by Regina Kirshbaum
I was 13 years old when I was cast in my grammar school play as Eliza Doolittle of My Fair Lady fame. My Mother was always fond of telling the story of how I would sit up in the middle of the night, dead asleep, and recite my lines and sing my songs. It was particularly amusing since I didn’t practice—out loud—during my waking hours. The director of the play was often unhappy with me because my rehearsals had me stumbling through the dialogue, though sailing through the songs. I think the latter is what helped me hold onto the role and not be replaced by the understudy. At showtime, however, I nailed my lines and belted out those songs to standing ovations. I may have practiced in near silence but when it was time to perform, I “broke a leg.”
Fast forward to eight years ago, when I willingly got roped into a fundraiser in Stamford, CT, where we lived at the time. I was one of 11 citizens of Stamford who would spend months preparing for a “Dancing With the Stars” competition, putting me in the spotlight once again to both practice and perform. Suddenly, I was that little girl again, anxious about rehearsing in front of anyone. This time, however, I ran through my routine over and over, albeit without anyone watching, until I knew I could get on stage in that beautiful theater and not embarrass myself. My partner, ever the professional, was patient and kind—a far cry from the parochial school experience. Our performance was the last of the evening, and our “It’s Raining Men” routine brought down the house. We didn’t win, but our lifts were perfect, and I didn’t fall, but I did break a rib!
Today, I am hours away from my 60th birthday, and I’m acknowledging—out loud—that I see a distinct pattern in the way I choose to challenge myself. My latest performance-based effort is my new business, Aquatone. I’m now teaching water aerobics and, once again, prepared for my first teaching experience with not a soul watching. That first class is now behind me, but that rearview mirror is a reflection of how I live my life. You see, I was a very shy child. I expressed myself through music and dance. Both of those vehicles gave me a chance, not to show off, but to show myself I could accomplish something bigger than me. The consistency I now recognized as a pattern is something of which I’m quite proud. I set tough goals for myself; I don’t wait for the goals to be defined for me. I remember how hard it was to be shy and how remarkable it was to realize how much fun it is to be socially engaged. I don’t exactly speak softly, unless I’m talking to Nyo, my wonderful four-legged canine son, because I love living out loud. I am proud of the person I’ve become. The shell that held me so close within myself is long broken, a metaphor that is quite fitting. I heard the sea calling, and I followed my yearning to carve a unique path to success. I may not play by the rules, but I enjoy each day writing a new script I don’t need to memorize to perform. Each day isn’t a performance, it’s an opportunity to live the high life on this magnificent stage we call home. I thank all of my angels for guiding me to Hilton Head, the best “theater” on Earth!