Every day on social media we see soaring stories of people standing tall. But what about the moments we live small?
Lately I’ve been loitering inside my memory bank with an experience that no matter how I twist and contort to escape, it has no alternate ending.
I lived small.
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I was a junior in high school when I landed a beefy role in a play. I’d been acting for a few years and was thrilled my dynamite drama teacher and director had trusted me with the part.
We had little time to prepare and I’ll never forget reading the script for the first time. The dialogue fizzed and popped like an afterschool Pepsi.
And then it all went flat.
My character had one particularly profane line that I shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t say. I’d never said those words. I still don’t.
At our first rehearsal, I mumble-whispered the line and hoped with so many distractions on stage the director wouldn’t notice.
Over three wild weeks of rehearsals, I convinced myself I could keep faking it. Then, when the curtain finally rose with an audience, maybe I’d feel fine about saying it just once at full volume.
On the night of the open dress rehearsal, I was nervous to see an older couple from church — the Ehlers — seated in the auditorium. They were forever friends of our family and I had no idea they’d be there.
When the big moment arrived – with adrenaline, testosterone, and gummy bears racing through my system – I went for it.
I remember the moment. Where I stood. How it sounded. How I felt.
After the show, the Ehlers met me in the school lobby with cheers, a hug, and some snappy dialogue of their own.
Certainly after all these years this cannot be considered verbatim. Still, sadly, I know it’s close. Regrets have a way of adding color to otherwise gray memories.
Mrs. Ehlers looked at me. “Jason, that was quite some language. You surprised us.”
“I know. I didn’t want to say it.”
“Why didn’t you tell the director you didn’t want to say the line? I bet you could have changed it.”
I studied my black and white checkered sneakers. “She wouldn’t have let me,” I said.
“Maybe,” Mrs. Ehlers said with a soft smile. “Or maybe not. But we have to stand up sometimes, don’t we? Either way, we’re proud of you.”
I said goodbye and lingered around the drama room until our director appeared and the other cast members vanished.
With my heart racing and my palms sweating, I stood near her desk and casually asked if I might maybe, sort of, I don’t know, possibly perhaps like change the profane line in the play to something more PG.
“Of course! You’re right. We really should. I wish you’d said something earlier.”
Soon I walked away juggling gratitude, humility, respect, and shame.
Later when I relayed the story to the Ehlers, they gave me more cheers, hugs and unconditional love.
So, how about that alternate ending?
Why didn’t I immediately make a stand? Why hadn’t I clung to my standards? Refused to bend? I could have made my case without ego, pride, or self-righteous judgment.
What a story it could’ve been!
“Hey kids. Have I ever told you about the time I made a tough call and refused to give in?”
Instead, my spine shrank. It was a golden moment to be brave, to speak up, to stand tall.
Instead I was weak, went silent, lived small.
Years later I can remember other times I handled those character moments much better. How thankful I am for those second chances.
Yet here I am, sharing a what-if regret in the spirit of transparency.
If we can’t share the good times with the bad and the falls and failures with the big wins, what’s the point of sharing at all?
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Life and her hard lessons aren’t meant to be lived and learned through a fancy filter.
Because heaven knows the moments we live small are just as important in our book of life as the days we stand tall.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM JASON F. WRIGHT