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Caden L. (rising 6th grader)

“Caden Lin!” said the lady on the stage. As I trudged up the stairs, I knew then the next few minutes would humiliate me for the rest of my life. I sat backstage with about 20 other kids ranging from my grade (4th) to even high schoolers. The kid next to me asked, ”What song are you playing?” “Uhhhh Skeleton Stomp,” I say weakly. “I’m playing Beethoven Symphony Opus #38,” he said proudly. My eyes bulged. Beethoven Symphony Opus #38? Last time I checked, there wasn’t even a Symphony #38! Eyes still bulging, I gulped all that information down, wondering what would happen next. Five minutes later the lights went out. As the announcer started calling names, I realized the order was going from youngest to oldest, which meant I would be in the first half of the kids to perform. I sat there thinking how superior the kids’ pieces sounded. The minutes felt like seconds as I waited. I estimated that I would be the 6th or 7th person to play. Though as I thought that, I heard someone call my name. Already? I thought. Only three people before me had played. As I comprehended this realization, everyone backstage made a sideways motion with their hands, ushering me to go to the stairs. I slowly lumbered down the aisle, up the stairs, and saw the audience. I estimated seventy people expected an executed performance, along with my family. While my mom recorded, my dad said, “Look! There's Caden!” which just made everything worse. I felt my stomach rise into my chest, the weird feeling that happens when you almost fall out of a tree. I recall the moment because I would always read in a tree in my backyard. But of course, not all trees are shaped for reading, so my leg would suddenly slip along with half of my body. At that moment, a wave of anxiety and relief would wash over me. Except in this case, a wave of anxiety and nervousness washed over me. I managed to make it to the front of the stage to bow. I sat on the bench, took a deep breath, and played. My fingers, drenched in sweat, flew across the piano. As I heard the routine of my song for the thousandth time, my hands activated auto-pilot and I slowly zoned out into La-La Land. In La-La Land, I saw clouds, unicorns, cotton candy, jolly ranchers, and the freshly baked banana bread at home waiting for me to gobble it down. I snapped out of it realizing that I completely stopped playing and looked at my teacher. My face heated up as I felt the weight of the audiences’ stares and expectations. Quietly she said, “Just restart it!” And this time, I played with 80% of my attention, still making minor mistakes along the way. After fudging through the song, I took a bow. and as I went down the stairs, my teacher simply glared at me. I felt like I just ruined one of Barack Obama’s parties. My teacher’s husband led me to the entrance of the backstage. My face still hot, I stared at my shoes and dragged my feet to my seat. I shrunk into my chair as I watched the next kid play. After the next few people played (which felt like hours), my older brother finally performed. He executed his song as well as Mozart could’ve. When he finally finished, we drove home in disappointment. But when we arrived home, I remembered the treat that awaited me on the counter. My mood suddenly lifted, and I was the first one out of the car. I rushed into my house and jumped onto the bread, inhaling it. By the time everyone was in the house, all they found were a few crumbs and an empty container. I realized a lesson as I lounged, afterward, on the sofa. As long as you do your best, you shall be rewarded.

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