Yes, And

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It's finals week and as I walk through the halls of my high school, I know what to expect -- students worrying about percents and concerned expressions etched onto faces all because of one thing: the fear of failure. And I've sadly come to realize that this huge and irrational fear extends far beyond the walls of high school.

There's only one place that I know of where the fear ceases to exist: improvisational theatre. Commonly known as improv, it is the art of performing spontaneously -- that is, performing theatre without a script or even any forethought. One of its most important lessons is to always say "Yes, and..." to what your partner offers. So when your fellow improviser gives you a character or presents you with a sudden plot twist on stage, you have to "yes, and..." it, meaning you say "yes" and take the idea -- regardless of how wonderful or terrible it is -- "and" then add to it to make it work.

This is a lesson that I've learned to take from the stage and apply to my daily life. Things hardly ever turn out the way we expect them to and schedules are often left unfollowed. Life is notorious for throwing some nasty curve balls. And even though times like these seem ideal to give up and turn around, they're not. Even when things don't go my way, I have to say "yes, and..." I have to accept life for the way it is, and do my best to make it work.

As a self-confessed perfectionist, I admit to having once been terrified of changes, mistakes, and above all, of failure. In fact, a little part of me still is. But now, thanks to improv, I know that failure is something that should not be feared. It's just a part of life, and there's nothing I can do to change that. What I can do is learn from it, accept it, and use it to propel myself further than I could have without it.  I can say "yes" to whatever life throws me, "and" then make it work for the best.

With a Perspective, I am Karen Chee.


Karen Chee is 17 and a junior at San Mateo High School.