By Christina Maxwell
Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2012
No one is perfect. Mistakes are inevitably part of life and no matter how good we are at hiding our flaws, they are still there. Our quirks and “embarrassing moments” are what make us human. It’s not something to be ashamed of! I’ve learned that I am happier, and that the people around me are ultimately more entertained, when I can laugh at myself. It is empowering to stand at a crossroads and be able to choose to give yourself a break and laugh about your human quirks, rather than be ashamed. Besides, I hope to someday, a long time from now, be a fun grandmother and I’m going to need to have some outrageous stories to tell my grandkids. In keeping with this, I’ve decided to share with you a few of my most stellar personal embarrassing moments. I hope that they will bring you some laughter, as they did me!
My senior year in high school, I performed the role of Sarah Brown in Asheville Community Theater’s production of Guys and Dolls. During one scene, missionary Sarah Brown is in Havana, Cuba and gets into a heated dance competition with a feisty dancer who is trying to steal her man. In this scene, I was supposed to meet the other dancer, played by the fabulous Tina Pisano-Foor, at the front of the stage and have a gracefully choreographed fight, complete with lifts. During one performance, in front of a full audience and unbeknownst to me, there was one tiny, blue, lethal sequin lying on the stage. Right at the moment when I was supposed to fake punch Tina, the smooth tan toe of my character shoe stepped right on top of that tiny blue sequin. As I swung at her, my feet flew out from under me and I landed flat on my back. The audience gasped, not sure how to react. Tina, thinking quickly and trying to salvage the situation, pretended to be coming over to fight me, but really attempting to pull me up. However, because she was even more petite than me, as I grabbed her hand, still desperately trying to stay in character as the orchestra played on frantically, I accidentally pulled her down on top of me. Everyone on the stage was frozen in shock and mild panic at the sight of the two of us sprawled out on the stage, but the audience seemed enthralled by this incredibly realistic choreography. We finally managed to scramble and get ourselves up off of the floor in time to make the last lift and get carried off stage, doing our very best to stifle the rolling laughter. Backstage, it was a long time before we could catch our breath, compose ourselves and stop cackling. A few days later, I got a letter from a kid who had been in the audience that night, writing to Sarah Brown. He told me how much he loved me and my singing, and then at the very end of the note shared some advice: “Oh, but you really might want to work some on your crazy dance moves.”
This past year, I auditioned for some of the top Musical Theatre programs across the country. It was an extremely extensive, stressful and competitive process and the stakes and nerves were always very high. Although the academic application was very important, the audition was often the basis of whether or not you were accepted to that program. One particular day in January, I auditioned for my dream school: The University of Michigan. I’m not exactly a prima ballerina and was always nervous during the dance auditions. In this particular dance audition, we were doing the ballet portion in a big rehearsal room, lined with mirrors and ballet barres. We were each given a number to stick onto the front of our leotards, a number that would identify us and allow the dance faculty to take notes about us as we danced. As the soft and classical ballet music played in the background, we each watched the teacher demonstrate each exercise and then did our best to complete it as the faculty watched us carefully. It was silent enough to hear a pin drop. But it was not silent enough to hear a number drop. I was having my best audition yet when, halfway through a tendu, I looked down and saw the number on my foot! I frantically stuck it back onto my leotard and joined back in. A few exercises later, I looked in the mirror and panicked. I had on the wrong number! Someone else’s number had fallen off too, landed on my foot and I had mistakenly stuck it on my own leotard! I had to tell them that I had had on the wrong number for the last two exercises. In the middle of the silent and intense audition, I managed to muster up enough courage to get my voice to work, interrupt the whole audition process and frantically explain what had happened as I located my original number across the room. It certainly made for a memorable audition and I’m just thankful that they were able to look past it!
During my junior year at A.C. Reynolds High School, our football team won an epic game. It was such a nail-biting final minute and a huge win. Everyone went crazy and decided to rush the field. I thought to myself, “Christina, you never live on the edge. (Yes, I do oftentimes talk to myself). You’re not supposed to rush the field, but you need to live a little.” So, I rushed the field like a crazed football fan. Before the game, I had sung the National Anthem, wearing the same bright green pea coat that I was now still wearing as I ran onto the field. With my adrenaline rushing, running alongside all of my friends and feeling like a legit football fan, I felt pretty great. That is, until I encountered the fence. The first half went well and I pushed myself up and threw my leg over the tall fence. But then, something went wrong and I got stuck. I couldn’t get my other leg over. So I was helpless, caught right on top of the fence so that everyone could recognize me in my bright green coat and laugh as they watched one of our principals come over and tell me to get off of the fence. I was practically escorted off of the field while all of my friends reveled in the middle of the field where they had made it safely. My embarrassing streak of rebellion was somewhat humiliating, but more than anything, hysterical.
There is a lot of pressure these days. Sometimes, our family, teachers or friends can accidentally put this pressure on us, and sometimes, we put this pressure on ourselves. In a time when the standards seem to constantly get higher and higher and the ideal of perfection more and more unreal, it can be refreshing to just give ourselves a break. We should all try to take a moment to step back in the face of a potentially embarrassing moment and instead of being hard on ourselves, choose laughter, forgiveness and joy. I think we will find that we are much happier.
Christina Maxwell is a college freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan majoring in Musical Theatre. Originally from Asheville , North Carolina, Christina was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of North Carolina for 2012 and the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2012. Learn more about Christina here!