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Fearless for the new year

BaumgardnerI made only one resolution last year: to be fearless.

I didn’t exactly plan how I would measure my success. There wasn’t a number to reach or a destination to land on. I figured I would know the feeling when I got there, no matter what it took.

I used to carry my fears without thinking much of them, letting them pick away at my confidence until I was always one step behind. I didn’t even realize how much they controlled me. That was the most frightening part.

Fears plague many of us with every step we take, but what are we so afraid of? It’s not spiders and things that go bump in the night. It’s the things we can’t see or touch — things like change, loneliness and failure.

A year ago, when I made my unwritten resolution, I decided I wouldn’t stop myself from going out on a limb. I invited the challenge of public speaking and auditioning. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea that 11.5 months later I would be staring my fear in the face.

There I was, dressed in my power suit, in the middle of a courtroom in Multnomah County Courthouse. The rest of my team sat with me: four blazers lined up shoulder to shoulder, four identical black binders in front of us. As representatives of West Linn High School’s mock trial program, we looked the part of a polished team of attorneys.

It was only a practice competition called Mini Mock, which our teacher, Mr. Kellogg, uses as a preseason warm up for his competitive team. But we’d never had to perform in front of so many people before. I was glad the audience sat behind us, so I could try to forget they were there.

For those who aren’t familiar with mock trial, the basic concept is this: You pretend to be an attorney for a fictional case, competing against a team that represents the other side of the case. It can be just as aggressive and cutthroat as a full-contact sport. Except all the action plays out in the arguments you make, the objections you win and, of course, the subtle game of intimidation.

I may have looked cool and collected on the outside. On the inside I was anything but. My stomach rebelled against the turkey sandwich I’d scarfed on the bus, and I could feel my heartbeat in my ears. I flipped through my binder, looking for the questions I would be asking as an examining attorney, but they weren’t there.

Panic blossomed in my chest. I had the questions memorized, sure. I had gone through them over and over. But they were my security blanket, in case something went wrong. I closed my binder and made a new plan. I wouldn’t let anything go wrong.

Despite my nerves, the trial was a success. I don’t know how I did it, if it was memorization or sheer luck or the little bit of fearlessness that’s been emerging this whole past year. The fear was still there, it always will be, but the trick is to walk a tightrope of confidence. Don’t look down, and don’t ever look back.

I think I’ll repeat my resolution this year, and see what happens next.

Claire Baumgardner is a junior at West Linn High School. She is contributing a regular column to the Tidings this school year.




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