Editor’s note: This week’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Julie, a camper at YPI from 2007 to 2010. It was her personal statement/college applications essay that year.
A sea of familiar faces looked back at me, and my mind was sent into a frenzy of chaotic emotions — fear, nervousness, and anxiety. That familiar feeling of my throat closing up and tears stinging at my eyes arrived as my hand pulled the microphone to my face. Sweat beads started to emerge on my neck, and my lungs felt too small for my body.
I couldn’t breathe. My mind was telling my body to go into a fetal position in the corner of the room and hide. My hands were vibrating so fast that I couldn’t keep the microphone still. My stomach flip-flopped and the proverbial butterflies took wing. My teacher played the introduction and I began to sing “Wait” from Sweeney Todd.
I fell into a dream-like mental state. The eyes that I had imagined as cold and judgmental now appeared warm, proud, and even loving. A sense of trust washed over me and pushed all ideas of negativity and self-doubt out of my mind which made me able to carry on with the scene. After what felt like a few seconds, the outro played, and everyone clapped. That reassuring applause boosted my confidence. I felt confident in myself and in taking any risk imaginable.
From that moment on, I would never be the same.
YPI, a summer camp, had changed my whole mindset, right then and there.
Four years later, I got on stage with my musical theater class for the last time. My same teacher looked up at me, and I sat down in the chair, dead center on the stage. Everyone from camp looked up at me, curious and wondering. I started to sing “Come to Your Senses” from tick… tick… BOOM, while trying not to think too much. I knew if I thought about my journey and transformation, I would be overcome with emotion and lose my focus. I had shed my cocoon over the last several years, and my newly colored wings were fully spread and my soul and heart were laying on the stage, fully vulnerable.
I had grown so much at camp. My teacher took a scared, shaking, shivering girl and molded her into a loud, fearless, confident performer. His words ran though my head, but I forced them out because I knew if I thought about them, I would falter.
“Your song lyrics relate to your whole journey at camp, Julie:
Can’t you recall when this all began
It was only you and me
It was only me and you
That has so much meaning. You started out in such a different place when you first took my class. You’re such a different person.”
He was so right. When I performed, I didn’t feel timid or shy. I felt like I could do anything I wanted to because I knew that other peoples’ opinion didn’t matter. I wasn’t afraid anymore.
This newfound confidence and fearlessness was a gift. Now, I am looking forward to the future, and I realize that my journey is not over. I am excited to immerse myself in more opportunities like YPI to progress further. Being at an arts camp where it’s okay to miss a note or drop a line made me realize that people will still be behind me when I am on stage and in my life.
I have gotten the confidence to step up for what I believe in by joining the Spectrum Club at my school that promotes tolerance and acceptance. I am now not as afraid to say what I think. Without this gift of love, confidence, and fearlessness, I would not be where I am today. I think that these qualities are the most valuable gifts I have ever received in my life. It has made me into the butterfly I had always wanted to become.