 pounds of makeup melting off my face.

We both did the one minute dance again. Still, no decision.

And then, one of The Deciders had a brilliant idea. There will be a new dance. She unfurled her legs from beneath her and floated across the room to stand in front of us, "Do this, and this, and pirouette, pirouette, grand jete and finish."

And for the first time all day, I didn't believe I was going to be Wendy. I didn't believe because the other girl, with seemingly no effort, executed the new dance like she was born on toe shoes.

It was my turn and, even before I started, I didn't think I could do it. And even if I could get through the moves, there is no way I could compete with the Swan Lake the other girl just pulled off. I have never in my life taken a minutes worth of ballet lessons. But the music started and I spun and leaped across that floor while a hundred pairs of eyes watched. I felt more like a Lost Boy than the graceful Wendy. I jete and finished.

The Deciders whispered, but I already knew.

They actually brought the parade wig over and "crowned" the other girl Wendy.

I must admit, I was not very professional about my defeat. I crumbled into a river of tears and actually ran out of the room.

I could not bear it. I couldn't because I didn't know how to. At twelve, I didn't yet know how to fail.

I spent all summer feeling sorry for myself. I cried every time a commercial for The Happiest Place on Earth interrupted my new strange obsession with Twilight Zone reruns.

After that, I didn't want to dance anymore and I stopped taking lessons. Failure won the day.

That experience, obviously, has stuck with me. I can laugh now, especially when we take the kids to any of the Magic Kingdoms and I threaten to pull a Tonya Harding on their newest Wendy. But it sticks with me more now not because I'm still sad and crying over it, one would hope not after 24 years (OMG...it's been 24 years!) but because it was my first real lesson in not getting something I really, really, really wanted. And--now this is the important part--I never tried again.

If it's something you really want, you always have to keep trying. And if it's something you're not willing to keep at even after failure, it could be that it's something you don't actually want as much as you think you do.

It only took me 24 years to figure that out.  


6 comments:

  1. What a great story! I think it's awesome that you were one of the final two. That in itself is amazing and the fact that they had such a hard time deciding--just amazing because I can totally imagine how many girls tried out for that part.

    I completely agree that if you want something bad enough, you will keep at it!

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  2. Thanks Kimberly! Yes, I realize, now, that it was pretty awesome. Back then though, coming in second hurt so much more than if I had just been cut in the first round. Now, if this sort of thing happened today, I would realize that whatever I was aiming for, well, second is very, very close to the mark. I'd know I was on the right track and needing to get back up quick and get in the game.

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  3. Lovely post, Becky! You made me want to cry for you, especially the part where you never tried again. Though I can understand the feeling of the 12 year old who decides not to subject herself to that anguish again. I'm glad you finally had your epiphany.

    As a Navy brat I can relate to your constant moving around--I started school in South Korea. One of my teachers reflected that military kids tended to be either very shy (why make friends when you're only going to have to say good bye) or very friendly (let's cut to the chase and be friends because our time is limited).

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  4. Hello fellow military brat. Yes, I know that for me, growing up in the military definitely shaped my personality. I think I'm a bit of both those kids you described Donna. I don't make (real) friends quickly--it can take years. But I can extrovert as much as necessary for short bursts of time (like a party, or a book signing for instance :) ) People often find it hard to believe that I am truly an introvert at heart because I can be so "life of the party" when I'm on (so to speak.) But, in general, I could probably live in my house and backyard most of the time.

    For example, I never feel lonely writing. I could do it all day if I had the opportunity.

    I also don't really like doing a ton of things with people outside my family, obviously this comes from moving, with my family, so much.

    I am lucky that my husband had a similar background growing up (although not military) and we completely get each other this way. We are each others best friend and we hold our children very close.

    Anyway, this is a crazy long comment. I just get excited when I meet other military brats.

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  5. Haha. And I surrendered my Navy ID card for an Army active duty one. I felt like such a traitor. lol

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