By Carrie Currie
Tears threatened to spill onto her cheeks. She took a deep breath. It doesn’t matter, she thought, I can do this. THEY don’t matter.
She closed her ears to the laughter and snide comments trying to bring her down. She slowly picked herself up off the stage floor and wiped her palms on the voluminous skirt that had tripped her.
“Are you okay?” The concerned drama teacher asked.
“Are you able to continue with your audition? Or do you need a few minutes?” He was getting ready to call another girl up to the stage.
She shook her head. “No, I can continue.” I can do this!
She turned to the lady playing the piano. Out of the entire theatre populated with drama students and wannabe thespians, only the adults running the program hadn’t laughed. The student body of this school sucked. She gave the signal and the lady began to play Cinderella at the Grave from Into the Woods, the musical the high school was putting on this spring.
She’d dressed the part for the audition. She wanted people to see her as Cinderella. She so desperately wanted this part, even though she’d never done anything like this before. She began to sing, softly at first, partly from raw nerves and partly because she felt the song called for reverence in the beginning. Then, she lost herself in her performance and singing.
She poured grief into the song. She knew the pain of missing a dead mother. She poured deep soul-wrenching longing into the song. She knew what it felt like to wish that life was different. That it was something more than it is. That was why she was throwing herself out of her comfort zone today.
Everyone at school knew her as the shy, clumsy, socially-awkward bookworm that was frequently the butt of mean girl jokes. She was an easy target. She dressed in second-hand clothes that didn’t necessarily flatter her. She got flustered when asked questions. She often tripped over nothing. Or other people’s feet. She blushed easily. Her face showed everything she felt. She hadn’t made any close friends in the 6 months she’d been attending this school. She really was an outsider, and, for some reason, it was entertaining to pick on her.
As the last note of the song faded away, silence wrapped around her. There was no laughing, jeering, or snide whispers. She straightened her back and lifted her head up as she met the eyes of her stunned audience. Yes! I can sing!
“Well done, Genny. Thank you. Parts will be posted outside the theatre tomorrow morning.”
She nodded and quietly left the stage. I did my best. Now, she could only hope that was good enough.
The next morning found herself jittery and anxious. She almost didn’t want to get the part. Would she be able to handle being in the spotlight like that? What if she forgot her lines? Or her natural clumsiness reared its ugly head when she was performing for a real audience?
Genny shook her head to banish self-doubt. You can do this. You’ll work hard. You’ll rehearse and practice. You’ll do fine. Providing she got the part.
She walked up to the bulletin board outside the school’s theatre, pushing her way through the excited students crowding it.
“You’re Cinderella.” Emily, a die-hard drama geek, congratulated Genny.
Genny smiled shyly as she confirmed her name was next to the lead part.
“Never would have guessed you could sing like that.” Emily continued. “You’ll be perfect.”
Genny glowed with self-satisfaction. Her life was about to be more. She’d known she could do it, and she did!
By Carrie Currie
Hannah stood before the mirror and forcefully met her own gaze. “You can do it.”
As she went through her morning ritual she remembered the days when she was a young girl and her father would coach her on what to tell herself in the mirror. It was a family tradition that he’d started when she was 3 years old and made her continue through high school. He’d hold onto her shoulders and say, “Repeat this. You are strong. You work hard. You will be a force for good today…” and on and on.
Hannah had stopped the morning mantras when she went off to college. Soon she forgot all about that little ritual. Until this past year, when she found herself trapped in a downward spiral of stress and depression.
Depression. Hannah now knew how debilitating that was. It was a suffocating emotion that made everything worse than it was. It sort of snuck up on her as she struggled to meet various goals and overcome little challenges. And then she found it was nearly impossible to get out of bed each morning. Every little hiccup in her plans felt insurmountable and she felt like a failure.
When she went home for Thanksgiving she had no intention of letting her folks in on the dreary life she was trudging through. Had been trudging through for the better part of a year. But, somehow, her father knew.
“Hannah, what’s going on?” Direct and to the point. Eventually, he asked enough questions to get the picture that she was feeling sad, so very sad, every day all day, and for no apparent reason. He recommended she see a physician. Hannah scoffed at the notion.
“Fine. Then, let’s try changing up your morning mantras.”
Hannah blinked. She’d forgotten all about them. It had been years.
“You’re not doing them, are you?” She shook her head.
“Well, that’s a huge part of what’s wrong!” Her father got up from his leather chair and grabbed her hand. “Come with me.”
He led her to a large mirror in the living room and put his hands on her shoulders. “Repeat after me…”
“Dad…!” Hannah squirmed with discomfort. “This is silly.”
“Repeat after me…” He insisted.
So she did. Even though it felt awkward and ridiculous. But, then, when she started to hear the words, to say the words with intention, she started crying. She was overwhelmed by the surge of emotions she felt.
“I am a strong woman… I can do anything I work towards… I have the right to feel what I feel… I can also choose to be happy… I am grateful for who I am… I will find ways to use my special and unique talents every day… I will not let this sadness rule me… I have the power to change my life… I will let positive thoughts rule my mind…”
Once her father finished coaching Hannah, he turned her around to face him. “Hannah, I want you to repeat these statements, and any other mantras you feel you need, every morning for the next 30 days. And, then I want you to call me and let me know if it is helping. If it doesn’t work, then maybe you need some chemical intervention. And, there’s nothing wrong with that.
“You don’t have to be sad, you can overcome it. You are strong and determined, stubborn even, and I know you can take this bull by the horns and win.”
Today was the 30th day of returning to her morning ritual. Hannah was surprised, and yet not surprised, at the change she felt. Sure, sometimes she still felt the sadness creeping in, but as she recited with meaning what she was grateful for, what her strengths were, what was good in her life, and what her intentions for that day were, that sadness retreated. Instead, she felt powerful and optimistic.
Her dad was right. She could do this.
by Carrie Currie
Her wrinkled hands caressed the lifetime award she’d just been given. Then the mic picked up her soft voice and carried it out to the audience before her.
“I’m not sure what to say. I didn’t do anything for the recognition. I simply wanted to LIVE.” She smiled wryly. “I wanted to live MY OWN life. I decided I would not let other people limit me.”
She looked up at a gigantic black and white photo on the wall to the left of the stage. It showed her as a vital young woman, with an old camera slung across her neck, surrounded by skinny children with distended bellies.
“In my day, women were expected to get married and pop out kids. Or, if they did need to work, they taught in schools, were nurses, or secretaries. When I attended school, they taught all of us girls shorthand to prepare us for the workforce. I hated every minute of it and vowed I’d never use shorthand after graduation.” As she spoke, her frail voice got stronger.
“I wanted to travel the world, meet new people, and document it all in photos. I loved the truth and beauty the camera shows.” She smiled. “My dad got me started when he handed me an old-second hand camera. I taught myself how to use it. I took photos of my brothers playing, my father reading, and my mother cooking… carefully, if she caught me taking photos of her, she’d have a fit. She viewed it as wasting time. There were chores to be done, food to prepare, other more appropriate womanly work to finish.”
She paused. “I had a naturally stubborn attitude, and if anyone told me I couldn’t do anything… well, then, by George, I was going to do it! As my mother disapproved of me wasting time with cameras, that’s what I did. I got pretty good at it. And, loved capturing candid moments in time.
“After graduating high school, I escaped my ho-hum future by traveling to Africa in 1958. I had an uncle and aunt working there as missionaries, which was the only reason my parents grudgingly let me go. They figured it was a worthy cause.” Her lips twisted wryly. “I had no interest in proselytizing. I wanted adventure. And, I got one.
“I met wonderfully generous people, people who had nothing. They were starving and lived in difficult conditions. But, these people found joy in the little things. So I looked for ways to capture that joy.” She waved her hand to another oversized image above the stage that depicted three African women laughing as they sat under a scraggly looking tree.
“I sent my photos in to the National Geographic and got my professional start as a freelance photojournalist.” Her eyes traveled across the people in front of her. “It was hard. There weren’t many women photojournalists at the time. Some. But not many. And, so many people thought it was too dangerous for a woman to travel alone. My family was among those. But, I found my passion. Capturing joy in the lives of regular people all over the world. I knew at a young age, if I could share the joy that we all experience regardless of race, gender, age, religion, nationality… if I could show the humanity of everyone, I could bring us together as a human family. My photos over my lifetime have done that, I believe, as evidenced by this award.”
She stopped talking, looked down at the award she’d rested on the podium, looked back up. “If anything can be taken from my life’s work… Perhaps it would be that ‘I thought I could and I did’.”
Her eyes squinted as she tried to push her conviction towards those listening. “Go and do likewise! Don’t let others, or yourself, limit you. Find your passion. Work your dream. You can do it!”
Inspire The Woman in Your Life!