Over the years, I have remembered a few small but impressionistic snippets of a day that took place over 30 years ago. My mother, grandmother and I sat across a big desk from a few television casting agents. It was a breezy conversational meeting focused on each of us as individuals and all of us together, as a family of 3 generations of women (a very young woman in my case). My mother, effervescent as ever, charmed the room while my grandmother enchantingly played off of her perfectly; beautiful bookends to awkward adolescent me. Tween-aged, gawky, incredibly self-conscious, and in no position to rise to the occasion of what could have been a really big day for us, I sat in my chair barely able to speak loud enough for anyone to hear, even when asked specific questions. I remember someone asking me what I enjoyed doing for fun and I’m pretty sure I spluttered an indecipherable “I don’t know” or something equally unimpressive.
Despite my mother’s attempts at coaching me through it—”Honey, what about softball? You love softball? And skateboarding, tell them about your skateboarding…”—the interview didn’t land us a spot as contestants on multi-generational game show that my mother and grandmother had in their sights. And as we were shown out of the office, I knew that was large part due to me. I distinctly remember the elevator ride down to the lobby where I could really feel everyone’s disappointment in my performance; or lack thereof. My inability (or perhaps better said reluctance) to give the people what they wanted—so to speak—not only disappointed my family, it disappointed me and, I will admit, plagued me with unease and guilt—at least for a little while. Although it was nothing that left an indelible scar, it did leave an impression.
I only bring this up now, because these feelings all came flooding back to me today in a quick flash-forward motherhood moment that I had with my own tween-aged daughter yesterday. As she stood waiting in line with a number of other hopeful girls for her turn to talk to a casting director, I watched from across the room. Those 5 minutes were like a slow motion scene from a movie for me as a million conflicting thoughts and scenarios ran through my mind. I wanted to run over and whisper in her ear exactly the right words to put her at ease (although I didn’t know what they were). I wanted to hold her hand and walk in with her. I wanted to scoop her up and run out of there. I wanted to brush her hair and tuck in her shirt. I wanted to be the mother that would have never taken her to a casting call like this. I wanted to remind her to be friendly, outgoing and engaging. I felt like a malfunctioning pendulum on a tightly wound cuckoo clock (pun definitely intended). And during one of my urges to prep and primp her for the interview, my own elevator memory came flooding back and I realized that perhaps I had set up my own daughter to potentially feel that feeling that no one should ever have to feel; that what you are or worse, who you are isn’t enough. I knew that going in, and coming out, and in the inevitable waiting period, that she would likely riddle herself with questions about whether she was enough to make the cut, to get the gig, to be chosen. My stomach clinched.
And just like that she disappeared behind the curtain. As I heard she and the agent exchange breezy conversation and a few laughs, the camera bulbs flashed out from behind the backdrop and within a minute, she walked back out looking more like a teenager than the tween she walked in as. With a simple thanks for coming’ and very little fanfare we walked out and back to our car hand in hand. After a short descriptive play-by-play we continued our walk together in silence. I couldn’t help but think how thankful I was that I hadn’t had the time to act on any of the sporadic ideas I had in my own feeble attempts help her though it, which by the way happened to be her very first official audition of any kind. There was nothing I could have said or done in those few moments that would have put her at ease (you can’t eradicate nerves all together) or better prepped and prompted her to be more of who she is. I can’t tell her how to do her. Only she can do that. And no matter how she acted, looked, responded or didn’t respond, she was going in and coming out 100% her and I knew that’s exactly how it should be.
Unfortunately, in the hours that have followed, feelings of self-doubt have indeed emerged within her. When my daughter, who in the dim light of bedroom looked much more like my little girl than a tween or a teen, begged the question, “What if I wasn’t enough for them?” my heart sank. I suspected it wasn’t the first time she had questioned her enoughness, but that doesn’t make it any easier for a mother to hear. We talked it through and I did my best to remind her that her all the principles of enoughness that I have learned myself throughout my adult life. But, I know that it’s a question that will continue to come up for her as it does for everyone, whether we’re answering to a casting agent or our own mirror. Although part of me wonders why I even took her on that call, I know that I can’t—and shouldn’t—avoid scenarios that could disappoint her in the end. Trying for something and being discouraged can be equally as important as trying for something and being elated. It’s all part of life. She might not be what that casting director is looking for but that certainly doesn’t mean she’s not enough. It doesn’t mean that if she had acted, looked or performed any different that she would have a better chance at the job. Through it all, and no matter the outcome, I’m going to use this experience as a teachable moment instead of a regrettable one. As I sit waiting to hear back on whether or not she will be cast for the job I hold the space of hope, possibility and the irrefutable truth that being 100% of who we are, under any and all circumstances is most certainly enough. For you, for me and for an exceptional 9-year-old who is taking her very first independent steps of being and becoming, dreaming and daring, running, skipping, jumping and flying. Godspeed my courageous girl.
For more about Tracey and how she elevates the everyday, visit her at traceyclark.com.
For the story about how she and her teen got here, take a peek at their first post at Reframed.
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