Natasha was nervous. This was unusual for her. Her palms were sweaty, her make-up felt like it was caking and her armpits were prickly. She had given countless presentations to boardrooms full of corporate execs. She had commanded the room and convinced those of the worth of what she was saying. She could accredit her extreme career rise from intern to junior associate in record time to the fact that they bought into almost every pitch and presentation she made. The company recognized Natasha’s talent, increasingly gave her more responsibility and as she succeeded and progressed so did they. She had received promotions and generous bonuses and dividends that echoed that success.
Yet, as the clock struck midnight a few months ago and she welcomed the New Year she had decided to finally stop putting on an act. She did not want to keep climbing the corporate ladder to success, lucrative though it was. She was successful in her own right and by industry standards, but her definition of success was yet to manifest. She was not being true to her passions. She decided that in the year ahead she had to pursue and overtake what she truly wanted to do.
“Natasha,” a tall gangly teenager in an all black ensemble bellowed from the end of the hall. “They will see you now.”
As she quickly followed after him he disappeared around the corner. She could hear her heart racing over the clipped tap of her pumps on the marble floor as she lengthened her stride to keep up.
At the end of the second left turn he swung around suddenly, his smudged eyeliner and toothy grin putting her at ease for a moment. “You’re Number 17. Tape the sticker to your t-shirt where it will be visible throughout so it can correspond with their notes.”
Natasha nodded in understanding and peeled back the sticker. As she smoothed the sticker on her t-shirt with her sweaty palm she could almost feel the butterflies fluttering beneath it in her belly.
He swung around, flung open the door and called to the large room – “Number 17.”
The script in her hand was slightly damp. She took a deep breath and walked in gingerly.
All those years of working in the corporate world and feeling like she was putting on an act, yet here she was auditioning to do just that – act.
“Please read the part of Amanda,” and older gentleman with wire rimmed glasses and a goatee requested.
Natasha cleared her throat and looked down at the script in her hand. Her mouth tasted like refined sawdust. It was dry as a desert and her throat seemed to stick together. She swallowed as she looked down.
“Please go ahead,” the same man urged slightly impatiently, rapping his short fingers on the wooden table. “Have you got the script?” he inquired. Looking slightly puzzled.
Natasha nodded and looked back at the script. In a faltering small voice she began to read the role of Amanda. She had picked a monologue where the character was speaking to her wayward yet timid cousin and trying to convince him not to rule himself out before the world did. She had memorized the script but her legs were so shaky and her heart racing so fast she did not trust her recollection abilities just then. So she read it instead, as requested.
“Jay you’ve got to keep putting your best foot forward. Do not allow anyone to give you a no that does not have the power to say yes.” Natasha stated tentatively. “It really doesn’t matter what negative opinions others have, they are simply opinions. The fact is you need to believe in yourself and give your passions your all. Jay? Are you listening?” she asked.
She squeezed his invisible upper arm as the script directed, readjusted her footing and continued. She knew her tone had been monotonous until then, and as she got a bit more comfortable she attempted to inject some energy and emotion into her voice.
‘I love you Jay and I believe in you!” she affirmed as her voice cracked. “We grew up together and you had such big dreams then. Your past doesn’t define you. Your dreams live above your mistakes you know,” she insisted as she looked up at the panel. “What does define you is the purpose you’ve identified and how relentlessly you pursue it. Okay?”
She felt silly performing the actions that accompanied the script when there was no one acting the role of Jay but she did so anyway. She reached out and took his invisible hand in hers and continued to read, with even more confidence.
“Look at how my business has grown in the last few years. Do you know how many challenges I have had?” she passionately asked the invisible Jay. “From the city demolishing the last building to one of my staffers trying to steal my patent! It hasn’t been easy, but I just see every obstacle as one more reason to accomplish my goal. So stop believe that microwave BS, success isn’t easy – no matter what they say. But armed with a define purpose, a good plan, a strong spirit, and relentless action you can achieve any –”
“Thank you 17. That will be all.” A young woman cut in. Her short fiery red hair was all Natasha could see as she looked up. The woman’s head bobbing from left to right as fiercely scribbled in her notebook.
“Thank you,” Natasha stated tentatively.
“Next!” the elderly gentleman with the wire rimmed glasses bellowed. The black clad assistant magically appeared through the double doors ushering in a bundle of energy. A beautiful tall and shapely woman with long curly hair and thigh high boots catwalked in, ‘Number 18’ firmly placed on her torso. “Good day,” she greeted with gusto.
Natasha’s heart sank. They were going to love her. She was Amanda personified.
The black clad assistant beckoned towards her. “Let’s go,” he whispered.
“Don’t forget to drop off your entry form 17,” the tiny red head’s voice pierced through their retreating footsteps.
Natasha looked questioningly at the assistant. “Yup,” he replied in board affirmation. “Without it you can’t get a call back.”
As they returned to the waiting room he handed her the mysterious form on a clipboard with a pen. He absent mindedly pointed to the wooden box hanging on the wall to slip it into and disappeared round yet another corner.
Natasha reclaimed her seat in the waiting room and conscientiously filled the form with shaky hands. As she was finishing Number 18 sashayed into the hallway and took the seat next to her. Number 18 gave Natasha a small smile and soon concentrated on filling her own form. Natasha stole furtive glances at 18’s form. She didn’t even know what she was looking for or why it mattered. She was so distracted by Number 18 that she didn’t even realize how long she was sat there. She was jolted back to reality by Number 18 packing up her belongings, slipping the form into the wooden box on the opposite wall and sashaying out of the building. ‘She really was something’ Natasha thought. All that was left was Natasha’s nerves and the faint smell of 18’s subtle perfume with hints of orchids and vanilla.
Natasha felt her heart sink. She was sure 18 was the ideal candidate for the role. As she finished off the form she stood up and removed it from the clipboard. Dropping the clipboard on the side table, she neatly folded the form in two. She paused for a moment a few steps away from the wooden box, then stuffed the form into the back flap of her handbag, turned on her heels and walked towards the exit.
She covered the distance between the door and her parked car in record time. She jumped into the driver’s seat, pushed the button to start the engine, felt the car roar to life, then burst into tears. After taking a tangible step towards it, she felt further away from her dream of becoming an actress than ever before.
If you don’t try you’ll never know, and if you sabotage yourself you’ll never grow.
Sell yourself until you are sold. In your start and in your finish: Be Bold.
– Zeni St. John