My stomach began rumbling around 8 o’clock as I was wrapping up a morning presentation to a classroom of freshmen. They weren’t hunger pangs, either. Something was up. I hoped it would subside before 10 o'clock, as I had a much larger presentation for their entire class on-deck.
The pain worsened as 10 o’clock approached. Needless to say, I was conflicted. I tried standing up and couldn’t do so without buckling over. I found a tolerable position sitting on the edge of the stage as the students filed in and I powered through the hour-long presentation/motivational talk, all from a seated position. The students were completely engaged and somewhat oblivious to my discomfort. I wrapped with a few minutes to spare as the adrenaline began to wear off. Suddenly a student yelled out, “We heard you can spit. Spit a verse. We heard you can rap. So rap.”
500 curious students chimed in, and before I knew it I had no choice but to give them something. What I needed to do was throw up. Not out of nerves. I’d been in front of that crowd times twenty. I was just really, really sick.
The rest of that day is a blur. I ended up in bed for several hours before my brother the M.D. instructed it was time to go get checked. By 8 o'clock in the evening I was in a hospital gown and by 2 o'clock the next morning I was finally headed home (I’m okay).
In that final moment, though, I had to channel my inner 1997-Game 5-Michael Jordan (he had the flu) and deliver. The road that lead me to this dream job was a long one with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Yes, I was already being handed big responsibilities. But that’s not why it was so important to deliver. No, I'm not Jordan but this was a make or break moment. Students utilize my services only as much as they trust me. Here was a whole new class of freshmen completely unfamiliar with me and this was the time to win them over. If just one of them has a crisis in the future and they remember my name because of this moment, then I did my job.
I toyed with the crowd for a second as I insisted I was unprepared and out of practice, but then I hit them with a power verse and their collective heads exploded. I’m confident their cheers could be heard throughout the building; it was fantastic.
Although my music season ended a few years ago, that day I was able to genuinely identify the full-circle nature of ambition. Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate how our past prepares us for our future, but that day it was loud and clear. I had spent years on big stages in moments I had to “find it.” Finding “it” isn’t easy. Digging deep is liberating, though because we realize we’re more capable than we imagined, particularly when others recognize we are the person for the job and trust we will deliver.
In that moment I was exactly where I was supposed to be, illness and all, and I’m grateful.