When I was 9, I learned how to juggle. When I was a senior in high school, I won the P.E. Student of the Year based primarily on the fact that in our unit on Circus Stunts (oh yes, we did) I could juggle. (Let’s just say I took a little ribbing about that from my all-state wrestler friend.)
Juggling for me is like riding a bike—I can go a long time without doing it, but I never forget how. That’s why when I heard of a casting call for jugglers for the web series Tough Season 2*, I had the nerve to apply for it.
And I was chosen. To juggle. On camera.
And here is my story of the day I became a professional juggler.
I was told to bring “hippie attire” because it was a scene where a bunch of free spirits are at a juggling retreat. I raided my closet and found whatever might possibly be considered such, and off I went.
As soon as I arrived, I immediately feared I wasn’t worthy of being there. Walking behind another extra with a rolling suitcase, I commented, “Wow, you brought a suitcase…” to which he responded, “This ain’t my first rodeo.”
It was for me.
I stood in line for wardrobe between an older man and a young woman who recognized each other from a juggling event they both attended last year.
Oh, boy, was I out of my league.
The girl had a suitcase full of juggling clubs and hippie wear, and there I was with just my three balls.
I was a juggling fraud. What was I thinking when I said yes to this?
And if that wasn’t welcoming enough, there was Mr. Professional Extra who felt compelled to tell me how things are NORMally done. Over and over again. And then one more time, just in case.
The wardrobe woman looked my duds over and quickly decided I needed more, so she added a shimmering jacket, boa, and free flowing skirt to my top, and I was deemed acceptable.
Though my clothes were given a thumbs up, I still wondered if I had what it took. The casting agent told me all levels of ability were welcomed, but it’s amazing how quickly I was ready to discount myself.
By the time we walked out to the set, the jugglers had all introduced ourselves and broken the ice with a few laughs here and there. We all wondered how it would be when the cameras were rolling. It was good to know I wasn’t alone in my doubt.
And then we started to practice…and…I wasn’t the worst. I wasn’t near the best, but…I had every right to be there.
Now there was just this little hurdle left of being able to juggle after the word “action!” was shouted.
The actor who played the juggling teacher was to say, “Remember—the first rule of juggling is not to drop the balls!” while we all juggled our little hearts out.
Of course, the line was delivered, and inevitably one of us would drop the balls. Not that that was a deal breaker—because we were supposed to be at a retreat learning—but it was funny how we spazzed out just because we knew the cameras were rolling.
How many things are like that in life? Where you are able to do something just fine, and then you’re under a little pressure and suddenly you lose the control you thought you had?
It was as though my day as a “real” juggler was like a living metaphor for this blog—I can juggle. I will drop the balls. And then I will pick them up and start over again. And it’s the same for everyone else—no matter how skilled you are. We all can feel the pressure, make mistakes, and then choose to give up or pick up and begin again.
Sometimes trying too hard not to fail results in exactly that: failure.
Accepting that there will be the inevitable dropped ball here and there makes me a better juggler.
Before I knew it, the scene was over and we were done. We still had to hang out and wait…and wait…to see if we might be needed, but the overall experience was really a whole lot of fun.
I not only made some nice pocket money, but I learned I did have what it takes after all, and I had a great reminder to share with you here—that the juggling life we lead will always have dropped balls, and though it may get harder when life shouts, “Action!” we need to shut down the doubts and focus—and we will get the job done.
And, ultimately…knowing how to pick up the balls and keep going is maybe the most important skill of all.
*The web series Tough Season is in its second season and is a production of the NFL, the Onion, and Lenovo. I’ve watched some episodes and found it to be amusing. If you’re interested, check it out on IMBD and The Onion.