It felt like hundreds of eyes staring into my soul—not a fun feeling. The first time I stood up and talked to a room full of people, I was pretty sure that’s what was happening. People told me to picture the room full of people in their underwear. That didn’t help, not even a little. Instead I felt like people were looking inside of me, and that made me feel kind of embarrassed.
So I did what my mom said to do: take a big breath and just go for it. Sometimes the scariest things end up feeling good. When I was done, I walked off stage. My legs felt jiggly, and my stomach felt like I had ridden in the car on a winding road for way too long, BUT, I felt good. I did it. I did the scariest thing in the universe, and I didn’t die. No one laughed. People actually smiled, and looked interested in what I had to say.
Everyone said the second time would be easier. It wasn’t. And neither was the third, or the tenth. But one day, when I finished speaking, my mom told me I smiled as I spoke, and I realized my legs felt kind of normal. Maybe it was getting a little easier.
Color for Kids is something I believe in, and when you believe in something, sometimes you have to do things you think are hard. I knew that without telling other people about my goal to share color with kids all over the world, and without telling them why this is important, no one would be able to help me. Without help, my goal would just be an idea and not actually happen.
I thought about how keeping it just an idea would be easier. I would never have to stand up in front of a room; never have to hold a microphone; never have to feel shaky and sweaty… That sounded great!
But then I thought about all the kids who have given me hugs, and written me thank you letters. I thought about the kids who told me how they never owned their own crayons before, and about the little boy who didn’t know what colored pencils were. I made a decision.
Being brave isn’t simply not being scared. Being brave is being scared but deciding to do something because it’s right. I still get scared and have to take a big breath, a really big breath sometimes. But I tell myself that I am brave and I am doing something more important than how my wobbly legs feel (actually I remind myself that no one can actually see me wobbling), and I go for it. Sometimes it goes great, and sometimes not really and I forget to say things that I wanted to, but that’s okay because I tried.
Then I found out that learning how to talk to hundreds of people actually helps you with your schoolwork too! Crazy right? But once I started to feel good about what was important to me, I stopped worrying about things that weren’t.
I’m in sixth grade. That’s a tricky grade. It’s middle school and sometime between fifth and sixth grade kids seem to go a little loopy. I met “clickers”—what I call the girls who wear high heels and click down the hallway. They are also the girls who spend a lot of time in the school bathroom putting on make up. When I first saw them I felt a little bit different in my sneakers, and I didn’t know what to say in the bathroom when they were standing at the mirror.
I wasn’t sure I liked sixth grade as much as fifth. (I still think fourth grade is the best year but I can’t convince anyone to let me go backwards.) But I started to think about what is important and I decided comfy feet in my sneakers was more important, and I felt good about it. (Well, I also got some lip gloss and that helped too.) Knowing what is important to you is a big part of helping you be brave and be you, and being you always feels great.
P.S.: Just a tip—comfy shoes and lip gloss really help anyone feel great, especially when you have to be brave.