Just Keep Swimming

“Take a look around you- the ocean’s alive! In the big blue world, it’s time for you to arrive!”

Fort Lauderdale beach isn’t one of the most exotic of oceans, and I’ve never been to the Great Barrier Reef, but as I sit here, gazing at the infinite green sea we call the Atlantic Ocean, I think back to the times I really felt like I was a part of “the big blue world.”

Last summer, I had the opportunity to snorkel in St. John. It was a serene beach with crystal clear water and a wide stretch of sand. I had never snorkeled before, so I had a few issues with the mask, but overall, it was a magical experience. I’ll never forget the seconds a swam with a whole school of fish. Within that moment, I believed I was one with the sea, and I wondered how Ariel was so willing to give it all up to be on land. My friend, Holly, who plays her in our character entertainment business, pointed out, “Ariel really had no idea how good she had it!”

A year later, I stood at the entrance of Shark Reef in Typhoon Lagoon, practically unable to move. I wondered why I was so afraid with an incredible experience under my belt. At the same time, my travel partner, Emily, who also snorkeled with me in St. John, was freaking out over the sharks and stingrays. (I swam with stingrays in the Grand Caymans, so that was no excuse for my anxiety either!) We were the only swimmers left; it was “now or never,” even though the lifeguard encouraged us to “take our time.” The exact second I swam past the drop off, a panic attack settled in. I couldn’t see fish, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t figure out how far I was from land. All I felt was chilly saltwater and the presence of a wimpy shark 10 feet below me. I got out of Shark Reef in a few seconds, but it seemed like hours. Afterwards, I was absolutely disappointed in myself. Our whole Disney trip had been full of fear conquering. This was pathetic.

A few hours later, I was ready to face the reef again. I gave myself a quick pep talk. I had done this before. I knew what I was doing. This was a great opportunity – I had no idea when I’d be able to do this again. I needed to be brave. I needed to face my fears. I couldn’t keep hiding anymore. We grabbed our disinfected snorkels and wrapped around the empty queue. We got into the reef right away, and it was as if all of the fish had come to celebrate. There were sharks, stingrays, colorful fish, and a few of the Dory variety. I was disappointed at the end, only because it was over far too quickly!

It’s amazing how we can lose sight of ourselves when we’re overcome by fear. I’m a relatively strong person, who looks up to Pocahontas, dreams of being Nemo in Finding Nemo: The Musical, and has always adored The Little Mermaid, and yet I couldn’t breathe at the sight of a minuscule shark. This happens to the best of us in an array of situations. A straight-A student can forget an easy answer, a linguist can get culture shock, a singer can get stage fright. We feel the pressure of living up to our personal definitions, and that itself is the problem. The pressure is only from within, and therefore, is not necessary. Our personal definitions can be so restricting, and what I’ve been learning lately is that perhaps they are not necessary either. Fear can get the best of us sometimes, but as I looked down at Dory swimming below me, I remembered her insightful lyrics:

“Sometimes things look bad, then poof! The moment is gone! And what do we do? We just keep swimming on!”

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust,

Lindsay

The Courage to Sing from the Heart

Fear is a human limitation we force upon ourselves, not an act of natural instinct. Often times, fear is our only obstacle standing in the way, the sad part being that we are the ones who put it there. I am nowhere near fearless; in fact, I’m afraid of a lot of things. However, there had always been one fear holding me back from countless opportunities: my fear of singing in public.

This fear did not make sense compared to the rest of my personality. Acting is one of my favorite activities, and in that aspect of performance, I don’t have stage fright. I’m very loud, too, and not afraid to say what I think. I’ve been singing my entire life in school and church, but after all of those years and missed chances, there was never a solo. I had done singing auditions before, but I often let my nerves get the best of me, limiting myself in the process.

Once my friends and I started our small business, Enchanted Rose Entertainment, I knew I’d have to sing publicly. I wasn’t sure how I’d measure up to my experienced colleagues, but I was willing to try. After our first party, Chick-fil-a heard about us and booked us for their Princess Night. I was going to have to sing as Belle, in front of a crowded restaurant. Before I could even worry about how scared I would be, I had to pick a song. Immediately, I knew what I had to sing.

Ever since I had heard “Home” from the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, I hoped that one day, I could sing it. This goal seemed at first like a lost dream. How could I sing a song like that? I’d never have the guts or the range. Years later now, I was more experienced, and although I hadn’t tried it before, I had a few weeks to achieve this dream.

Every rehearsal with my mom was getting better and better. My Enchanted Rose partners, Holly and Olivia, were over for a meeting, so I figured I’d give my song a try. It didn’t go so well. I messed up a few times, and my voice wasn’t strong. I didn’t have any confidence. If I couldn’t sing in front of my best friends, how could I sing in front of a herd of strangers?

A few nights before the event, I was home alone and I knew I needed to practice the song, even though I was terrified to face it again. I got my instrumental recording ready, and paused for a minute. This time it had to be different. I could no longer bear to live in this constant state of fear. It was time to sing this song from my heart. I pressed play, and felt the rhythm of the piano notes. As I opened my mouth to sing, I heard my inner’s Belle’s voice, echoing her deepest emotions into my breath. By the end of the song, I had completely transformed into her.

“Build higher walls around me, change every lock and key. Nothings lasts, nothing holds, all of me.”

This fear could no longer limit the power and passion I held within myself. I absolutely loved Belle- she was able to see beauty where others could not, she always stayed true to herself, and she experienced pure love. I could relate to her, as well. Books are always my escape, and sometimes I feel as though the people around me don’t understand me. Her songs have brought me to tears on countless occasions, almost as if Belle is inside of me, weeping for her old home or realizing that she had learned so much during the hardest period of her life.

I finished the song with a sweet silence, followed by a dramatic applause from the rainstorm outside. I could hear the tiny droplets cheering me on, urging me to do this. All it took was the courage to sing from my heart. It had been there all along.

***

At first, I wanted to end this story with that tender moment, but I realized that had I done so, I wouldn’t have actually completed the tale. I hadn’t officially faced my fear yet. The performance day came, and I was feeling good. There were little nerves, only excitement. We rehearsed and got ready, and before I knew it, we were there in full character. Many of my family and friends stopped by; support was all around me. (For anyone that came, thank you. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of this. I’m truly grateful for you all.) The children couldn’t have been sweeter, and I felt honored to bring a little extra magic into their imaginative minds. This was exactly what I lived for.

It was nearing my time to sing, and I heard a little girl say to her father, “I want Belle to sing!” If I hadn’t been in character, that request would’ve brought me to tears. I went over to the girl and said, “Hey, princess! I heard you want me to sing! I’d like to sing my song to you!”  The music started and I got down to her height to sing her the story of how I gave up my freedom for my father’s. At first, it felt like it was only us, but as my song went on, the room increased. I was sharing my experience with the whole restaurant- no fear or nerves, just bare honesty. I was free,and  just like Belle, I was starting a new chapter in my life, a chapter I knew would be worth the read.

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust,

Lindsay